Christian publishing pioneer Hugh Revell Barbour, who built the publishing company started by his grand uncles, Fleming H. Revell and Dwight Moody, into one of the largest publishers of Evangelical Christian books in the country and cofounded the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association died May 5. He was 93.
Barbour's career began in 1953 when he became the West Coast salesman for Fleming H. Revell Company, the publisher founded by his grand uncles, and rose to the executive team, focusing on sales and marketing. According to his obituary, Barbour's constant goal was to expand the reach of the Gospel both within Christian bookstores and to mass market outlets as well.
During his tenure, every decade brought a Barbour innovation. In the 1960s, he launched Spire Books, the first mass market paperback imprint specializing in Evangelical Christian books and partnered with other paperback publishers such as Bantam, Simon & Schuster and Ballantine to place millions of Revell titles into general bookstores. He co-founded Manna Books to serve charismatic church pastors and leaders who wanted to publish their writings. In the 1970s, he joined with Al Harley, one of the original artists of Archie Comics, according to the obituary posted by his family, to attract teens and young adults with Archie Christian Comics they could find in bookstores, stationery stores, and prisons as well.
In 1974, Hugh and his brother Bill partnered with several leading Christian publishers and founded the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association "to share expertise and to better define industry standards and practices," the obituary mentions. In the late 1970s, Hugh saw another opportunity in the market, and he asked Dale Hanson Bourke to join the Revell team to launch Today’s Christian Woman, a national magazine that featured stories of Christian women and authors of Christian books.
Hugh worked with many bestselling authors including Corrie ten Boom, Eugenia Price, Marjorie Holmes, Ruth Bell Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Rosalyn Carter, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Helen Steiner Rice, Chuck Colson, Catherine Marshall, Rich DeVos, Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye and others. In 1974, Revell published Total Woman by Marable Morgan, which became a huge bestseller and her follow-up book, Total Joy, was launched with a cover story in Time magazine.
Following the sale of the company to Scott, Foresman in 1978, Barbour formed Christian Book Bargains, which sold overstock titles in Christian bookstores and by direct mail. He followed that launch by teaming up with his nephew Bruce Barbour to form Barbour Books, which published inspirational titles, romance novels, games and puzzles that could be found in mass merchandisers such as Costco as well as in bookstores.
Following his retirement in 1999, Barbour moved into real estate sales and philanthropic work with the Barbour Foundation, "one more way he helped people realize their dreams,'' according to his obituary.