W. H. Baylor
September 7, 2016
W. H. Baylor (1866-1965) was born to a physician’s family in Princess Anne Country, Virginia, the year the Civil War ended. After graduation from Richmond College in 1888, he attended seminary for one year at Rochester, New York, then accepted a call to Calvary Baptist in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he served five years. After the death of his first wife in 1882, Baylor and their only child went to Louisville, Kentucky, to complete his degree at Southern Seminary. There, in 1897, he married a woman from New Albany, Indiana, where he pastored the First Baptist Church. Through the years, the couple and their several children, plus the household servants, regularly kept a daily devotion of prayers and Bible reading after the evening meal.
Piety, gaiety, and discipline characterized Baylor’s work life. On his rolltop desk were displayed two mottoes: “Do the hard things first,” and “Plan your work, and then work your plan.” Baylor brought his extroverted, sunny spirituality to Maryland in May 1898 as the pastor of the Grace Baptist Church, which he served until he became Maryland Baptist Union Association (MBUA) superintendent seventeen years later. This active, practical optimist serving in an active, practical, optimistic age presided over a prosperous era in the life of the MBUA.
In 1910 Baylor served as business manager of The Maryland Messenger. The paper provided information on denominational programs such as Sunday School, home and foreign missions, and state work. The paper became a major tool for developing the kind of cooperative ministries between state and SBC institutions which characterized Southern Baptist life in the twentieth century.
Baylor served as Executive Director 1915 – 1926. Baylor encouraged ministerial education in Maryland; increased interstate connections with Southern Baptist institutions of higher learning, and dramatically increased educational training of the laity. Under Baylor’s leadership, the Summer Assembly—a summer encampment or Assembly to educate laypersons, foster fellowship, and unify loyalties to denominational causes—became a statewide event in 1921.
During W. H. Baylor’s term, Maryland Baptists fulfilled the admonition of Deuteronomy 26:13 by making significant progress in the care of widows and orphans as well as the foreigner and stranger. The Baptist Home for the Aged opened in September 1917.
At fifty-five, Baylor was the first general secretary to learn to drive. His car, a gift from Mrs. J. H. Tyler, was stolen after six months and never replaced. Until the advent of the automobile, unless a church was on a rail line, coast, or canal, most of its congregants could go weeks or months without seeing an outsider.
The practical, optimistic temper of Baylor’s personality was revealed in a pamphlet he wrote called Better Not; or Twenty Don’ts for Young Preachers, which sold over 12,000 copies to colleges, seminaries, and individuals in two years. In a brief autobiography written at age eighty-five, Baylor attributed his longevity—and he lived another fourteen years—to an “absolute determination never to worry” combined with a refusal to harbor a grudge.
Baylor presided over the transition to a new age in Maryland Baptist life. Maryland Baptists had a new sense of identity in a south-wide denomination coming to grips with its own potential, and the basic structures were in place for Maryland Baptist churches to grow in service, resources, and numbers through cooperation with other Southern Baptists inside and out the state.
Material used in this biography was taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen