THE life story of George W. Truett had its simple beginning in a quiet farmhouse which nestled in the woods in an escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His parents were C. L. and Mary Truett. His father, who at the ripe age of eighty-six is still among us, is, himself, a man of mark in his community, and his mother, whom this writer had the pleasure of personally knowing, was one of the most estimable Christian women it has ever been my pleasure to meet.
George W. Truett was reared to farm work, and many were the days that he followed the furrow and harvested the crop on that quiet farm where his father and mother and other loved ones lived and wrought.
Into that home came many important periodicals. While C. L. Truett, the father, was a man of unostentatious life and limited resources, he placed within reach of his children the best literature the world was then producing. Not only that, but there was a growing library in that home. There were such classics as Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," Baxter's "Saints' Everlasting Rest," Pendleton's "Christian Doctrines," Fox's "Book of Martyrs," and some choice works of fiction, and upon these the mind of the subject of this sketch fed, grew and expanded with the ongoing of the years.
In his boyhood George W. Truett had but limited
educational advantages, but such as he had were eagerly grasped, with the result that his mind was enriched and found increasing expansion. At the age of eighteen he began teaching. A year afterwards he founded the Hiawasse (Georgia) High School, and was its principal for three years. This school drew students from many sections far and near.
It was during his incumbency as principal of this institution that he visited the Georgia Baptist State Convention, an account of which is given in the character-sketch appearing in this volume from the pen of Rev. John E. White.
C. L. Truett always had the heart of a pioneer. Many is the time that he looked across the old North Carolina hills and wondered what alluring prospects lay beyond. But it was not until some of his children had found the western trail and landed in Texas that he and his devoted wife moved to Whitewright, Grayson County. Before the parents and other loved ones had made their way to Texas, George W. Truett had dreamed of a college course at Mercer University, but when the entire household had left him, it was not difficult to turn the heart of the young teacher towards the western land. When he was twentytwo years of age, after having established Hiawasse High School upon an enduring foundation, he bade good-bye to the sights and scenes where he had known both trials and triumphs and sped away to Texas.
In 1880 the writer of this sketch resigned the position of financial secretary of Baylor University at Waco to accept, what seemed to him, the larger work of Superintendent of all the Texas Baptist Mission work. Upon his resignation the trustees of Baylor University were much at sea to find one who could successfully take up the work
that the former secretary had voluntarily laid down. It was at about this time that a letter came to B. H. Carroll, then and for years before and afterwards president of the Board of Trustees, in which the statement was made that there was a young man at Whitewright, George W. Truett by name, whom the writer believed (and the writer was R. F. Jenkins, one of the best loved Baptist pastors Texas has ever known) would make an ideal financial secretary for our Waco School.
One sentence in the letter was very impressive. He said, "There is one thing I do know about George W. Truett - wherever he speaks the people do what he asks them to do." The result of this correspondence was that Dr. Carroll asked the young Whitewright preacher to meet him at a missionary mass-meeting which was held at McKinney in January, 1891. The result was that George W. Truett was unanimously elected to this work; he accepted it, moved to Waco, and entered upon the task, and before two years had passed more than $92,000 (a very large sum then), needed for the emancipation of Baylor University, had been raised, and the school was free. During those trying months the young preacher had the cooperation and help of B. H. Carroll, than whom there has never been a more loyal, loving, patient, sincere co-laborer and friend.
It was an epochal hour when Baylor was thus freed from debt. The successful financial secretary at once entered Baylor University as a student, and continued his studies there until in 1897 he was graduated with high honors. In the meantime he accepted the call to the pastorate of the East Waco Baptist Church. At that time this fraternity was worshipping in an antiquated old-time meeting-house which in every way had been long out of date.
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George W. Truett has never been able to work under any kind of restraint. He could no more continue to preach in that old house than the eagle could be confined to the cage of the humming-bird. He at once set about the erection of a new, commodious and modern house of worship, with the result that the house was built and dedicated free of debt. During these years he was married to Miss Josephine Jenkins, the much-loved daughter of Judge and Mrs. W. H. Jenkins of Waco.
In the early part of 1897 C. L. Seasholes resigned as pastor of the First Baptist Church at Dallas. This writer was then editor of The Baptist Standard. He was asked by Col. W. L. Williams, senior deacon of the First Baptist Church at Dallas, to suggest to him and through him to the church an appropriate man to fill their vacant pastorate. He named George W. Truett. He was quite young - less than thirty years of age. In a large measure he was untried, but the Holy Spirit led this noble fraternity to call him as their pastor. After prayer and deliberation, he came and cast his lot among them. In September of 1897 he officially took charge of the work, which place he has since filled and which pastorate his loving flock hope he will fill to the last day of his earthly life.
