Picturing The Past: 'Cyclone Mack' Traveled Widely Preaching To Thousands
Last updated 4/6/2020 at 1:15pm
Baxter Franklin McLendon was born into a poor tenant farming family in South Carolina in 1879. He received little formal education as a child but was introduced to religion through a traveling evangelist and believed he was destined to become a preacher. However, as a young man, he was also a heavy drinker, involved in bootlegging, cockfighting, gambling and other illegal activities. He even shot another man in anger.
Around 1907 an inebriated McLendon attended one of the popular tent revivals of the early nineteenth century. From this experience he was converted and attended seminary. As a traditional preacher McLendon was largely unsuccessful though.
Soon he would be known as "Cyclone Mack" and traveled widely preaching to thousands.
His first visit to Transylvania County was June 20, 1921 when he spoke to a large crowd from the courthouse bandstand. Families were asked to bring baskets of food for a community picnic prior to the event. Following McLendon's hour long sermon there was a baseball game between Brevard and Asheville, with the home team winning by a score of 4 to 2.
On July 4, 1926 Cyclone Mack preached two services at Brevard High School. He was accompanied by a choir, with members from local churches. He returned to speak at the Woodmen of the World convention in Brevard on May 5, 1927.
His final appearance in Brevard was a month long tent revival beginning on Aug. 7, 1927. McLendon's team set up a tent with seating for 3,000 on the corner of Broad and Jordan streets.
"The McLendon Evan-gelistic Party" included choir director, J. H. Jones and his wife, who worked with the ladies and girls in the choir; B.D. Ackley, musical director and pianist; and business manager, S.W. Eadon. McLendon preached two or three times most days, drawing over 5,000 people on at least one occasion. The revival continued through Sept. 5 when he moved to Rosman for two additional weeks.
Cyclone Mack was described in a North Carolina Historical Review article from July 1971 as a "big blustery, self-willed, sometimes bullying person who confined his belligerency (after his conversion) to evangelism and politics." In addition to being an evangelical preacher, McLendon preached Americanism and had a following of Ku Klux Klan members. He died of a heart attack at his home in Bennettsville, S.C., on July 22, 1935.
(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about local history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact Marcy at [email protected] sylvania county.org or call (828) 884-1820.)