Harry Denman was a noted Methodism lay leader and evangelist within the Methodist Church who emphasized the life taught by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. Denman strongly challenged modern materialism and prejudice by exemplifying and teaching a simple life, and by personally relating to all people, regardless of race, gender, or economic means. His personal property was very limited; for example he usually had only one pair of shoes and refused to wear a watch, preferring to ask for the time as a way of starting a conversation. Articles that were given to him were generally given away to the needy. He was a close friend of another well-known evangelist, Billy Graham who called Denman "one of the great mentors for evangelism."
He was born September 26, 1893 in Birmingham, Alabama of Hattie Leonard and William Harry Denman, who immigrated from Gloucestershire, England. He earned a bachelor's degree from Birmingham-Southern College in 1921, and a master's degree in social work in 1930. In 1936 he received an honorary doctorate from Athens State University in Alabama. In 1915, Denman became secretary of the Birmingham Sunday School Association, a post which he held until 1919, when he became church manager of the First Methodist Church in Birmingham.
In 1938 he was elected secretary for the Department of Evangelism in the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Then, in 1939, he became the General Secretary of the Commission on Evangelism, later known as the General Board of Evangelism, of the newly formed The Methodist Church. As the general secretary, he also had responsibility for the publication of The Upper Room, a devotional publication. He was also a member of the Jurisdictional Conferences in 1940, 1944, 1948, and 1952.
On January 31, 1949 Denman incorporated The Foundation for Evangelism. The founders included Denman, who was the General Secretary of The General Board of Evangelism at the time, and a dedicated group of elected members of the General Board who wanted to directly support evangelism ministries within the Methodist denomination. Created as a non-profit entity, the Foundation for Evangelism is most notable as the home to the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards given to those clergy and lay persons for outstanding service in evangelism. It also provides funding for the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism program which supports chairs of evangelism at various United Methodist related seminaries around the world.
In 1965, Denman retired from The General Board of Evangelism and The Foundation. He accepted his final salary from the General Board and donated it to The Foundation for Evangelism. He then traveled extensively in the United States and throughout the world to preach and conduct evangelistic meetings. He died November 8, 1976 in Birmingham, Alabama at the age of 83.
- Prophetic Evangelist : The living legacy of Harry Denman foreword by Billy Graham
- In 1939, the northern and southern factions of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to form The Methodist Church
- Love Abounds: A Profile of Harry Denman, A Modern Disciple by Asbury Smith and J. Manning Potts ISBN B000H9KB44
- Harry Denman : A Biography by Harold Rogers ISBN 0-369-51177-8
- Prophetic Evangelist : The living legacy of Harry Denman, with foreword by Billy Graham writings compiled by Bishop Earl G. Hunt and Dr. Ezra Jones ISBN 0-8358-0686-3
- The Promise and the Power (Harry Denman lectures) by Alan Walker ISBN 0-7624-1682-3
- Denman's personal papers are archived at the Pitts Theology Library, Emory University