His work as pastor and preacher has been a succession of triumphs. To-day the First Baptist Church of Dallas is the foremost contributing church in the bounds of the Southern Baptist Convention. It has not only led Texas - it has led the whole South, and, conditions considered, has led the entire United States, thus verifying that Scripture axiom, "Like people, like priest." With a membership of 2,378, with a Sunday-school having an enrollment of between three and four thousand pupils, with aggregate contributions last year of almost $100,000, with conversions
and baptisms at practically every service, with a spirit of devotion and service known near and far, this church, under the leadership of their beloved pastor, is pressing on, conquering and to conquer.
Soon after George W. Truett's graduation from Baylor University, its Board of Trustees, with a unanimous and hearty vote, elected him to the presidency of that institution. In this election the alumni, the faculty and the student body heartily joined, and if there was ever pressure brought to bear upon a young man, recently installed in a useful pastorate, to relinquish his charge and enter upon a career of great usefulness in educational leadership, the subject of this sketch felt such pressure. The final battle was fought out by the young pastor on his knees, with the result that his shepherd heart clave to his flock, where it yet abides.
This is not the only call our friend has had to leave Dallas. Calls have come from almost every great city in every state and also from countless organizations and fraternities. If the amount of salary had ever been an object he certainly would have been sorely tempted to leave the western land and plunge into the glare and glamour of some northern or eastern metropolis.
The decision of this pastor to remain with this flock has been amply vindicated. A few years ago, in response to a crying need for more room, the church building was enlarged to practically three times its former seating capacity, and even thus early it is found yet to be too small. On some Lord's Day occasions the seating capacity of the new building is severely taxed.
As the years have passed and as the fame of George W. Truett has grown and broadened, the calls upon his time and service have become vastly multiplied. It is not always
that he goes to the large and more fruitful fields. Recently he went out to a country place, and there for almost two weeks preached with all the fervor with which he preached when holding a meeting in the city of New York. Many of the country folk were led to Christ and the church and cause were greatly strengthened.
It was an interested and interesting group of his friends and brethren who met together a little more than two years ago to devise a plan for giving their pastor a home. It was promptly provided. It is not in the nature of a parsonage or a pastorium, but was built and given in fee simple to the pastor and his wife. His membership well knew that he would never have a home in any other way. They rejoice that he has this home among them, and it is their cherished hope and wish that he will occupy this home as their pastor until his life's day is done.
The question is constantly arising, ''What of this man?'' The writer hereof is allowing this answer to be made by another pen, but from his own personal knowledge he essays a modest answer to the query on his own account. The man is one of the most remarkable it has ever been my privilege to know. For liberality of spirit, self-sacrifice, gentleness of heart, purity of character and life, sympathy, helpfulness, liberality and love, this writer does not believe George W. Truett has any superior, and he has few if any peers. He has a heart for all humanity. He is absolutely innocuous to the blandishments of flattery or wealth.
It is no wonder, therefore, that here in Dallas where he has spent a longer period of his life than at any other place except at the home of his boyhood, he is universally beloved. He is called to more houses of mourning, conducts more funerals, consoles more of the bereaved, is the repository
of more confidences of the tempest-tossed, the heartbroken and distraught than perhaps any man in this broad land. Not only is he universally beloved in Dallas, where he is best known, but throughout all Texas his name and self-sacrificing deeds are almost a household word.
He has often given down to his last penny, and then borrowed more money at the bank to give away. He is always hard pressed and will be to the end of his earthly life. The other day the writer of this sketch, when speaking to him, told him of a gift a mutual friend had made to a bereaved home in order to help defray the funeral expenses. The pastor, with those searching eyes turned upon the writer, said: " That is what money is for, and that is all it is for."
His work seems but just begun. He is now in the floodtide of his greatest usefulness and power. He has not yet reached the half-century mark, and it is not too much to hope that before his earthly days shall end he will achieve new heights of usefulness of which now we scarcely dare to dream.
[From We Would see Jesus: and Other Sermons, 1915, pp. 9-15. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
B. H. Carroll, The Titanic Champion of the Truth
(A funeral discourse delivered by Dr. George W. Truett of Dallas, Texas, in the First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, November 12, 1914.)
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