Dr. Thomas Darwin Milligan of Lakeland passed away on Dec. 3 at the age of 92.

Darwin was born on June 8, 1928, in Murfreesboro, TN, the oldest of five children to William Delta and Tommie Lee Milligan. Raised during the Great Depression, he grew up on a farm in a faith-centered family that worshipped at Ward’s Grove Baptist Church near Murfreesboro. Darwin trusted his life to Jesus at an early age. He centered his entire life around faith, family and Christian values.

Darwin was married for 68 years to Barbara Milligan, who died in 2017. Both attained doctorate degrees at George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. He believed in the power of education.

Darwin and Barbara had five children, 19 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. The family moved from Murfreesboro in 1963 to Lakeland, where he joined the faculty at Florida Southern College. Darwin and Barbara were happiest spending time with their family, always hosting more than 50 of their children and spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren from around the nation for Christmas in Lakeland. For more than 50 years, Darwin and Barbara were members at First Baptist Church at the Mall, where he taught the men’s Angler Sunday School class for 20 years at the original church campus on North Florida Avenue.

He enjoyed being a member of the Lakeland Rotary Club and attended regularly. He was a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow Award. Both Darwin and Barbara were educators, teachers in elementary school, junior high and high school, and as college professors. Graduating at Kittrell High School, where he would later become principal, he went on to receive a B.A. degree in chemistry and mathematics at Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN.

Following his undergraduate degree, he went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to train as a Baptist minister and received a Master of Divinity degree. He pastored five Baptist churches in Middle Tennessee during his early career before becoming an educator in the early 1960s. He earned a Masters degree in education and sociology at Middle Tennessee State University, followed by the PhD at Peabody to complete his education.

Granddaddy, as he was most often called, is survived by five children and spouses: Delwin (Kathey) Milligan of Bartow, FL; Dana (Rusty) Hedges of Tullahoma, TN; Devonne (O.P.) Cooper of Rising Fawn, GA; Dale Milligan of West Palm Beach, FL; and Deric (Maitreya) Milligan of Pisgah Forest, NC; as well as sisters Annette Mehta of Murfreesboro and Nancy (Roger) Hines of Kennesaw, GA.

Surviving grandchildren are Audra (Manu) Samnotra, Austin (Martha) Milligan and Allen (Lara) Milligan; Aaron (Allison) Hedges, Barrett (Twyla) Hedges, Cara (Andrew) Best and Corbin (A.J.) Hedges; Bonnie (Michael) Chappell, Lanta (Matt) Carroll, William Cooper and Caroline (Ryan) Archer; Dillon Padgett, Gabriella (Jeffery) Moffitt, Meredith (Carl) Roberts, Katherine Padgett and Preston Padgett; and Ashlea, Luke and Rebecca Milligan.

Surviving great-grandchildren are Ella Claire, Jackson and Barrett Milligan, Emily Milligan and Leela Samnotra; Stella, Teddy and Jack Hedges, Julian Best and Zion Hedges; Andrew, Lucy and Lena Chappell, Riley Carroll, Rebekah and Thomas Archer; and John Allen Moffitt. Darwin was predeceased by his parents; sisters Elaine (Charles) Johnson and Rachel Milligan Harris; and daughter-in-law Kristen Milligan. The memorial service and burial will be at Ward’s Grove in late spring.

Condolences may be sent to the family at Gentry-Morrison Funeral Homes.

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