East Texas Baptist University asserts a historic connection to the “Texas Baptist College” moniker—the name Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recently adopted for its undergraduate school.
East Texas Baptist College used “Texas Baptist College” in its corporate name from 1944 to 1984, and the school continues to use it as part of its name in some alumni relations.
But if leaders of the institution now known as Dallas Baptist University had succeeded more than four decades ago, that school would have had its own distinctive claim to the “Texas Baptist” name.
In spring 1979, trustees of what was then Dallas Baptist College considered a recommendation from a committee chaired by W.A. Criswell, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, to seek university status and change the school’s name. At the time, three names were considered—Truett University, North Texas Baptist University and Texas Baptist University.
When W. Marvin Watson was elected president of Dallas Baptist University in August 1979, the Truett name was shelved, where it stayed more than a decade years. In July 1990, the Baylor University board of trustees reserved the name “George W. Truett Theological Seminary” with the Texas Secretary of State. Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary was chartered March 2, 1992.
In February 1980, Dallas Baptist College requested permission to change its name either to Baptist University or Texas Baptist University.
Editorial: ‘Baptist Name Belongs to All Baptist Schools’
Baptist Standard Editor Presnall Wood used his editorial platform on Feb. 27, 1980, to object to any single school identifying itself in that way.
“Surely there is nothing wrong with the words Texas or Baptist. But those words do not belong to any one school,” Wood wrote under the headline, “Baptist Name Belongs to All Baptist Schools.”
All of the schools affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas should identify themselves as Baptist, he asserted.
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“The Standard wishes that all eight of our schools had Baptist in their names,” Wood wrote. “But they do not, and there is little chance they ever will.”
Texas Baptists “want all of their schools to be Baptist,” but no single institution should claim the name exclusively, he insisted.
“The Standard opposes only one school being named ‘Baptist University’ or ‘Texas Baptist University.’ There is too much claim in those names,” Wood wrote.
When the BGCT Christian Education Coordinating Board met in July 1980, it approved recommending to the state convention university status both for Dallas and Wayland Baptist colleges. However, it rejected 5-3 a name change for Dallas Baptist College.
Standard Associate Editor Toby Druin reported the board discussed the matter more than an hour and heard from W.H. Hinton, then president of Houston Baptist University, who said other administrators joined in opposing the proposed names.
The administrators “went on the record” the day before the CECB meeting that they believed neither the “Texas Baptist University” nor the “Baptist University” name should be granted. Hinton explained the administrators “were concerned that an institution with the name ‘Texas Baptist University’ could reflect on Texas Baptists as to who those Baptists are and exclude other educational institutions,” Druin reported.
“Hinton noted that one of the greatest fears in granting the names Texas Baptist University or Baptist University was in what would become of the name if Dallas Baptist College should be forced to close,” Druin wrote.
At the time, Dallas Baptist College struggled financially. At one point, Criswell—who wanted the campus for what was then known as the Criswell Bible Institute—asked if he could purchase the school for the price of its indebtedness.
Name it and claim it
In his report on the CECB meeting, Druin also noted two other pertinent facts. Watson told the board “he understood the convention legally would own the name,” and he said both names had been reserved with the Texas Secretary of State for use by the school if either was approved.
Dallas Baptist took that action 42 years before Southwestern Seminary was granted “doing business as” designation for Texas Baptist College from the State of Texas—and 42 years before either Southwestern Seminary or ETBU filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the “Texas Baptist College” mark.
For its part, the BGCT registered the “Texas Baptists”—with an “s”—trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June 2010. The trademark was registered in August 2011, and the BGCT granted its affiliated institutions permission to use the trademark.
Meanwhile, the “Baptist University” name was claimed along the way as part of another school’s identity. The institution founded in 1947 as the Mexican Baptist Bible Institute later became Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary and then Hispanic Baptist Theological School. In 2003, it became Baptist University of the Américas.
Toby Druin contributed to this article. The story was originally posted July 15. The fifth paragraph was edited on July 22 to correct a date.