University News Service
Howard Payne University will bestow its highest honor upon James Guenther of Nashville, Tenn., and Cynthia Clawson of Austin on Saturday. They will each receive the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree at 10 a.m. during HPU’s commencement ceremony at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church.
Guenther is the senior member of the law firm Guenther, Jordan and Price headquartered in Nashville, and Clawson is a world-renowned singer.
For more than 40 years, Guenther has served as general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention. His practice is primarily in areas of law affecting religious bodies and church-related institutions.
A native of Little Rock, Guenther earned his bachelor’s and jurisprudence degrees from Vanderbilt University. Immed-iately following graduation from law school and admission to the Tennessee Bar in 1958, he was employed as in-house counsel at the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In addition to working with his firm, Guenther has represented the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities (IABCU) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He and other members of his firm provide counsel to several Baptist state conventions and many institutions fostered by those conventions, including seventeen colleges and universities as well as local churches.
A writer of numerous articles on nonprofit and higher education law, Guenther currently co-authors a column on legal issues for IABCU’s periodical publication, The Educator. He has also contributed to Ascending Liability in Religious and other Nonprofit Organizations and authored A Memorandum on Ascending Liability, which addresses the legal theories by which liability may be imputed between and among churches and affiliated religious bodies in Southern Baptist life.
“For many years, university administrators have looked to Jim Guenther for advice and counsel,” said Dr. Lanny Hall, university president. “A well-respected legal professional, Jim Guenther is intimately familiar with higher education law. Howard Payne University has benefitted from his good work for more than two decades. We are proud to honor this man of faith with this special recognition.”
He is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for Middle Tennessee, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits, and the United States Supreme Court.
Guenther and his wife, Patricia, are members of First Baptist Church, Nashville. They have three children, Valerie, Jeff and Stephen, and two grandchildren, Matthew and Erin.
An alumna of HPU, Cynthia Clawson has enjoyed much success since graduating her alma mater in 1970. Clawson has been singing the gospel for more than four decades. Called “the most awesome voice in gospel music” by Billboard Magazine, she has received a Grammy and five Dove Awards for her work. In 2005, she had the distinct honor of being inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Clawson has 19 solo recordings including “Celebrate Life!,” “Alleluia!,” “Angels,” “Bright New Wings!,” “Evening in December I ,” “Evening in December II” and seven recordings for the nationally acclaimed classical choral group “Conspirare.”
Her rendition of Softly and Tenderly set the tone for the soundtrack of the Academy Award winning movie The Trip to the Bountiful. In 1998, she recorded a cast album of gospel songs for a revival of the musical Smoke on the Mountain, which opened at the Lambs Theatre in New York City.
Though never considered a southern-gospel singer by critics and fans, she has been honored to be a frequent guest on Bill and Gloria Gaither’s Homecoming series. Cynthia has reached millions of people throughout the world with her music.
“Cynthia Clawson has brought honor and distinction to her alma mater since she arrived on this campus as a freshman,” said Hall. “Few Christian musicians experience the success and influence that she has known in her career. Cynthia Clawson has had global impact as she has shared her gifts and talents with others. It will be a high honor for her alma mater to recognize her in this significant way.”
In addition to her singing career, she serves as co-pastor of The Sanctuary with her husband, Ragan Courtney, in Austin, where they make their home. They have two children, Will and Lily, who are both involved in the family music business.