William E. “Bill” Thorn, former Texas Baptist pastor and university president, died June 22 in San Angelo. He was 97. He was born Feb. 27, 1923, to Floyd and Irma Thorn in McAlester, Okla. He served as a medic in the U.S. Navy in World War II. As a student at Hardin-Simmons University, Thorn was part of the 1948 Cinderella football team that played in four bowl games in one year. After graduating from Hardin-Simmons, he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thorn was pastor of several Texas Baptist churches, including First Baptist Church in Panhandle, First Baptist in Bruceville and Calvary Baptist in Lubbock, as well as churches in Merkel and Cisco. He served more than a decade as pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., a congregation his father had founded. While there, he was elected president of what was then called the Kansas Convention of Southern Baptists. He was president of Dallas Baptist College from 1975 to 1979, was named president emeritus after the school attained university status, and later served on its board of trustees and its board of development. He served as pastor-in-residence at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary. Thorn was elected vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and also served on the BGCT Executive Board, as well as a trustee of Buckner Baptist Benevolences and the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. A popular public speaker known for his humor, he and his wife Jessie traveled extensively, sometimes making more than 300 appearances a year. He spoke at more than 7,000 engagements in his lifetime, mostly banquets, prompting him to quip that he went years without paying for a meal. Thorn was the author of 23 books. He held four honorary doctorates and received the Texas Baptist Elder Statesman Award. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Hardin-Simmons University, was inducted into the HSU Hall of Leaders and served on the HSU board of development. He was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Jessie Holder Thorn, in 2015. They had four daughters: Jenny Boyko, Martha Popplewell, Becky Baker and Karen Morris. Survivors include six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Memorial gifts can be made to the W. E. Thorn Endowed Scholarship at DBU.
Obituary: William E. “Bill” Thorn
June 24, 2020