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Reuben H. Nightingale.

From Northern Union Outlook, July 1954.

Nightingale, Reuben Henry (1910–1975)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: November 1, 2022

Reuben H. Nightingale was an evangelist and pastor on the west coast of the United States, then a church administrator in Florida and middle America.

Heritage and Education

Reuben’s paternal grandparents emigrated from a Russian-German community in northwestern Ukraine and settled in Kansas in 1876 when his father, Peter A. Nachtigall (1874-1939), was about two years old. In July 1893 Peter married Anna Shultz (1874-1964), also of Russian-German heritage, in a Mennonite church in McPherson, Kansas. Eleven children were born into their home, three dying in childhood: Aganetha or “Neta” (b. 1894), Jacob Edwin (1896-1899), Agnes Ruth (b. 1898), Elizabeth Sophie (1900-1911), Peter Earl (b. 1902), Ruth Evangel (b and d. 1904), Marie Magdalene (b. 1905), Leona (b. 1908), Reuben Henry (b. 1910), Andrew (b. 1915) and Rudolph (b. 1917). The surname Nachtigall was anglicized to Nightingale at the time of World War I.1

By the time Reuben was born his parents had converted to Adventism and the family had moved to Escondido in southern California. Reuben received his elementary education in Shafter, advancing to Glendale Union Academy in suburban Los Angeles. In 1931 he completed the junior ministerial course at Southern California Junior College (predecessor to La Sierra University).2

Public Evangelism

In 1931 Nightingale began his ministry in the Southern California Conference by assisting with a tent effort at Lennox in suburban Los Angeles.3 He then joined the evangelistic team of H. M. S. Richards for a series of tent meetings in central Los Angeles that extended throughout most of 1932.4 In the latter part of the year, Nightingale and a colleague united in an evangelistic campaign in Norwalk. Their efforts won a small number of converts.5

During the first half of 1933, Nightingale associated with the Richards team for meetings conducted in South Gate, also in the greater Los Angeles area.6 That summer, on July 9, 1933, Elder Richards officiated at the marriage ceremony uniting Reuben with Pauline Mae Woodyard. The Nightingales would have two daughters: Reuline (Hermanson) and Shirley (Cole).7

Nightingale again assisted Elder Richards in 1934 for a few months in meetings at Huntington Park, another suburb of Los Angeles.8 At the same time he nurtured the nearby Compton Church and later that same year he conducted his own series in the immediate vicinity. Pauline Nightingale was an accomplished pianist, rendering the music for the song services in his campaigns. The year 1935 found Nightingale conducting several short series of evangelistic meetings at Ventura, Santa Paula, Bridgeport and Lone Pine.9

On Sabbath, October 3, 1936, Nightingale was ordained at a meeting sponsored by the Pacific Union Conference in the Glendale Church.10 He continued with evangelistic efforts in the Los Angeles area, first at Pomona and later at Baldwin Park and Monrovia.11 During the winter of 1938-1939 he attended the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., in order to enrich his evangelistic endeavors.12

In 1940 Nightingale transferred to evangelistic work in the Upper Columbia Conference, territory spread over eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and parts of Idaho.13 He held a successful campaign in Yakima, using the innovation of a large domed tent or tabernacle that seated an audience of one thousand. Most meetings were packed beyond capacity.14 He took the tabernacle to Spokane and Wenatchee for similar efforts.15 The latter two efforts were conducted while Nightingale doubled as the church pastor at Spokane. During his tenure the church was destroyed by fire, followed by a reconstruction program.16 In 1944 Nightingale located at Portland, Oregon, initiating a radio program titled “Builders of Faith.” It was transmitted over four stations at various times, such as 9 a.m. on Sundays and 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. on weekdays. Many of the listeners accepted the offer of Bible lessons.17

Church Administration

Nightingale accepted a call from the Florida Conference in 1945 to pastor the Miami Temple Church. A turning point in his career came when he was elected to serve as president of the conference, beginning January 1948.18 During his six years in that role, he oversaw growth in membership from 4,761 to 7,027.19

In 1954, Nightingale was elected president of the Northern Union Conference, made up of the Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota conferences, with headquarters in Minneapolis.20 It was the beginning of a period stretching more than 20 years in which Nightingale served, consecutively, as president of the two union conferences that would merge to form the Mid-America Union Conference in 1980.

Nightingale transferred to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1962 when he was elected as president of the Central Union Conference, comprising the Central States, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming conferences.21 He remained in this role until his death in 1975. This presidency included the chairmanship of Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium and Hospital boards, the Porter Sanitarium and Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.22 He also served at times on the boards of Loma Linda University and Andrews University.23

Final Years

While Nightingale was still in office, Pauline, his wife for 37 years, passed away in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 7, 1970. She was only 58 years of age.24 He subsequently married LaVerna F. Jester.25

Nightingale was re-elected president of the Central Union Conference on April 5, 1971.26 Before completing his five-year term, however, he passed away in Lincoln on March 4, 1975. Reuben and Pauline Nightingale rest alongside each other in Roosevelt Memorial Park, suburban Los Angeles, not far from where they began their ministry.27 Nightingale’s book, a call to soul-winning titled Crossing Jordan at Flood Tide, was issued posthumously by Pacific Press Publishing Association in 1975.28

Sources

Annual Statistical Reports. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Online Archives (GCA), http://documents.adventistarchives.org/. Baldwin Park Effort.” Pacific Union Recorder, November 10, 1937.

“Elder R.H. Nightingale . . . .” Pacific Union Recorder, October 5, 1938, October 2, 1940.

Esteb, L.E. “Spokane Church.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 12, 1943.

Hackman, E. F. “Introducing Florida’s New President.” Southern Tidings, January 7, 1948.

