Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter was born near Dundee, Michigan, on December 5, 1855. Trained as an artist, he became an art teacher and later supervisor of art education in the public schools of Sharon, Pennsylvania. An active layman in the Methodist-Episcopal church, DeVenter showed particular skills during annual evangelistic meetings held by the church. Church members urged him to become an evangelist, and after five years of wavering between ministry and his desire to be recognized as an artist, he committed his life to one of evangelism.
DeVenter travelled extensively throughout the United States, England, and Scotland, assisted by the singer Winfield Weeden. Although an active hymn-writer, only two hymns remain popular today, one of which is “I Surrender All.” Given the nature of his call and commitment to ministry, the text of this hymn gains deeper significance.