J. L. Dickens, A. M., B. D., was born March 3, 1853, in Gibson County, Tenn., and is of a family of seven children born to Robert G. and Mary M. (Dickey) Dickens, of which our subject and two sisters are surviving members. The father was born in North Carolina and moved to Gibson County, Tenn., when thirteen years of age; that is also the native county of his wife, and they were married there in 1846, farming until 1862, when they moved to Marion County, Ill., continuing farming until the father’s death, December 27, 1864. The mother then returned to Gibson County with the children, and afterward married G. W. Dickey, and they are at present residing on a farm in Dyer County.
Our subject remained with his parents until he was nineteen years of age, then attended Newbern Seminary two years, acquiring the necessary means by the assistance of friends, added to his own industry and economy. He was then licensed to preach in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and in 1876 was ordained to the ministry. He did mission labor until November, 1874, then entered Bethel College, which he attended until he graduated in the classical course, in 1879, then he continued in the ministry in Tennessee until November 1880, accepting at that date a call to become pastor of the Cumnberland Presbyterian Church at Fayetteville, Ark., which he filled until the spring of 1882, then he responded to a call from a church at Biggsville, Ill., which terminated abruptly, owing to throat disease that caused him much trouble.
In September, 1882, he entered Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati, Ohio, and remained two years, then entered the theological department of Cumberland University, graduating June, 1884, with the degree of B. D., and accepted the position of professor of belles lettres and moral and mental science in Bethel College, McKenzie, Tenn., of which he was elected president June 1, 1886. August 21, 1879, he married Miss Mattie J. Tiner, of Gibson County. Her parents, J. A. and Mary J. Tiner, are still residing in Gibson County. Mr. and Mrs. Dickens are Cumberland Presbyterians, and he is a member of the F. and A. M.
Source: History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of Carroll, Henry and Benton Counties, Besides a Valuable Fund of Notes, Original Observations, Reminiscences, Etc., Etc. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1978.