Scott, Walter S. (1865–1937)

By: R. Douglas Brackenridge

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Walter S. Scott, the first person ordained in Texas as an evangelist of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) to Mexican Americans, was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, on August 6, 1865, to Walter and Mary (Pirie) Scott. The Scotts had moved from Texas to Mexico during the Civil War and raised their son to be bilingual. The family returned to San Antonio in 1878. Strongly influenced by the evangelical teaching and anti-Catholic attitude of Melinda Rankin, who at that time was operating a foreign mission station in Monterrey, Scott decided to seek opportunities to fulfill his childhood ambition of missionary service. Although he never completed a formal theological education, the Presbytery of Western Texas ordained him in 1892 as "an evangelist to the Mexican people" because of the exceptional nature of his ministry and his ability to speak Spanish fluently. Using San Antonio as home base, Scott visited small towns in South Texas, where he held revivals and organized churches. Statistics in 1902 showed eleven churches, eleven Sunday schools, twenty-five elders, and 618 communicants in the region. Five years later there were seventeen churches, nearly 1,000 communicants, and four ordained Mexican-American ministers. In 1908 the Synod of Texas approved the formation of the Texas-Mexican Presbytery, which continued to be the focal point of Mexican-American missions until its dissolution in 1955. However, Scott's ministry was not without problems. Personality clashes between him and Robert C. Campbell, a fellow missionary leader, led to repeated financial and jurisdictional problems and did considerable damage to the Texas-Mexican Presbytery after 1908. Scott's personal life also caused him problems. His marriage in 1889 to Mary Case of San Antonio was unhappy despite the birth of three children. His frequent and lengthy trips to South Texas missions led to a separation in 1911 and a bitter divorce in 1916. During his years in the mission field Scott was based in San Marcos (1892–1904), San Antonio (1905–12), Taylor (1914–20), and Waco (1921–37). He organized churches and Sunday schools in Central Texas until the Great Depression curtailed missionary activities. In 1935 the Advanced Field, a missionary jurisdiction established by Scott in Taylor, was absorbed by the Texas-Mexican Presbytery, and Scott became a member of that body. He retired the same year and died in Temple, Texas, on December 7, 1937. Many Mexican-American congregations trace their origins to Scott and his pioneering ministry.

Robert Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. García-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican Americans in the Southwest (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974; 2d ed. 1987). Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1975).
  • Religion
  • Presbyterian

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

R. Douglas Brackenridge, “Scott, Walter S.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995