Bill Mackey, a long-tenured and well-respected leader in Baptist life who served in various roles with three different state conventions, died Thursday (July 14) after a year and half battle with cancer. He was 81.
Mackey served on staff with the South Carolina Baptist Convention from 1979 to 1998, before he became the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in February 1998. He led the work of Kentucky Baptists for 13 years before his retirement in May 2011.
After retiring, Mackey and his wife, Kay, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to be near their children and grandchildren. Mackey wasn’t in North Carolina long, however, before he went to work for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina on a contract basis.
“When I learned that Bill was retiring and coming here, I told him that we were going to put him to work,” said Milton A. Hollfiield Jr., who was then serving as North Carolina Baptists’ executive director-treasurer.
Hollifield said he and Mackey developed a close friendship beginning in the mid-1990s while serving in similar roles in different state conventions. Hollifield began serving as the state evangelism director in North Carolina in 1993 while Mackey served in a similar role in South Carolina. Eight years after Mackey became Kentucky’s executive director, Hollified was named executive director in North Carolina in 2006.
‘A true gift to the church’
Hollifield remembered Mackey as a godly man and Christlike leader.
“Bill Mackey was one of the most godly men that I knew,” said Hollifield, who retired as North Carolina Baptists’ executive director in February 2021. “He was so Christlike in his attitude and actions. He possessed a great heart for the Lord and displayed a deep commitment to following Jesus in his daily life.”
In retirement, Mackey served as a leadership consultant and worked with Fruitland Baptist Bible College, a ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Mackey worked with Fruitland officials to develop and expand theological education opportunities beyond the college’s main campus in Hendersonville. Mackey coordinated continuing education events throughout the state, and he was instrumental in helping launch Fruitland’s satellite campus in Rocky Mount.
Fruitland Baptist Bible College President David Horton said Mackey possessed a passion for equipping pastors and ministry leaders.
“Bill Mackey was a true gift to the church and to Fruitland Baptist Bible College,” Horton said. “He loved people, and he was such a humble servant of the Lord. His heart was as big as the mountains of western North Carolina. He was truly a Christian gentleman.”
Horton said Mackey invested in the lives of his students and also blessed them in ways that most people never saw. Whenever Mackey learned of students who needed financial assistance to pursue their education, Mackey would often pay their tuition out of his own pocket.
Friends and family members say that Mackey considered the gift a scholarship.
‘My biggest encourager’
Mackey was an active member of Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Lead pastor Randy Mann remembered Mackey’s constant encouragement.
“Bill has been one of my biggest encouragers,” Mann said. “He was a tireless encourager. Never have I walked away from a conversation with Bill that I didn’t leave encouraged. Whether it was on a Sunday morning after service, or just bumping into him during the week, I would always leave encouraged.”
Mann said Mackey was a man of prayer and was devoted to his family. Mann also described Mackey as a lifelong learner who desired to be used by God.
“Even at 81 years old, and after over 50 years of ministry, he wanted to be as sharp and prepared as he could be to honor and serve His Lord,” Mann said.
Current North Carolina Baptist Executive Director Todd Unzicker said Mackey was an encourager to him, as well.
“I will always remember Bill Mackey as a tremendous encourager,” Unzicker said. “In my last meeting with him, he shared his desire to see more pastors equipped, more churches planted and more missionaries sent from right here in North Carolina. He epitomized what it looks like to be on mission together.
“While we grieve and pray for Bill’s family, his legacy of leadership and service will long be remembered in North Carolina and the other places where he faithfully served.”
Prior to being named president of the International Mission Board, Paul Chitwood succeeded Mackey as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Chitwood praised Mackey’s godly leadership.
“When I stepped into that role after Dr. Mackey’s retirement, I was privileged to follow a man who modeled integrity, had a genuine walk with the Lord, loved the local church, was passionate about reaching the lost,” Chitwood said. “I thank God for the impact of his life and ministry upon me and countless others.”
Mackey was a native of Lancaster, South Carolina. He earned a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Prior to serving in state convention ministries, Mackey served as an associate pastor in Middlesboro, and a pastor in Whitesburg.
Mackey is survived by his wife, Kay, two daughters, Anonda and her husband, A.J., and Beth Wooten and her husband, Bartley and five grandchildren.
‘Following their granddad’s example’
The Mackeys also hosted a college exchange student from Brazil named Dorine Ferreira who became like another daughter to them. Her children also became like grandchildren to the Mackeys.
The Wootens have been actively serving in North Carolina Baptist leadership roles for many years. Beth currently serves as secretary of the board of trustees at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She has also served on the state convention’s nominating committee and was a member of the search committee that recommended Unzicker to succeed Hollifield as the North Carolina Baptist executive director-treasurer.
Beth’s husband, Bartley, currently serves as pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church and has previously served on the North Carolina Baptist board of directors.
On the day of Mackey’s death, two of his grandchildren were en route to Brazil to serve on a weeklong mission trip.
“Bill had been so excited about this opportunity for them and had encouraged them in it,” Mann said. “They were following their granddad’s example of serving Jesus and wanting to see others come to faith in him.”
A memorial service for Mackey will be held at a later date.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Chad Austin and originally published by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Mark Maynard, managing editor of Kentucky Today, contributed to this report.