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Maston, Thomas Buford (1897–1988)

John W. Storey Biography Entry

T. B. Maston, ethics professor, the youngest of four children of Samuel Houston and Sarah Rosella (Sellers) Maston, was born in a log house on the family farm in Jefferson County, Tennessee, on November 26, 1897. The Mastons were active Southern Baptists, and in 1914 Thomas was baptized in the Smithwood Baptist Church. Shortly after his conversion he dedicated his life to a Christian vocation. He never became an ordained minister, however, but remained a layman and pursued an academic career. He attended Carson-Newman (Baptist) College (B.A., 1920), Southwestern Baptist Seminary (M.R.E., 1923; D.R.E., 1925), Texas Christian University (M.A. in Sociology, 1927), and Yale University (Ph.D., 1939); at Yale he studied under H. Richard Niebuhr. Additionally, Maston took summer courses at the University of North Carolina (1928) and the University of Chicago (1929). At North Carolina he encountered the renowned southern sociologist Howard W. Odum.

In 1922, while still a student, he began teaching in the School of Religious Education at Southwestern Baptist Seminary; he taught there until 1963. From the outset he was interested in ethics, the practical application of Christian ideals to daily life. He sought to make fellow Southern Baptists, whose primary concern was personal evangelism, aware of the social dimension of faith. Maston steadily upgraded the teaching of ethics at the seminary, introduced new courses on "Social Problems in the South" (1938) and "The Church and the Race Problem" (1944), and wrote numerous books, pamphlets, and articles. He was interested in economic justice, the role of women in the church and society, politics, war and peace, and race relations. His most notable works on Christian ethics include Christianity and World Issues (1957), Biblical Ethics: A Biblical Survey (1967), and To Walk as He Walked (1985). In 1950 Maston's concern for practical Christianity was institutionalized in the Christian Life Commission, established by the Baptist General Convention of Texas to raise the awareness of ethical issues.

Race increasingly absorbed his attention after World War II. He helped bring about the harmonious integration of his local congregation, Gambrell Street Baptist Church, and succeeded in 1951 in encouraging the seminary to admit Blacks. Maston also served as chairman of the Southern Baptist Advisory Council on Work With Negroes, established in 1954, and belonged to both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Fort Worth Urban League. His concern over race relations was reflected in many of his writings. In addition to numerous articles, he wrote three books offering calm advice on the racial question: Of One (1946), The Bible and Race (1959), and Segregation and Desegregation (1959). He was well known for combining a conservative Baptist theology with social activism. He married Essie Mae McDonald, whom he met at Carson-Newman College, on June 11, 1921; they had two sons. Maston died on May 1, 1988.

William H. Pinson, Jr., An Approach to Christian Ethics: The Life, Contribution, and Thought of T. B. Maston (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1979). John W. Storey, "Thomas Buford Maston and the Growth of Social Christianity among Texas Baptists," East Texas Historical Journal 19 (1981).


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Religion
  • Baptist


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

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

John W. Storey, “Maston, Thomas Buford,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 25, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: