George W. Truett, 1867-1944, Baptist Pastor
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 03/13/2003
George W. Truett
Baptist pastor. George W. Truett was born on May 6, 1867, at
Hayesville, Clay County, North Carolina. He was converted to
Christ in the Hayesville Baptist Church at the age of 19.
When he surrendered his heart to Christ for salvation, he
also surrendered his will to God for service. The desire of
his life seemed to be, "Thy will be done."
In 1889 he moved with his parents to Grayson County,
Texas, where he was ordained one year later by the Whiteright
Baptist Church. In 1897 he was graduated from Baylor Univer-
sity and in September of that year was called to the pastor-
ate of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and re-
mained there for 47 years.
Under his leadership, the First Baptist Church grew
into the largest church in the world at the time. Dr. Truett
served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from
1927 to 1929, and as president of the Baptist World Alliance
from 1934 to 1939. He went to be with the Lord on July 7,
1944, at Dallas, Texas.
George Washington Truett
BORN: May 6, 1867
Hayesville North Carolina
DIED: July 7, 1944
LIFE SPAN: 77 years, 2 months, 1 day
GEORGE W. TRUETT PASTORED the same congregation for 47 years,
yet his influence reached far beyond Dallas, Texas, to the
world as he was probably the greatest Southern Baptist leader
who ever lived. His humble, spiritual, simple preaching
earned for him the reputation as the greatest orator of his
day with many referring to him as a second Spurgeon.
He was the seventh child of Charles L. and Mary R.
(Kimsey). This little mother saw both her husband and son fi-
nally converted after much perseverance in prayer. George was
born on a 250-acre mountain farm two miles west of Hayes-
ville, North Carolina. He first remembered feeling a deep
need for God's forgiveness when he was only six while listen-
ing to an old country preacher. Again, one day while looking
for his father's cows, God spared him as he was almost bitten
by a deadly rattlesnake. This brought a prayer of thanks and
more conviction yet. At age eleven the Spirit again weighed
heavily upon him during a local revival meeting in the moun-
tain church house.
Attending Hayesville Academy from 1876 to graduation
in 1885, Truett, handy with plow, rifle and books, was the
most popular boy in Clay County, North Carolina. He continued
a regular church goer (Clay County Baptist Church), but was
not a Christian. One Sunday morning in the fall of 1886, a
preacher by the name of I.G. Pulliam, planned to close out
his meetings--much to young George's relief, as undoubtedly
the Spirit was again dealing with him. But that night, the
evangelist announced he felt led to continue for another
week! He used as his text, Hebrews 10:38. When the sermon was
over and the invitation hymn began, George--age 19 by this
time--was one of the stream of those coming to surrender pub-
licly to the Saviour. He later said:
When the preacher concluded his sermon, with a ringing chal-
lenge for immediate and unreserved acceptance of Christ as
personal Saviour, a large number promptly went forward, pub-
licly confessing Christ before all the people. I was glad to
be in that company. I could "draw back" no longer from such
commitment and confession.
He told his mother the next morning at breakfast, "I
answered the claims of Christ without any reservations. Af-
terward my heart was filled with a great peace." The next
Wednesday night the pastor encouraged him to give a word of
testimony. He soon found himself in the aisle pleading per-
sonally with friends and neighbors to seek God's mercy. Many
responded. From that hour onward people began encouraging him
to enter the ministry. He was baptized by J.G. Mashburn,
joined the church and continued to teach at the Crooked Creek
Public School, a one-room school house in Towns County, Geor-
gia--a position he filled shortly after his own graduation.
He had 50 pupils and taught various subjects.
Now that he was saved, he conceived the idea of
starting a Christian private school, which he called
At the Georgia Baptist Convention, George was pre-
sented for a testimony by a friend who said, "Brethren, this
is George Truett, and he can speak like Spurgeon. George,
tell them what the Lord has done for you and what you are
trying to do up in the mountain." George told them the story
of mountain youth struggling for solid Christian faith and an
Dr. J.B. Hawthorne, pastor of the First Baptist
Church of Atlanta, said upon hearing Truett,
I have heard Henry W. Grady, Henry Ward Beecher, Phillip
Brooks and others of the world's famous speakers, but never
in all my life has my soul been more deeply stirred by any
speaker than it was that day at Marietta by that boy out of
the mountains. My heart burned within me and I could not keep
back the tears.
He got what he came for--the principalship of this
private school in the hills of Georgia. George Truett was
twenty years old when he became principal! The Hiawassee
Academy opened in 1887 in a courthouse.
