George Washington Truett, Baptist clergyman, was born on a farm two miles west of Hayesville in Clay County, North Carolina, on May 6, 1867, to Charles Levi and Mary Rebecca (Kimsey) Truett. He was raised on the family farm and attended Hayesville Academy (1875–85) and the Baptist church in Hayesville, where in 1886, during a series of evangelistic meetings, he had a conversion experience. He taught in the one-room Crooked Creek public school in nearby Towns County, Georgia. In 1887, to pay his way to law school, he opened a subscription school at Hiawassee, Georgia. In 1889, however, he gave up the school to follow his parents to Whitewright, Texas, where he enrolled in Grayson Junior College and joined the Baptist congregation. When they discovered his teaching and speaking abilities, the congregation elected him superintendent of the Sunday school, and in the pastor's absence Truett often spoke at worship services. In 1890 the church members urged him to enter the ministry; they ardently pressed their case on him at a Saturday meeting and ordained him the next day. Truett's reputation as an orator recommended him to Baylor University, which was burdened by a $92,000 debt. Truett became financial secretary of the university in 1890 and in twenty-three months eliminated the debt. In 1893 he enrolled at Baylor as a freshman and paid his tuition by serving as pastor of the East Waco Baptist Church. On June 28, 1894, he married a fellow student, Josephine Jenkins; the couple had three daughters.
Truett received his bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1897 and was called that same year to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church, Dallas, which he held until his death forty-seven years later. During these years the church's membership grew from 715 to 7,804. This growth required the rebuilding of the church building three times. Truett's ministry included annual summer camp meetings for cowboys in the Davis Mountains of West Texas (1902–38), revivals in most major United States cities, fund-raising for hospitals (especially Baylor Hospital, where he served as trustee) and school endowments, and, in 1918, an appointment by President Woodrow Wilson as one of twenty men sent by the YMCA to preach to American troops in Europe. Truett served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1927–29), and in 1930 he made a summer preaching tour of South America. After he was unanimously chosen for a five-year term as president of the Baptist World Alliance (1934–39), he toured the Baptist missions of the Far East (1935–36). British Baptists chose him to deliver the principal address at the Spurgeon Centenary at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1934. Holding that the office of a preacher was to "help human life to realize its true destiny" and that there was no earthly task greater than the minister's, Truett believed that money and power were to be used for the benefit of others. In communicating his message, he achieved the reputation of a great preacher in the evangelical tradition. He published ten volumes of sermons, two volumes of addresses, and two volumes of Christmas messages. Sixty-one of his sermons have been collected, printed in book form, and published in three volumes-We Would See Jesus (1915), A Quest for Souls (1917), and God's Call to America (1923). All three have also been collected into one volume, Follow Thou Me (1932). After a year-long illness Truett died, on July 7, 1944, in Dallas.
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Dictionary of American Biography. George W. Gray, "Out of the Mountains Came This Great Preacher of the Plains," American Magazine, November 1925. Powhatan W. James, George W. Truett: A Biography (New York: Macmillan, 1939; 2d ed., Nashville: Broadman, 1945).
University Presidents and School Administrators
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Joan J. Perez,
“Truett, George Washington,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 07, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 1, 1995
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