When you look at Dr. George W. Truett’s photo, the white-haired man, with a square face, and firm jaw, appears stern. His blue eyes seem to penetrate your soul.
Imagine this six foot, 210 pound preacher standing straight as a plumb line behind the pulpit. Truett usually wore a dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie. He was always sincere when he delivered his sermon and pled for people to repent and receive Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. His message often moved the congregation to tears.
He spoke slowly and softly at times, then his voice would roar like a storm in a mountain. Sometimes again, the hoarse murmur of many waters, and rose like a wave of the sea higher and higher, to curl and break in spray of white-hot whispers that searched the corners of the church like hissing jets of stream (Keith Durso, Thy Will Be Done, 2009).
Later in 1927, a lawyer commenting on Truett’s voice said to a writer for the Homiletic Review, “You’ll notice he follows the old order: Begin low, speak slow, rise higher, take fire.”
Although Truett appeared solemn when he preached, his face often softened with smiles. According to his niece Josephine Nash, he was the life of a party at family gatherings, was very talkative with lots of hilarious anecdotes, and had a contagious laugh. Truett was known for his kindness and generosity. He gave most of his money to needy people, charity, and churches.
His motto was: “Be kind to everyone you meet, because everybody is having a hard time.”
He had time for everyone. The smallest child, the poorest person, or the richest individual could capture the heart of this sensitive man. He often took young preachers under his wing and encouraged them (Powhaten W. James, George W. Truett: A Biography, 1939).
Truett never forgot his roots. This world-renown minister had humble beginnings in the Blue Ridge Mountains two miles west of Hayesville, North Carolina.
Truett Camp is located on the farm that was the birthplace and boyhood home of Truett. He was born May 6, 1867 in a log cabin. His parents were Charles Levi and Mary Kimsey Truett. The seventh of eight children, Truett grew up in a hard-working family.
Trees covered most of their 250-acre farm. The Truetts grew corn, wheat, oats, rye, and hay. They also raised hogs, sheep, cattle, horses, and mules. Drinking water had to be hauled several yards. Water for washing and bathing came from a nearby brook (Durso, Ibid).
Truett attended Hayesville Academy. Originally, the school was named Hicksville Academy, which was owned and operated for many years by Professor John O. Hicks, known as “the father of education” in this area (Guy Padgett, A History of Clay County, North Carolina, 1976).
As a child, Truett was handy with the plow, rifle, and books. He read with amazing rapidity and had a photographic memory. He devoured the newspapers and magazines in their home. His favorite genres included biographies and the Holy Bible.
Another activity he enjoyed was debating. Children gathered in the vacant log cabin on the Truett farm for their “Log Cabin Debating Society.” They decided the subjects when the youth arrived (Durso, Ibid).
His family attended the Hayesville Baptist Church. In 1886, at the age of 19, Truett accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The next morning, Truett told his mother he had never felt such peace in his entire life. He joined the church and served as clerk and Sunday school superintendent.
After his conversion, Truett continued to teach at the Crooked Creek Public School. It was a one-roomed school in Towns County, Georgia. He had 50 pupils and taught various subjects. The children ranged from 6 to 21 years of age.
Truett dreamed of starting his own school like the one he attended as a boy. He and his cousin, Ferd McConnell, established an academy at Hiawassee, Georgia in 1887. Truett was the first principal of the private school that opened in the courthouse. The classes continued to meet there until a frame school was erected. There was an excellent religious atmosphere in the school and he won his first convert to Christ (James, Ibid).
The boy was handicapped and confined to a wheelchair. Truett worked with the child and helped him to excel in his studies. When the youth accepted Christ, he said it was because Dr. Truett showed by his example that he cared for him.
Truett’s family sold their farm and moved to Texas where life was easier, money more plentiful, and one could get on in the world. They wrote letters about the glories of Texas (Durso, Ibid).
Truett and his brother, Luther, followed the rest of their family to Whitewright, Texas in 1889. Leaving the mountains, their home, and work was difficult. But they had left Clay County and would reside in Texas the rest of their lives.
During his first summer in Whitewright, Truett worked on the family farm. That fall he entered Grayson Junior College to prepare for a legal career.
He joined Whitewright Baptist Church and taught a Sunday school class. He also preached in the pastor’s absence, but Truett did not consider it “preaching.” He would not even stand behind the pulpit. The sermons he delivered sank his dream of becoming a lawyer. At age 23, after his church had already voted to ordain him, Truett yielded to the call to preach.
In 1891, Baylor University hired Truett as financial secretary. Enterprising and energetic, he raised $92,000 in less than two years and saved the university from bankruptcy.
He decided to attend Baylor University and graduated in 1897 with his AB degree. Shortly afterward, he was offered the presidency of the college, but declined to fulfill pastoral ministries (James, Ibid).
Truett served as student pastor of East Waco Baptist Church for four years. He met Josephine Jenkins and they were married in 1894. They had three daughters, Jessie, Mary, and Annie.
Several large churches wanted Truett as their pastor. He prayed and accepted the call to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He remained their 47 years until his death in 1944. During his leadership, the church grew to be the largest church in the world at that time (Wikipedia Encyclopedia).
While serving at First Baptist, he was elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1927-1929), and the Baptist World Alliance (1934-1939). He was also trustee of Baylor University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Baylor Hospital.
When the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Truett to a six-month tour preaching to the Allied Forces in Europe.
He delivered his most famous sermon on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC on May 16, 1920. Fifteen thousand heard his message, “Baptists and Religious Liberty.” Supreme court justices, senators, congressmen, Baptists, Catholics, and other denominations attended this religious service.
Truett had a special affinity with cowboys who worked the cattle drives in central Texas. Each summer for 37 years, he took several weeks from his pulpit to travel with cattle drives and minister to cowboys.
He conducted revivals around the world, preached to many churches of various denominations across America, conducted many funerals, performed thousands of weddings, counseled with people; he was always available to help people night or day.
His wife worried about his working too hard and said he was not an iron man.
But Truett was faithful to God to the very end of his life. The city of Dallas, Texas mourned his death of bone cancer. Government offices closed so employees could attend his funeral on Monday, July 10, 1944. They flew the flags half staff in Dallas. About 4,600 mourners filled the First Baptist Church’s sanctuary for the funeral. Thousands listened to the service in Sunday school rooms and outside the building. Many others listened to the service on the radio (Durso, Ibid).
The funeral procession stretched three miles long. Six trucks carried flowers from the church to the cemetery. His fifty-four years as a Christian minister had ended.
Dr. George Washington Truett ranked as one of the most beloved preachers in the world. His humble beginnings in Hayesville, North Carolina laid a firm foundation for him to serve God and humanity. He lived what he preached:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16, KJV).
Cutline: Dr. George W. Truett, native son of Hayesville, was a world-renown minister.
by: Brenda Kay Ledford
Brenda Kay Ledford appeared on Windstream Communications' channel 4 cable TV and read this research paper over the program, "The Common Cup," in April, 2011.