Dr. Winfrey’s Salvation Experience

I graduated from Coweta High School, Coweta, Oklahoma, the last of May, 1940. I rode in a Rodeo five nights a week in Muskogee, Oklahoma. One night a young cowboy was killed. I think I realized that young people could die. His death would not leave my mind. A few weeks later, in early June, I was training my Trick Riding Horse. About 10:30 a.m. I decided to ride to Bill Pulliam’s store and get a coke and candy bar. The store was less than a mile from our farm. As I rode by Sunny Side School house, the Sunny Side Baptist Church was having a morning service. They were in Revival. In those days they called them ‘Protracted Meetings.’ As I passed by the Schoolhouse I heard them singing, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus.’ I stopped my horse, ‘ole Lady,’ and listened. I knew that I had no friend like that. Outside of my Dad, Mom, Brother, Pert, and two sisters Billie and Gloria, I wasn’t the most liked person in that part of the country. My eleventh grade School teacher told the class, ‘I have taught 32 years and Gene Winfrey is the most unlikely to succeed of any student I ever taught.’ Wow, that really helps your ego!

After hearing that song, I tied my horse up and went across the road to the Church. As I walked across to the Church, Pert said something like this, ‘Gene, are you going to preach?’ I did not know it but that is exactly what happened.

As I listened to the songs and Johnny Dill’s message—my heart was so hungry to know Jesus. In those days we called it ‘CONVICTION.’ Johnny gave an invitation as the sang, ‘Just as I am.’

I did what I never thought I would ever do. I walked toward the altar. I knelt and asked Jesus Christ to forgive me and come into my heart. Guess what? He did! That is what He died for—to save poor sinful cowboys. When I got up Johnny Dill said, ‘Gene was happened?’ The Lord saved me. Someone said, ‘How did you know?’ Friend when that happens you don’t have to be a Theologian to know you are saved. Saved forever. I believe in Eternal Security—I did not know that right then.

Granny Ward shouted as she went around the building, ‘Gene is saved: Gene is saved.’ I did not know any better—I shouted with her.

The first thing I did was to throw my chewing tobacco away. The Pastor smoked and do did most of the men I knew—but I responded to what I felt God wanted me to do.

I walked across to the store. There was no one there except Bill Pulliam. Bill said, ‘Gene, what happened?’ My answer—‘Bill I don’t rightly know, but I was saved.’ To my surprise Bill said, ‘Gene, I am lost and need to be saved.’ He was crying and on his knees. I did not know exactly what to do, but I did the best I knew how. I said, “Lord, whatever you did to me awhile ago, do it to Bill.’ The Lord did it to Bill. His wife, Vera, came in and she started shouting. I still like to hear old-fashioned shouting. Wana and I both shout as the Spirit moves.

An added note: About two weeks later I rode ‘ole Lady’ across that field. The tobacco I had thrown away was still there. Cows, nor horses, nor insects would eat that tobacco—only Human Beings use it.

I joined the Church that night. I was baptized the following Sunday afternoon—with 25 others. I answered the call to preach the next year, 1941. In 1942 Wana and I were married, I was ordained, and was drafted to serve in WW II (all in 1942). (By the way, I was baptized in Weir’s pond.)