It was during a revival meeting in Tennessee. The evangelist had preached a powerful message, and everyone felt quite touched. Now the congregation lifted their voices in worship to the great God who had personally attended their meeting that night.
In one of the pews in the back, there sat a little boy, five years of age. His head was bowed and he held the songbook clutched tightly in his small hands. Something deep inside him was stirring, calling him. He wanted to go to the altar and pray, but nobody invited him. And there was this fear in him, the fear that the people would say he is too small.
Several moments he sat there, silently fighting. Then he got up and slowly walked out of the door.
A few days later, the boy was walking along behind his mother from the church. It was dark, the night had closed around them, yet it had not brought a feeling of dread, but of peace, security. The young woman was weeping, rejoicing through her tears. Her son silently followed her. Suddenly she turned around and addressed him: "Kay, don't you want to be converted and grow up to be a Christian man?"
Again, the boy felt the touch of God. He knew that the Lord was near, he could feel his presence. He could hear God calling his name.
Archie Kay Bracken was born on September 13, 1884, near a tiny mining community in Tennessee. He was of Scotch-Irish-French-English descent and the seventh child of ten. One of his brothers died in infancy, another one before his twenty-second birthday. A.K. Bracken was the last one left of his family when he died.
Growing up in post Civil War America, he encountered quite a few conflicts during his early childhood. He started school at age 6; and the one mile way to his "white" school crossed the path to the "colored" school. At times it would get rather exciting when the two groups met.
A.K. Bracken loved to go to school and would not have given it up for anything. In 1893 his family moved to Pikeville and he started attending a private school, which only the more well-to-do could afford. Yet, after they again moved in 1894, this time to a farm five miles away, schooling was limited and hard work increased. Only two times, when he was 16 and 19 years old, he was allowed to have a term in People's College. To get there he would walk the 4.5 miles twice each day in good weather, in bad weather he could ride a horse. When he was not yet 19, he passed the teacher's examination as the third best among those who took it.
Dr. Archie Kay Bracken
A.K. Bracken spent his teen years in the Methodist church. In 1903 he married Ida Humble. They had a baby son together, but within five months of his birth both mother and child died. It was a hard time for the father, and only with God's help did he not "go to the dogs" as he called it. He taught in a public school for two years and then went on to Texas Holiness University. In 1907 he graduated from the Academy and started dating a young student teacher called Mattie Green. A year later they married, "by all odds the best deal of my life", while at the same time the Church of the Nazarene was established in Pilot Point, Texas.
During the following years A.K. Bracken taught at various colleges and schools, including Peniel College, and continued his studies, graduating from Greenville College in 1917.
In 1918 he was elected as President of Peniel College, and two years later called as President of Oklahoma Nazarene College, which he accepted in June of 1920.
The same year, the two colleges (Texas Holiness University in Peniel and Oklahoma Nazarene College) merged to become Bethany-Peniel College, situated in Bethany. This college, after merging with several other colleges, eventually became Southern Nazarene University.
A.K. Bracken remained president of Bethany-Peniel College till 1928, and made a great impact on the college. He was very interested in a Christian and evangelistic atmosphere in the college, and accomplished a lot of things in the area of finances, enrollment, faculty and academic quality. During his presidency, he and his wife received their M.A. degrees, and did a summer and fall semester in graduate school in California in 1927. In 1928 he resigned presidency to take an offered job at Olivet as dean and professor of education and later as vice president.
His second term at SNU (at that time still Bethany-Peniel) lasted during the 1930s and early 1940s. Again, he made a great impact on college life and on campus, building several new buildings. Miraculously, he was able to finance this even during depression time. In 1932 there was not even enough money for a yearbook, but Bracken "confronted the depression."
When he resigned again in 1942, Bracken had served a total of twenty and a half fruitful years, in two separated terms, as president of Bethany-Peniel College.
He counts as one of the great presidents in SNU's history, not only because he was president at the time of the merge in 1920. His life, faith and talents made an incredible contribution to SNU campus and lifestyle.
Dr. Bracken died in 1967 in Pasadena in the infirmary of a serious illness, having completed a life in the ministry full of God's blessing, and leaving a legacy for all who came after him.