Arthur Watkins McGaha (born September 12, 1858 in Marshall County; died November 29, 1901 in Huntsville, Madison County) was pastor of Ruhama Baptist Church from 1888 to 1893, and president of Howard College, from 1893 to 1896.
McGaha was the son of Marshall County farmer George Washington McGaha. He attended Howard College in Marion, Perry County, graduating in 1881, and went on to earn a degree at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. After leading two other churches, he was called to succeed Eldred Teague as pastor of Ruhama Baptist Church in East Lake. By that time, his alma mater had relocated to a site adjoining Ruhama, and within a few years McGaha was tapped to succeed Benjamin Franklin Riley as the college's president.
Like his predecessor, McGaha struggled to find enough paying students to cover the institution's debts. During his first year, the board sent a full-time agent all over the state to solicit contributions and recruit prospective students. His success in fund-raising made it possible to address overlooked repairs and to improve the campus grounds, using student laborers. However the college failed to meet its enrollment goals, leading McGaha to approve the school's first female students in 1894.
Despite that effort, Howard defaulted for a second time on its mortgage in 1896. In a gesture of sacrifice to forestall the elimination of faculty positions, McGaha tendered his resignation. Leadership of the campus was passed to A. D. Smith, whose formal title was "chairman of the faculty and manager of the college." Smith was able to secure a new line of credit and resolve a dispute with the East Lake Land Company that steered the institution away from ruin.
McGaha returned to preaching and was called to lead the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas; and later First Baptist of Waco, Texas. He suffered a "stroke of paralysis" while visiting family in Huntsville in 1901. He died at age 49 and was buried there. He was survived by his wife, Mosetta and three children. Mosetta remarried, to Edward McDuffie, in 1909.
|Pastor of Ruhama Baptist Church
Joshua Foster Jr
Benjamin Franklin Riley
|President of Howard College
A. D. Smith