“Newsettes.” Pacific Union Recorder, June 20, 1934.

“News Notes.” Pacific Union Recorder, December 9, 1936.

“News Notes.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 23, 1941, April 14, 1942.

Nightingale, Pauline. “Yakima Tabernacle Meetings.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 17, 1940.

Nightingale, Reuben H. “Compton.” Pacific Union Recorder, February 20, 1935.

Nightingale, Reuben H. “The Radio Work in the Oregon Conference.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, March 6, 1945.

Nightingale, Reuben H. “Ventura.” Pacific Union Recorder, June 5, 1935.

Nightingale, Reuben Henry. Secretariat Appointee Files, RG 21, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD (GCA).

“Notes.” Pacific Union Recorder, March 22, 1939.

“Pauline Mae Woodyard Nightingale obituary.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, July 6, 1970.

“Peter A. Nachtingall.” FamilySearch. Accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/G9QK-BHZ.

“Reuben Henry Nightingale obituary.” ARH, May 1, 1975; Northern Union Outlook, March 31, 1975.

Reuben Henry Nightingale Correspondence. Secretariat Files, RG 21, Record 46679. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD (GCA).

“Rev Reuben Henry Nightingale.” Find A Grave. Memorial ID 159748421, March 19, 2016. Accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/159748421/reuben-henry-nightingale. .

Roberts, G.A. and W.W. Ruble. “Owens Valley.” Pacific Union Recorder, October 9, 1935.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Online Archives. https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/Allitems.aspx.

Smisor, George T. “Norwalk Effort.” Pacific Union Recorder, February 23, 1933.

Voth, David. “A Good Meeting.” Pacific Union Recorder, October 21, 1936.

Notes

  1. “Peter A. Nachtingall,” FamilySearch, accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/G9QK-BHZ. The surname has been transcribed as “Nachtingall” from the handwritten 1910 U.S. Census record, and that is the spelling used in the family tree at FamilySearch. but the image of the original document shows the name to be “Nachtigall” (without the second “n”), sometimes spelled with only one “l” (“Nachtigal”).

  2. Reuben Henry Nightingale Ministerial Internship Application Blank, November 30, 1931, in Secretariat Appointee Files, RG 21, Box 2067, GCA.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Reuben H. Nightingale to M.E. Kern, February 24, 1932, Nightingale Appointee File, GCA; G.A. Roberts, “The Observatory Auditorium,” Pacific Union Recorder, May 10, 1933, 3.

  5. George T. Smisor, “Norwalk Effort,” Pacific Union Recorder, February 23, 1933, 5.

  6. G.A. Roberts, “Our Evangelistic Efforts,” Pacific Union Recorder, August 16, 1933, 6.

  7. Reuben Henry Nightingale and Pauline Mae Woodyard, July 9, 1933, “California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” FamilySearch, accessed October 27, 2022, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8JZ-Y26; “Reuben Henry Nightingale obituary,” Northern Union Outlook, March 31, 1975, 15.

  8. “Newsettes,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 20, 1934, 6.

  9. Reuben H. Nightingale, “Ventura,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 5, 1935, 3; G.A. Roberts and W.W. Ruble, “Owens Valley,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 9, 1935, 3.

  10. David Voth, “A Good Meeting,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 31, 1936, 3.

  11. “News Notes,” Pacific Union Recorder, December 9, 1936, 2-3; “Baldwin Park Effort,” Pacific Union Recorder, November 10, 1937, 4; “Elder R.H. Nightingale . . . ,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 5, 1938, 3.

  12. “Notes,” Pacific Union Recorder, March 22, 1939, 4.

  13. “Elder R.H. Nightingale . . . ,” Pacific Union Recorder, October 2, 1940, 9.

  14. Pauline Nightingale, “Yakima Tabernacle Meetings,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 17, 1940, 4.

  15. “News Notes,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 23, 1941, 8, and April 14, 1942, 4.

  16. L.E. Esteb, “Spokane Church,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 12, 1943, 4.

  17. Reuben H. Nightingale, “The Radio Work in the Oregon Conference,” March 6, 1945, 3-4.

  18. E.F. Hackman, “Introducing Florida’s New President,” Southern Tidings, January 7, 1948, 2

  19. Annual Statistical Report for 1947, 6, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR1947.pdf, and for 1954, 6, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR1954.pdf (GCA).

  20. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1955, 41-42.

  21. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1963, 30-31.

  22. “Reuben H. Nightingale obituary,” Northern Union Outlook.

  23. “Reuben H. Nightingale obituary,” ARH, May 1, 1975, 31.

  24. “Pauline Mae Woodyard Nightingale obituary,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, July 6, 1970, 14.

  25. “Former Lincolnite Drowns,” Lincoln Journal Star, July 11, 1973, 11; Laverna F. Nightingale

    in the California, U.S., Marriage Index, 1960-1985, accessed October 28, 2022, Ancestry.com; Laverna Webb in the U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, accessed October 28, 2022, Ancestry.com.

  26. L.G. Barker, “Officers and Departmental Secretaries Elected at Constituency Meeting,” Central Union Reaper, April 13, 1971, 2.

  27. “Rev Reuben Henry Nightingale,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID 159748421, March 19, 2016, accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/159748421/reuben-henry-nightingale.

  28. “Reuben H. Nightingale obituary,” ARH.

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Hook, Milton. "Nightingale, Reuben Henry (1910–1975)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 01, 2022. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=99VL.

Hook, Milton. "Nightingale, Reuben Henry (1910–1975)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 01, 2022. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=99VL.

Hook, Milton (2022, November 01). Nightingale, Reuben Henry (1910–1975). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=99VL.