It is the judgment of his co-laborers in the field of educational and religious work, that the name of James Milton Carroll, D. D., should occupy an exalted place among those of the men to whom the great Southwest is indebted for the wonderful strides which have carried this section rapidly to the forefront within the past several decades. Beginning his career without means or educational advantages, he has prosecuted his labors with such earnestness and with so great a degree of success that his record equals that of any worker in the ranks of the Baptist denomination.
Mr. Carroll was born January 8, 1852, at Monticello, Drew county, Arkansas, and is a son of Benajah and Mary Eliza (Mallard) Carroll. His father was of Irish descent, and was related to Charles Carroll, of Maryland, the last surviving member of the signers of the Declaration of American Independence. He was married in North Carolina to Mary Eliza Mallard, a French Huguenot, and there were two children born in that State. Subsequently they moved to Carroll county, Mississippi, where eight children were born, and two children were born in Arkansas, their next home. Eventually, the family moved to Burleson county, Texas, and there, near Caldwell, both parents died. Of their twelve children only one is living: James Milton.
James Milton Carroll accompanied his parents to Texas in the Fall of 1858, being six years of age. Owing to disturbed conditions which accompanied the outbreak of the Civil War, he received few educational advantages, his schooling being confined to instruction in the very small country and village schools of that period. The property of the family consisted principally of slaves, who were freed during the war between the North and South, and Mr. Carroll's father died when he was but ten years of age, and
his mother when he was sixteen, and he was thus thrown upon his own resources when at a tender age. He was married before reaching his nineteenth birthday, his wife, Miss Sudie E. Womble, not being quite sixteen, and they settled down to farming on rented land. They were thus engaged when Mr. Carroll felt a call to the ministry, and was licensed to preach by the old Liberty church, in Burleson county, located about eight miles from Caldwell. He soon realized the need of an education, and although he could then, possibly, not have entered the seventh grade of a public school of to-day, he decided to go to Baylor University. He and his wife reached Independence, Texas, in January, 1873, and both went to school, Mr. Carroll to Baylor University, and his wife to Baylor College, which institutions at that time were located near each other in Independence. He remained there for five years, completing in that period the whole course up to a Master of Arts degree, and took what would now be called a double course each year, having never less than six and most of the time, eight studies, carrying that many at all times while there. His faculty for learning was marvelous, and he won all the medals given by Baylor University. He had what might be termed an iron constitution, and although he reached Baylor University with but forty dollars, he was able, through his capacity for hard labor, to pay his way through his college course, except about $250.00. A remarkable thing was that during his entire period there he recited all of his lessons, with the exception of a very few, under one teacher, Dr. William Carey Crane, probably at that time the best educated man in Texas. Under Dr. Crane he took courses in the sciences and mathematics, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and the various other courses such as are given in the college of to-day.
At his graduation Dr. Carroll became pastor at Anderson, Grimes county, Texas, in addition to which he was pastor of the church at Oakland, and so continued for two years. During that period he became Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday School Convention of Texas, and from that time forward was in some way connected with denominational interests in addition to his regular church work. From Anderson he went as a missionary
pastor to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he remained for very nearly three years, and subsequently spent something less than five years at Lampasas, Texas, as pastor. It was here that he probably did his best pastoral work. He still has a warm place in the hearts of the older members of that church.
Dr. Carroll then became interested in the cause of prohibition and with his customary zeal threw himself heart and soul into the prohibition State campaign, although it was necessary for him to resign his church. At the close of that campaign, in 1887, he became pastor for thirteen months at Taylor, Texas, having gone to that place with the understanding that he was to remain but a short time to try to make the church self-sustaining. This accomplished, he became agent of Foreign Mission work for Texas, and remained in that position until about 1892, when he was given the position of Corresponding Secretary for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, together with the foreign mission work, a position he held for three years, but resigned on account of his wife's ill health. Later he became agent of Baylor Female College, which at that time was more than $140,000 in debt, and after reducing that debt more than $40,000, he became Corresponding Secretary of the Texas Baptist Education Commission, which organization was the result of his suggestions. All the Baptist schools in the State at that time, with one exception, were correlated, and the Commission undertook to raise $200,000 for the purpose of liquidating all of their indebtedness and putting them on a sound basis. Mr. Carroll became first Corresponding Secretary, which position he held until he finally induced his brother. B. H. Carroll, to join him in the work, he giving to his brother the first place, while he took the second for himself. The $200,000 was raised, and the Baptist schools of Texas were thus relieved from debt. Immediately following this achievement, Mr. Carroll was elected pastor of the First church at Waco, this being his only pastorate since Taylor. At the end of nine months he resigned at the earnest solicitation of the board of trustees of Baylor University and of the Baptist Education Commission, to begin work for the endowment of Baylor University.
Eventually, Mr. Carroll decided to give up all work of that kind, with the intention of devoting several years to the writing of a Texas Baptist History, for which he had been gathering material for thirty years, but by the time he had gotten under headway in this work, the call came for him to accept some work in Southwest Texas, in the building of a school for that section of the State. So five years were given to the planning and building of San Marcos Baptist Academy, probably the greatest single achievement of his career. During the period of Mr. Carroll's denominational work he raised for missions and education something like $800,000.
In 1911 Dr. Carroll was elected as president of a university to be built at Shawnee, Oklahoma, and moved to that city and began the work, but soon found conditions there not ready for an enterprise of that magnitude, as continued droughts had paralyzed conditions in that State, and it was thought wise to discontinue the enterprise for the time being. The school, however, was opened without any buildings belonging to it, and enrolled over two hundred students the first year. Dr. Carroll was not willing to carry on the work without buildings, and hence returned to Texas. In 1913 he became president-elect of Howard Payne College, where he has just commenced his work. He is a man of studious and scholarly habits, with great executive ability and organizing power. In whatever community he has found himself he has attracted to him a wide circle of friends, and few if any preachers in the Lone Star State are better known or more highly esteemed. Politically he is a Democrat, with progressive proclivities, being, in fact, progressive in all things.
He and his wife have had three children, of whom two died while in infancy, the other being a daughter of twenty years. In addition they adopted a four-year-old son, who is now a man with his own family, living in Houston, Texas, J. J. Carroll, connected with the W. T. Carter Lumber Company.
It would not be right to close this sketch without adding this just tribute to Dr. Carroll's wife. Though she was never very strong physically, she has ever had a strong faith and marvelous courage, a never-give-up spirit and an unfailing ambition. These
dominant elements of her character have always been, from their marriage even to this hour, of untold help to her husband. During her husband's hard struggling college days, and the days of his early ministry, and many times since, she uncomplainingly endured many trying hardships and always added her bit, not only to the homekeeping, but to the toils, also, of earning their living. The world has never known her real worth.
[From Balus Joseph Winzer Graham, editor, Baptist Biography, 1920, pp. 45-49. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
J. M. Carroll is most noted for his booklet The Trail of Blood, a series of notes he used in givng lectures on Baptist history, that was first published in 1931. The Trail of Blood Chart is here.
He also wrote A History of Texas Baptists: Comprising a detailed account of their activities, their progress, and their achievements, published in 1923.
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