George W. Truett

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George Washington Truett

Born May 6, 1867
Hayesville, Clay County

North Carolina

Died July 7, 1944 (aged 77)
Dallas, Texas
Spouse Josephine Jenkins "Jo" Truett (married 1894-1944, his death)

Three daughters

Religion Southern Baptist clergyman

Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas, 1897 to 1944
President of Southern Baptist Convention, 1927 to 1929
President of Baptist world Alliance, 1934-1939

George Washington Truett (May 6, 1867 – July 7, 1944) was a Southern Baptist clergyman who was the pastor from 1897 until his death of the large First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He headed the Southern Baptist Convention from 1927 to 1929 and the Baptist World Alliance from 1934 to 1939.

Background

The seventh child of Charles Levi Truett (1830-1925) and the former Mary Rebecca Kimsey (1830-1911), Truett was born on a farm in Hayesville in Clay County in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. His grandfather and great-uncle were pastors, and one of his older brothers was named for the famous evangelist Charles Spurgeon.[1] Truett graduated in 1885 from Hayesville Academy and taught school just over the state line in Towns County, Georgia.[2] in 1886, at the age of nineteen, he underwent a conversion experience at a Christian revival meeting. He founded a subscription school at Hiawassee, also in Towns County,[3] and planned to use some of his earnings to attend law school. However, he left his teaching position after two years in 1889 to relocate with his parents to Whitewright in Grayson County in north Texas. There he attended Grayson Junior College in Denison and was ordained to the ministry in 1890 at the Whitewright Baptist Church. Thereafter, he delivered his first sermon at the First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas.[2]

In 1891, Truett at twenty-four became the financial secretary for Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Texas, at which he raised $92,000, enough money to retire the university's debts at that time. He enrolled in 1893 as a freshman at Baylor, graduated in 1897, and was a student-pastor of the East Waco Baptist Church.[3] He was a Baylor trustee from 1934 to 1939 and a fundraiser for Baylor Hospital in Dallas.[1]

Career

During his forty-seven years at First Baptist Dallas, membership ballooned from 715 to nearly 8,000, with total contributions exceeding $6 million. Three times growth required that the church be rebuilt.[2] The church for a time was the largest in the world.[3]

During World War I, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched Truett and nineteen other pastors to preach for six months to the Allied forces fighting the Central Powers.[2] Before Wilson's assignment, Truett had preached during the war at the noon hour at the Palace Theater in downtown Dallas for the convenience of workers, many of whom attended his sermons regardless of denomination.[4] For thirty-seven years, Truett preached for a month each summer to cowboys working the cattle drives in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.[3]

On May 16, 1920, Truett delivered a sermon which received national attention, "Baptists and Religious Liberty". He spoke on the U.S. Capitol steps in Washington, D.C., where presidents have been inaugurated and foreign dignitaries feted. He explained how the nation was established on the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state. Some referred to the address as advancing "Baptist democracy."[5] Presumably had Truett lived into the 1960s, he would have been shocked that the United States Supreme Court adopted liberal ideology to strike down prayer and Bible reading in public schools on the basis of "separation of church and state," for which Truett had argued in 1920.

Truett published ten volumes of sermons, two volumes of addresses, and two volumes of Christmas messages. Sixty-one of his sermons have been published in three volumes: We Would See Jesus (1915), A Quest for Souls (1917), and God's Call to America (1923). The three volumes have been consolidated into a single work, Follow Thou Me (1932). Truett considered the ministry the best way to "help human life to realize its true destiny". He believed that no earthly task was greater than that of the minister.[3]

Legacy

In 1894, Truett wed the former Josephine "Jo" Jenkins (1872-1956), whom he met as a Baylor student. The couple had three daughters,[2] one of whom was Jessie Truett James (1897-1961), who was the wife of Powhatan Wright James (1880-1956), a Baptist clergyman who among multiple assignments was at the time of his father-in-law's death in Dallas the president of Bethel College in Hendersonville, Kentucky.[6] Mrs. Truett lived another twelve years. The Truetts and the Jameses are interred at the large Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas.[1]

In 1939, Powhatan James published the authorized biography of his father-in-law through Macmillian. Buildings named for Truett include the Truett Memorial First Baptist Church in Hayesville, North Carolina; the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, Truett-McConnell University in Cleveland Georgia, and the George W. Truett Elementary School in the Dallas Independent School District. Truett eventually became a fairly popular boy's name within Southern Baptist circles; among notable people named for him was Samuel Truett Cathy, the late founder of the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A and a Southern Baptist himself.[7]

In 1957, the actor Victor Jory (1902-1982) portrayed Truett in the episode "Lone Star Preacher" of the syndicated television series, Crossroads. Barbara Eiler (1922-2006) was cast as Jo Truett, who died eleven months before the episode aired.[8]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rev. George Washington Truett. Old.findagrave.com. Retrieved on March 20, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 George Washington Truett Papers. Baylorarchives.cuadra.com. Retrieved on March 20, 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Truett, George Washington. The Handbook of Texas online. Retrieved on March 20, 2018.
  4. Henry S. Strope (1996). Truett, George Washington. Ncpedia.org. Retrieved on March 20, 2018.
  5. Lee Canipe (2011). A Baptist Democracy: Separating God and Caesar in the Land of the Free. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 127–128. Retrieved on March 20, 2018. 
  6. Powhatan Wright James. Oldfindagrave.com. Retrieved on March 20, 2018.
  7. George W. Truett: A Texas, Baptist, and Baylor legend. Baylor.edu (May 4, 2017). Retrieved on March 20, 2018.
  8. "Lone Star Preacher", March 15, 1957. Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved on June 14, 2013.