The student body soon numbered 300. As a teacher, he
had his first experience in leading someone to Christ. His
first convert was a poor, crippled mountain boy. The lad tes-
tified to Truett, "Teacher, I have found the Saviour, and
that time you told me that you loved me started me toward
One day he witnessed to a friend of his at school,
inviting him to a revival. The lad was named Jim. Jim told
Truett, "Not tonight. Perhaps tomorrow night, but not to-
night." When he failed to come to school for a few days, Tru-
ett visited in the home. There George found out his friend
had contracted pneumonia, and his condition was growing
worse. While sitting by the boy's bedside, the same saddened
words came through the delirium, "Not tonight, maybe tomorrow
night..."--and he died shortly thereafter. Truett never for-
got the incident and referred to it often.
He headed the school from January, 1887, to June,
1889. A strong Christian atmosphere was kept there, although
Truett personally got more and more interested in studying
After hearing Truett speak to a group of Baptists in
Georgia, C.B. Willingham, a wealthy layman, offered to send
him to Mercer University. Truett declined because of his fam-
ily's plans to move west.
The family did move to Whitewright, Texas, in 1889,
where the local Baptist church recognized his talents, and he
was elected superintendent of the Sunday School. On several
occasions, when the pastor of the church was absent, Truett
was asked to speak to the congregation. He often conducted
services himself, yet he always stood in front of the pulpit
rather than behind it, because he felt unworthy. While living
here, he also entered Grayson Junior College. Many times he
was urged to enter the ministry instead of following his le-
gal pursuits. Each time he solemnly answered, "I will speak
for Christ, but I am not worthy to be His minister." Finally
the congregation called a special meeting on a Saturday
night. The oldest deacon said, "I move that this church or-
dain brother George W. Truett to the full work of the Gospel
ministry." Truett rose to protest. But the members' pleadings
forced him to relent.
Truett talked about that night:
There I was, against a whole church, against a church
profoundly moved. There was not a dry eye in the house...one
of the supremely solemn hours in a church's life. I was
thrown into the stream, and just had to swim.
That night the call to preach superseded the plans to
be a lawyer, and his course was set.
The next day he was examined and ordained--and one of
the worst men in the community was gloriously converted under
the influence of that service. He preached his first sermon
in the First Baptist Church of Sherman, Texas, now standing
behind the pulpit.
A few weeks later in 1890, when only 23 years old, he
was appointed the financial secretary of Baylor University of
Waco, Texas, which had an indebtedness of $92,000.00.
Pastor R.F. Jenkins had written Dr. B.H. Carroll
about the 23-year-old Truett: "There is one thing I do know
about George W. Truett--wherever he speaks, people do what he
asks them to do." Dr. Carroll met him in the fall of 1890 and
shared the burden about Baylor University. Then Truett came
down sick with the measles, and the trustees were not too im-
pressed when Carroll introduced the lean, pale, young man to
them as their new financial agent. Truett then went to live
in the Carroll home--a further stepping stone into his life
The campaign was a complete success, with Truett
utterly exhausted as it ended. In 23 months (1891-93) George
eliminated that debt personally, due to his appeal as a pub-
lic speaker. He went home for a few weeks of rest before en-
rolling in September, 1893, as a freshman in the college he
had "saved." A highlight of his student days was conducting a
powerful revival at the First Baptist Church of Waco. He also
pastored East Waco Baptist Church, 1893-97.
He married Josephine Jenkins of Waco on June 28,
1894. They later had three daughters--Jessie, Mary and Annie.
Truett graduated with the A.B. degree in June of 1897.
Shortly afterward, he was offered the presidency of the col-
lege, but declined, favoring the pastoral ministries. He
said, "I have sought and found the shepherd's heart." He re-
ceived his D.D. in 1899, and later on an LL.D. degree. Addi-
tion LL.D. degrees were bestowed upon him from the University
of Alabama and Southern Methodist University.
The summer following graduation, while rejoicing over
the birth of their first child, a call came from the First
Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He had easily turned down
other offers, but a divine mandate seemed to burn in his soul
about this work. He did urge the committee to rescind the
call, but the church voted unanimously to call him, forcing
him to face the issue. He went to Dallas to confer, and at
age thirty, he accepted the challenge. He began on the second
Sunday in September, 1897, as the pastor--remaining there un-
til his death in July of 1944, 47 years later. The church
eventually would occupy a whole city block and become one of
the world's largest churches. During his pastorate, the mem-
bership increased from 715 to 7,804, with a total of 19,531
new members received. There were 5,337 baptisms and
contributions totaled $6,027,741.52. Sunday School reached
The largest single offering taken was for $507,850.00
at the launch of the Seventy-five Million Campaign of South-
ern Baptists during 1919. The Sunday School grew to 4,000.
