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LAW, FRANCIS MARION

LAW, FRANCIS MARION (1828–1902). Francis Marion Law, school founder, pastor, and physician, oldest son of Isaiah and Sarah Law, was born on May 15, 1828, in the Sumter District of South Carolina. He attended elementary school in Dallas County, Alabama, where the family moved in 1833. Law received only six years of formal education as a youth but read avidly and taught himself Latin and Greek. His neighbors recognized his ability and asked him to teach at Harrowgate Springs, Alabama, when he was eighteen years old. After teaching for a time, he studied medicine for a year with Dr. T. W. Mason of Wetumpka, after which he attended the State Medical College in Augusta, Georgia, where he earned an M.D. degree. He first practiced medicine in Wetumpka, then moved to Selma, Alabama, where he became a Baptist in 1851. The First Baptist Church of Selma licensed him to the ministry in 1853. Law married Kate Bradford in 1852, and when it was suggested that a warmer, moister climate might help her health, he became chaplain and surgeon of the ship Bethel, which was stationed at Mobile. In 1859 the couple moved to Brenham, Texas, where Law became pastor of the Brenham Baptist Church in 1861. Mrs. Law died in December 1861.

Law married Mary Jane Howell in 1862 and became pastor of churches in Plantersville and Anderson. He freely gave his services as a doctor to the poor of Plantersville when an epidemic hit the town. Although often called upon to return to his medical practice, he considered himself totally committed to the ministry. During the Civil War he worked among Confederate soldiers in Galveston as a missionary. After the war he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bryan, where he served from 1868 to 1875, during which time the church grew from thirty members to almost 350. Subsequently, Law left to act as agent for the Central Baptist Educational Commission of Texas. In this capacity he raised more than $80,000 to establish a centrally located Baptist school and worked toward the establishment of a centrally located Baptist university that would meet the need for an educated Baptist clergy. From 1882 to 1890 he again served as pastor of the Bryan church and guided the congregation through a relocation and building program. Law's wife died in Bryan, and he married Sallie Webb. He resigned from the active ministry in 1890 because of failing health.

After the Civil War he encouraged the acceptance of freed blacks as brothers in Christ who needed help to establish themselves organizationally. When the Lincoln Association, the first Negro Baptist association in Texas, was formed in 1868, Law called upon white Baptists to support it with prayers, physical aid, and money. He set an example by giving his time to teach basic Christian doctrines to the black lay leadership in ministers' institutes all over the state. He also acquired finances for several Baptist schools while he was an agent on the educational commission. For his work in education Baylor University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1882. Baylor Female College (now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor) held a special place in his heart, and he helped free the school from financial debt. He served as president of its board of trustees for more than twenty years. He died in Belton on June 9, 1902, during the school's commencement ceremonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Texas Historical and Biographical Magazine (1891–92).

Rosalie Beck

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Rosalie Beck, "LAW, FRANCIS MARION," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fla71), accessed July 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.