George Washington Baines, Baptist pastor, teacher, and editor, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, on December 29, 1809, the eldest son of Thomas and Mary (McCoy) Baines. He was third in a line of four generations of Baptist ministers. His parents moved the family to Georgia in 1817 and to a farm near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1818. Despite a limited academic background Baines entered the University of Alabama, where he paid his expenses by cutting and rafting timber. He was forced to withdraw from school during his senior year (1836) because of poor health. When he twenty-five he was baptized at the Salem Baptist Church. He was licensed to preach on July 20, 1834, by the Philadelphia Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa County and ordained on August 7, 1836, by the Grant's Creek Baptist Church. His father was among the signers of both the license to preach and the certificate of ordination. In 1837, in an effort to recover from his recurring dyspepsia, Baines moved to Carroll County, Arkansas. During his seven years in that state he organized three churches and baptized 150 people while serving as a missionary for the Baptist Home Mission Society of New York City. He was also a representative from Carroll County to the Fourth Legislature of Arkansas, from November 7, 1842, to February 4, 1843. Baines moved to Mount Lebanon, Louisiana, in July 1844 to serve churches there and at Minden and Saline. During his six-year residence in Louisiana, he also served as superintendent of schools in Bienville Parish and assisted John Bryce in organizing the First Baptist Church of Marshall.
In 1850 the family moved to Huntsville, Texas, where Baines preached and began a lifelong friendship with Sam Houston. During his ministry in Texas he was the pastor of churches at Huntsville, Independence, Anderson, Fairfield, Springfield, Butler, Florence, and Salado. From 1855 to 1860 he was the first editor of the first Baptist newspaper in Texas, the Texas Baptist. Baines served as president of Baylor University in 1861–62. In the face of overwhelming financial obstacles during the Civil War, he kept the struggling school going at great sacrifice to his health. Baylor University conferred on him an honorary M.A. degree on July 27, 1861.
Baines married Melissa Ann Butler on October 20, 1840. When he left Baylor, he moved to a farm near Fairfield, where his wife and youngest son died. On June 13, 1865, he married a widow, Mrs. Cynthia W. Williams. In 1866 he traveled as field agent for the Baptist State Convention and in 1867 moved his family to Salado, where he was pastor of the First Baptist Church. In 1877 he became an agent for the Education Commission of the Baptist State Convention, but in 1881 the First Baptist Church of Salado insisted that he resume the pastorate there. After the death of his second wife in January 1882 Baines lived with his daughter Anna in Belton until he died, of malaria, on December 28, 1882. He was buried at Salado. One of the ten children of Baines and his first wife, Joseph Wilson Baines, was the father of Rebekah Baines Johnson.