It started with one man and a community that believed
In the spring of 1922, Dr. J. P. McCallie (pictured), founder of The McCallie School, was appointed Chairman of the Religious Work Committee of the YMCA of Chattanooga. When asked to state some plans of work for this Committee, he made the following statement.
"I have seen what the Bible, taught as a regular daily class, with tests, promotions, reports, and credits attained diploma for graduation, can do for young boys of upper elementary, junior high, and high school age. It is a shame that public school youngsters cannot have the same privilege as pupils in a private school, where they find it the most interesting and rewarding subject they study. It has made possible the Honor System of conducting examinations without cheating, diminishes dishonesty, lying, profanity, and bullying, and is altogether the most worthwhile course we have. Cannot the same thing be offered the public schools as an elective study and as a gift, apart from all taxes, by the YMCA in cooperation with the YWCA, the PTA, members of churches, and other individuals who see its value? Remember, that not 50% of youth are in any Sunday School; some principals say 75% never receive Bible instruction."
On behalf of his committee, Dr. McCallie approached the Chattanooga City Commission to present the gift of a Bible course adapted to the various ages from 4th grade through high school, with teachers selected and paid by the Bible Study Committee, but subject to the principals and the Board of Education in scholarship and discipline. The Mayor asked: How can you prevent controversy over doctrinal matters that have divided and perplexed the church throughout the ages? "Very simply," replied Dr. McCallie. "Our Bible teachers will be instructed to use the language of the Bible and under no circumstances to engage in denominational controversy. If such questions are asked by pupils, tell them to ask their pastors why their church believes as it does, and they will be happy to explain. As far as Bible teachers go in the public schools is to let the Bible speak for itself and not use sectarian or denominational terms."
One member of the City Commission, a Catholic, promptly said, "Mr. Mayor, Bible study has never hurt anybody yet, and it could do a lot of good to our boys and girls. I move we gladly accept this free gift to our school curriculum as an elective and ask our Commissioner of Education to work out this Bible course in cooperation with this Bible Study Committee." The Jewish member of the Commission quickly said, "I second the motion." The motion was passed after three readings.
The program was later expanded to include Hamilton County schools, and it has continued since 1922.
Dr. J. P. McCallie served as chairman of the Public School Bible Study Committee until February 3, 1970, when, because of Dr. McCallie's health, Hugh O. Maclellan, Sr. was elected to serve as chairman. Shortly after Mr. Maclellan's untimely death on January 7, 1994, Thomas H. McCallie III was elected to serve as chairman. L. B. Austin III succeeded Mr. McCallie in 2003 as the fourth chairman of the Public School Bible Study Committee. Frank Brock became the fifth chairman in 2010, Steve Frost the sixth chairman in 2012, and Robert Marshall the organization's seventh chairman in 2015.
Douglas Stromberg was elected president in 2003, and Ralph W. Mohney, Jr. succeeded him in 2009. Cathy Scott became president in 2016.