Thousands were saved! It grew to be the largest church in the
Southern Baptist Convention, and one of the most influential
in the entire world. His compassion for the unsaved was evi-
denced as he set aside and maintained two whole mornings each
week for correspondence with the unconverted. Considering
himself a topical speaker, he always preached for decisions.
He was absent from his pulpit at least 25% of the time, be-
cause of the demand for his ministry elsewhere.
His personal income was considered good, but he gave
it away as fast as it came to him. His personal esteem is
shown by the crowds who attended the annual evangelistic
meetings he conducted each April in his own church for about
His first appearance on a program of the Southern
Baptist Convention was at Norfolk, Virginia, in May, 1898. As
early as 1900 his services as pastor-evangelist began to be
sought on every side, not only in Texas, but in other states
as well. Schools of all kinds used him for evangelistic meet-
ings, baccalaureate sermons, convocation and commencement ad-
dresses on campus after campus. In 1904, Robert H. Coleman
became Truett's lay assistant and Sunday School superinten-
dent, and continued as his loyal and helpful associate for
One time while preaching, Truett challenged some
friends to bring the worst sinner they could find to the ser-
vice. They did just that--a hardened, half-paralyzed old man
who listened and got gloriously saved--and who died shortly
Truett's life took on a new sense soberness and grief
when his friend, J.C. Arnold, chief of police in Dallas,
died. Truett had accidentally shot him on a hunting trip. The
cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but Truett
blamed himself for the death of his friend. Deeply depressed,
Truett decided to leave the ministry, even though the shot
was accidental. But the prayers of many, plus a vision of
seeing Jesus vividly standing beside him, saying, "Be not
afraid, George. You are my man from now on," pulled him
through his doldrums.
In addition to the responsibilities already men-
tioned, beginning in 1902, and continuing for 37 summers, he
was a preacher to the "cowboy meetings" in the Davis Moun-
tains of west Texas. He was also one of the twenty men ap-
pointed by President Wilson to preach to the Allied Forces in
Europe, which he did for six months in 1918 during World War
I. Though they were very lonely, those months overseas were
greatly used of God.
The Capitol steps of Washington were crowded with
15,000 people on May 16, 1920, as George W. Truett addressed
them on "Baptists and Religious Liberty."
For one hour and fifteen minutes he held the audience
spellbound. The Southern Baptist Convention had been in ses-
sion for several days and there was simply no hall large
enough to seat all who desired to hear Truett.
In 1924 the church auditorium was remodeled and en-
larged with two galleries and choir space for about 75. The
capacity now was 4,000, but often hundreds would be turned
away. This same number would be in Sunday School.
Truett was president of the Southern Baptist Conven-
tion from 1927 to 1929, and of the Baptist World Alliance,
1934 to 1939--elected at Berlin. He was a trustee of Baylor
University, Southwestern Baptist Seminary of Fort Worth, and
Baylor Hospital of Dallas. His fund-raising abilities contin-
ued through the years for good causes such as Texas Baptist
Memorial Sanitarium in Dallas and later the Baylor Hospital
and Medical Center.
A world citizen, he led the cause of the League of
Nations following World War I. He toured South America during
the summer of 1930, preaching to large crowds. The South
American trip lasted two and a half months, and included vis-
its to Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Truett was the sole Amer-
ican speaker on the program of the Spurgeon Centenary in Lon-
don, England, in April, 1934. He toured world mission fields
as president of the Baptist World
He left Dallas in November, 1935, for England, Egypt,
Palestine and India. Burma, Singapore, and Hong Kong fol-
lowed. China and Japan concluded the tour.
In the summer of 1937, Dr. Truett and Dr. J.H.
Rushbrooke toured many European countries in "regional con-
Truett never engaged in athletic sports; he was no
fisherman, gardener, household mechanic, nor swimmer--but
hard work and a good diet kept him in good health for most of
his years. His most serious illness prior to his home-going
was in May and June of 1938, when he was seized by a virulent
attack of influenza. Mrs. Truett, describing those days,
...As you know, I did not leave his bedside for the four
weeks of his hospitalization, nor the weeks since. In his de-
lirium he was quoting scripture, preaching, calling men to
Christ or praying for them. I feel that his illness was a
great revelation of real man.
