Dallas Morning News
13 September 1941
Prince of Preachers Starts His Forty-Fifth Year in Dallas Pulpit Sunday
Many Thousand to Hear
George W. Truett Speak
Wanted to Become a Lawyer, but His Friends
in Grayson County Forced Him Into Ministry
By Paul Crume
Dr. George W. Truett, the massive-framed, silver-haired colossus of world Baptistdom, will begin his forty-fifth year Sunday at the First Baptist Church on Ervay and Patterson.
His 8,000 church members will pack every basement room and Sunday school nook in the many-storied church that fills a whole city block to pay him tribute.
Even so, there will be no ceremony except that men and women who worshiped at the church when Dr. Truett came will be asked to life their hands.
They call him the Prince of Preachers now, this majestic, big-frame, lion-headed man with the blue eyes that take fire when he preaches. He is undisputed dean of Dallas' own God's Little Acre, the two blocks on Patterson between Akard and St. Paul where three of the city's largest churches raise their graceful spires and domes in the midst of a business section. He is past president of the Baptist World Alliance. He has preached to cowboys, Burmese and world statesmen. Critics of religious oratory have given him a place beside Spurgeon.
Called from Waco
The church which eleven Baptists started in 1867 in a little frame building at Ross and Akard, whose 715 members when Dr. Truett came sat in a small brick auditorium under the steeple that still is part of the church building has grown to some 8,000 members. Next to two churches in the East, it is the largest Baptist Church in the nation. The seven-story brick building which houses it is valued at #1,250,000. As a world figure, if he had an eye for a dollar, Dr. Truett could command his own price and in a measure he could have done that in 1897.
When early in September, 1897, the Dallas congregation of 715 found itself without a preacher for the little brick church on Ervay, it called a big-shouldered, great-headed young man from Waco. George W. Truett already had made a name in Texas, but he was satisfied in his little East Waco church. After much soul-searching, he agreed to come to Dallas on one condition.
"I would like to request," he pleaded earnestly with the elders, "that the salary not be too large."
The First Baptist Church of Dallas once put $507,850 in a single collection plate, but it never has been able to make its pastor take a raise in salary without forcing it on him.
In 1891, Baylor University at Waco was facing a $92,000 debt that threatened to break it. The Baptist leaders were desperately combing the state for an effective financial agent. Now at Whitewright, at that time, lived a tall farmer boy with broad shoulders who had been studying law and going to junior college. A former North Carolina mountain boy, he had once swept a Georgia Baptist convention off its feet with a plea for help in schooling hill country boys and girls.
Ordained, Saves Baylor
Only a short time before young George W. Truett had gone to a Saturday night meeting at the little family meeting house at Whitewright, Grayson County. As the old elder speaking got on from generalities, Truett suddenly realized that they were urging him to enter the ministry. He protested. He felt that he was headed toward the law.
In the tense little church the membership prayed, pleaded and finally voted its conviction that the young man had been called to the ministry. Truett, shaken by the prayers, stood by.
"Wait six months," young Truett pleaded desperately.
"We won't wait six hours. We are called on to do this thing now and we're going to do it," they replied.
At the Sunday morning service the next day he was ordained. Now, with disaster facing Baylor, a prominent Baptist of the state remembered the young preacher at Whitewright and wrote the president of the university.
"One thing I know of him," he wrote, "When he speaks people do what he asks them to do."
Characteristically, young Truett put his broad shoulders to the job with every ounce of farm-hardened energy he possessed. For twenty-three months he toured Texas, hitching rides at times in oxcarts. He put the $500 he had saved for his schooling into the Baylor fund. After he had finished, down to the last dollar, he entered Baylor as a freshman, preaching at the small East Waco church while he studied. There he married Miss Josephine Jenkins, a fellow student.
By the fall of 1897 the man who had saved Baylor was known as a coming figure in Texas Baptistdom. Yet, after limiting the size of his own salary, the first thing he did in Dallas was to hike the church's contribution to state missions from $25 to $300.
Can Have What He Wants
Actually, Dr. Truett can have anything he asks of his congregation, mainly, says his assistant, Robert Coleman, because he has never asked anything for himself. Last year British Baptists asked the Southern Baptist convention for an indefinite loan of $200,000. The convention turned down the loan and offered a gift of money instead. Texas' share of the $200,000 was $40,000 and they raised $8,000 of it from one offering at the Truett church.
In 1919, the First Baptist Church filled up probably the largest single collection plate in Southern Baptist history - $507,850 in one offering for the Seventy-Five Million Campaign.
Since Dr. Truett stepped into its pulpit, the church has given $5,348,245.92 to its many causes.
The congregation always has seen that its pastor was well paid, as some of them point out, you can’t give away overcoats freely on any salary. One o the stories his congregation likes best to tell is that of an old-timer of how he first knew Dr. Truett.
"I was walking along the street one day near where the Federal Building is now," he said. "I saw a thin old man shivering in the cold; stop a fine-looking man who was well dressed. I saw the well-dressed man stop and listen a moment to the other and a few minutes; he took off his fine overcoat and wrapped it around the other man's shoulders. I determined right then to find out that man's name and it was George W. Truett."
The Minster lives at 5105 Live Oak, in a house which friends in the church bought for him. Since he moved there, it was enlarged once to take care of his sprawling library, but the library quickly outgrew any quarters set for it. A lightning-like, analytical reader, he averages more than a book a day of current literature and new religious studies. He never leaves on one of his many trips without half a dozen volumes in his bag.
He likes to work at home, rising late and working until far in the night when there are no callers to interrupt. He makes voluminous sermon notes on the backs of old envelopes and files them away until it takes a moving crew to clean them out. Most of his sermons are drafted the day before the strides deliberately, with a determined face, to the pulpit to deliver them.
In forty-four years, Dr. Truett has had 5,050 baptisms in his own church and has added 18,214 members. A tireless evangelist, he has heard 15,000 professions of faith in other churches. He yearly preaches at the cowboy roundup of souls on top of the Paisano Range of the Davis Mountains. The ranchmen learned to like him because, as an early one said, he could "shoot fast," even after a heave dinner.
A sound system will carry the sermon from the auditorium to listeners in the distant rooms of the church Sunday.
The young people's department of the Sunday school will present their pastor with a book containing the autographed pictures of each member of the department. J. W. Adams is superintendent of the department, and Mrs. W. L. Pitts is chairman of the gift committee.