Bagby, William Buck (1855–1939)

By: William L. Pitts

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: October 18, 2018

William Buck Bagby, a pioneer Baptist missionary to Brazil, was the son of James and Mary Franklin (Willson) Bagby of Kentucky, who moved to Texas in 1852. He was born in Coryell County on November 5, 1855. The family moved to Waco when he was eight, and he attended the preparatory school for Waco University. He studied theology under Benajah H. Carroll and graduated in 1875. He farmed for a year and then taught school. In 1880 Bagby married Anne Luther, daughter of John Luther, president of Baylor University at Independence. Several factors influenced Bagby's decision to go to Brazil. Mrs. Bagby had already determined to become a missionary. Bagby's friend and later coworker, Z. C. Taylor, encouraged him to consider Brazil. Finally, A. T. Hawthorne urged the Bagbys to go to Brazil. Hawthorne had led groups of Southerners to Brazil after the Civil War. The Bagbys arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1880 and founded an American community in nearby Santa Barbara. They learned Portuguese from Alfonso Teixeria and in 1882 were joined by missionaries Z. C. and Kate Taylor. These five moved to Bahia (Salvador) and established the first Baptist church in Brazil on October 15, 1882. By the time of its centennial the denomination had grown to over one-half million. In 1884 Bagby established a church in Rio de Janeiro. In 1889 Brazil declared itself a republic, and the new government's policy of separation of church and state facilitated Protestant activity in Brazil. Bagby's strategy was to establish churches in major cities. He traveled extensively from Rio for this purpose. He aided new churches in acquiring property, in training ministers, and in erecting buildings. In 1901 the Bagbys moved to São Paulo. Anne organized and operated a school; Bagby continued to organize churches and to help Brazilians organize associations and conventions. He also engaged in preaching missions to Chile and other South American countries. His reports prompted Southern Baptists to send missionaries to other parts of South America. The Bagbys' fourth home in Brazil was Pôrto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. They spent the last decade of their lives there. Bagby died on August 5, 1939, of bronchial pneumonia, and was buried there. The Bagbys had nine children; five of these lived to maturity, and all five became missionaries in South America.

A. R. Crabtree, Baptists in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro: Baptist Publishing House of Brazil, 1953). Helen Bagby Harrison, The Bagbys of Brazil (Nashville: Broadman, 1954). William L. Pitts, "Baptist Beginnings in Brazil," Baptist History and Heritage 17 (October 1982).

  • Religion
  • Baptist

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

William L. Pitts, “Bagby, William Buck,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995
October 18, 2018