Truett wrote a lovely letter to his wife on his sev-
entieth birthday. He wrote:
May 6, 1937
My Darling Josephine:
The long expected day has arrived. "The days of our
years are three score and ten." I have lived out the allotted
span of life! Emotions too deep for words stir in my heart.
More grateful than my poor words can say, am I, both to God
and humanity, for all the mercies that have been showered
upon me, through all the fast-flying years! It is all of
grace, grace, God's wonderful grace! I would this day
rededicate my all to Christ, to go and to say and to do and
to be, what he would have my hands for all the days ahead,
whatever they may be: I do fervently hope and pray that my
days ahead may be far better and more useful than the days
that are gone. May God mercifully grant it, for His Great
No other birthday that I have ever had has so deeply
affected me as this one today. I have been reminded of it by
letters, telegrams, flowers, telephone calls, etc. on all
Though I do not deserve any of these tokens I appre-
ciate them more than I can say. They intensify my desire and
purpose, with God's help, to strive still more faithfully to
make my humble and very imperfect life a blessing to the peo-
ple. And you will be by my side, to pray for me and to help
me all long--you my chiefest earthly comfort and inspiration.
Forever your own
Seventy-year-old, and going strong!
His health began to wane in 1938. Truett was stricken
with bone cancer in 1943, and died of Paget's disease and
cardiorespiratory complications after several agonizing
months. On the day of George W. Truett's burial, the city of
Dallas almost came to a standstill. His influence there had
been so great that the city never mourned a greater loss un-
til the death of President John F. Kennedy there in November
of 1963. He was revered as the leading religious leader of
Four characteristics seem to sum up his ministry.
First: Humility. Honors never puffed him up. The
smallest child could approach him and the poorest person
could reach his great heart.
Second: Simplicity. You might wonder what the secret
of his power was because his messages, though profound, were
always simple, filled with illustrations. He used short,
Third: Spirituality. Many said you felt as though you
were in the presence of the Lord when in his company. With
all of his spirituality, a person did not feel uncomfortable
in his presence. He simply made you want to be a better per-
son after you were with him.
Fourth: Oratory. He did not rant and rave to secure
the attention of his hearers. He did more to quiet down the
preachers of the South than any other man alive. He spoke in
a conversational voice. However, his voice of pathos and
feeling would make his congregation weep and never be ashamed
These characteristics were illustrated by the follow-
Once a young lady was brought before the church for
discipline because of a violation of the church covenant. It
was suggested that she be dropped from the roll of the
church. As the debate developed, Truett said, "Let us also
call the church treasurer and have him read the record of the
giving of every member, and let us vote to drop everyone who
has violated God's law against covetousness." Like a bomb ex-
ploding, the air was cleared of accusers.
His preaching was positive rather than negative--ex-
cept for a time of clashing with J. Frank Norris, independent
Baptist leader from nearby Fort Worth.
Truett continued to build and support the Southern
Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program. He did, however,
look at the "social gospel" movement in general with real
suspicion. His great themes were evangelism and religious
liberty. His hobby was books, as evidenced by a library of
over 10,000 volumes. He loved biographies, and he loved
Truett's published works, compiled and edited by oth-
ers, include ten volumes of his sermons, such as We Would See
Jesus and Other Sermons (1919), A Quest for Souls (1917) (a
collection of his sermons given in a great evangelistic cam-
paign in Fort Worth in 1917), God's Call to America (1924),
Follow Thou Me (1932) and These Gracious Years. His autho-
rized biography, titled George W. Truett--a Biography, by
Powhaten W. James, his son-in-law, has appeared in six edi-
tions, five by MacMillan Company of New York (1939-1945) and
the sixth, Memorial Edition, by Broadman Press, Nashville, in
1953. Some of Truett's well-known tracts are The Leaf and the
Life, and Baptists and Religious Liberty.
Truett preached 17,000 sermons and had a most loyal
associate, Robert H. Coleman, who was with him since 1904.
T.A. Johnson was personal and church secretary since 1910.
Since Truett's death, many religious, educational and
healing institutions have erected new buildings or designated
others as memorials to him. Examples of these are a seven-
story educational building at the First Baptist Church, Dal-
las; Truett Auditorium, Southwestern Baptist Theological Sem-
inary; Memorial Chapel, Dallas; three Truett Memorial
Churches located in Denver, Colorado; Hayesville, North Caro-
lina; and Los Angeles, California; Truett-McConnell Junior
College, Cleveland, Georgia; Baptist Orphanage, Nazareth, Is-
rael; and the Truett Building of Baylor Hospital at a cost of
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