Oral Memoirs of William Meredith Pinson Jr. Now Available Online

March 25, 2015

Historians analyzing the culture of Texas through the lens of religion will be interested in a new resource focusing on Texas Baptists available online from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. The Oral Memoirs of William Meredith Pinson Jr., encompassing 57.88 recorded hours and 913 transcript pages, are now available HERE. This online offering contains complete transcripts and audio files for each interview, as well as an appendix and complete index of the series. Video of the first ten interviews was also recently digitized and will be added in the coming weeks.

William M. “Bill” Pinson was executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) from 1983 to 2000. His memoirs continue the documentation of Texas Baptists by the Institute in interviews with previous BGCT executive secretaries/directors: W. R. White (1929-1931), Forrest C. Feezor (1953-1960), T. A. Patterson (1961-1973), and James H. Landes (1974-1982).

Since 1820, Baptists have been on the stage in the theater of Texas history, influencing the development of the state’s character from the open countryside to the state capitol (while also providing some colorful characters for dramatic effect). In turn, changes in the state’s economy, demography, politics, and society challenged and reshaped Baptists, the dominant religious group in the state throughout most of the twentieth century. Baptists, defenders of the autonomy of individual congregations, often disagree on what being Baptist means, but the record shows that the majority of Baptist churches in the state throughout the 1900s affiliated with the Dallas-based Baptist General Convention of Texas, which in turn related to the Southern Baptist Convention.

This collection of thirty-two oral history interviews, facilitated by former BUIOH Director Rebecca Sharpless and current BUIOH Associate Director Lois E. Myers, reveals Pinson’s perspectives on the progress made by Texas Baptists during the last two decades of the twentieth century in the areas of evangelism, missions, Christian education, and human welfare and benevolence ministries. New churches opened and existing churches expanded to embrace the rising and diversifying Texas population in spite of the effects of economic recession.

Throughout those same years, however, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention sought to bring control of BGCT operations and institutions under their own increasingly conservative umbrella. During this time, their plan was to populate the committees and commissions of the BGCT and the boards of Texas Baptist universities, hospitals, and benevolent organizations with Baptists of their own stripe until reaching a majority. Such efforts inspired Baylor University in 1990 to revise its state charter, diminishing the number of regents appointed by the BGCT from 100 to 25 percent. Later, fundamentalist Texas Baptists broke away from the BGCT and organized the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. In his memoirs, Pinson reflects upon the historical background and the outcomes of the so-called conservative resurgence and the tensions of the position he held as the one responsible for keeping the wheels of ministry turning for all varieties of Texas Baptists.

In addition to detailed accounts of BGCT operations under his active directorship, Pinson’s memoirs cover his earlier careers as Baptist pastor, Christian ethics professor, and seminary president, and his work since retirement as emeritus executive director. The fact that the memoirs required a forty-page index indicates their level of detail contributing to multiple research threads on recent Baptist history.

To read more stories from BUIOH’s Texas Baptist collection, visit the complete online listing HERE.
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