Joseph Martin Dawson, Dr.
Jun. 21, 1879 - Jul. 6, 1973
DAWSON, JOSEPH MARTIN (1879-1973). Joseph Martin Dawson, Baptist pastor,
social activist, and writer, was born near Waxahachie, Texas, on June 21, 1879,
to Martin Judy and Laura (Underwood) Dawson, Jr. As a youth he wrote for the
Dallas Morning Newsqv and was torn
between journalism and preaching as a career. In January 1899 he entered Baylor
Academy to study for the ministry. While at Baylor he served as pastor for four
country churches and became first editor of the Baylor student newspaper, the
Lariat. He left school for a year and held a full-time pastorate at Albany
(1902-03) before returning to graduate as class valedictorian in 1904. He then
held a full-time pastorate at Lampasas (1905-06). This was followed by
pastorates at the First Baptist Church, Hillsboro (1908-12), and the First
Baptist Church, Temple (1912-15).
Though always outspoken on social issues, Dawson deepened his commitment
to social justice in 1914 when he read the works of Walter Rauschenbusch in
preparation for a series of articles for the Baptist Standard.qv
These articles and the sermons they inspired dealt with social applications of
the Gospel to such subjects as child labor, the exploitation of immigrants, and
women's rights. The sermons were among the first to be preached by a Texas
Baptist minister on social issues. Dawson continued his social activism when he
became pastor of the First Baptist Church, Waco, in 1915. The following year he
introduced a strong resolution to the Waco Pastors' Association condemning
racial prejudice, and he frequently used the pulpit to denounce groups such as
the Ku Klux Klan.qv
He also championed religious liberty and church-state separation. In 1945,
as Baptist representative at the founding of the United Nations in San
Francisco, he carried petitions with more than 100,000 signatures calling for
the incorporation of a declaration of religious liberty in the United Nations
charter. He took a leading role in organizing Protestants and Other Americans
United for the Separation of Church and State (subsequently known as Americans
United for Separation of Church and State) and served as its first executive
secretary and acting director (1947-48). He opposed federal aid to church
hospitals and parochial schools, as well as sectarian instruction in public
schools. He also led an interdenominational campaign that defeated President
Harry S. Truman's attempt to appoint an ambassador to the Vatican (1951).
Dawson's Waco pastorate, the longest in the church's history, lasted from
1915 to 1946 and brought church membership to over 2,000. Among his many
denominational posts, he served as vice president of the Baptist General
Convention of Texas (1922), chairman of the Southern Baptist Committee on World
Peace (1945), chairman of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist
Convention (1945-46), and first full-time executive director of the Baptist
Joint Committee on Public Affairs (1946-53). He served on the boards of trustees
of various religious, educational, and charitable institutions, including Baylor
University, Mary Hardin-Baylor College (now the University of Mary
Hardin-Baylor), Bishop College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Hillcrest Baptist Hospital (now Hillcrest
Baptist Medical Center), Baylor Memorial Sanitarium (later called Baylor
Hospital), and the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In addition to his other activities, Dawson served as editor of a number
of publications, including the Western Evangel (1906), the Baptist
Standard (1943-46), and Report from the Capitol (1946-53). He helped
found the Texas Institute of Lettersqv and was
elected a permanent fellow of the institute. He was a prolific writer,
contributed articles and chapters to many publications, served as religious book
editor of the Dallas Morning News, and wrote twelve books, among them
The Light That Grows (1924), The Spiritual Conquest of the Southwest
(1926), A Century with Texas Baptists (1947), The Liberation of Life
(1950), America's Way in Church, State and Society (1953), Baptists
and the American Republic (1956), A Thousand Months to Remember: An
Autobiography (1964), and José Antonio Navarro: Co-Creator of Texas
Dawson married Willie Turner on June 3, 1908, and they had three sons and
two daughters. He died in Corsicana on July 6, 1973, and was buried in Oakwood
J. A. Reynolds
REV. JOSEPH DAWSON
CORSICANA, Tex., July 7 - The Rev
Joseph M. Dawson, a trustee of Baylor University and founder of a
religious-studies program in church-state relations at the school, died
yesterday. He was 94 years old.
Mr. Dawson received
his bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1904 and an honorary Doctor of Divinity
degree in 1916.
In 1947, after 31 years as pastor of the
First Baptist Church in Waco, he became the first executive director of the
Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington, a post he held for
seven years before retiring.
Dr. J. M. Dawson
WACO-Funeral rites were at 11:30 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church here for
Dr. Joseph M. Davis, 94, who had been pastor of the church for 31 years. Burial
was in Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery. The elder statesman of Texas Baptists died
Friday in Corsicana where he had made his home since retiring in 1963.
Dr. Dawson, a trustee of Baylor University for more than 30 years, was the
author of several books on church and state problems and served as the first
executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs from 1946 to
1953. He was the founder of the Baylor “Lariat,” student newspaper and the
“Roundup,” college yearbook, and editor of numerous religious publications.
A historian of note, his last book, “Jose Antonio Navarro—Co-Creator of Texas, “
was written and published in 1969 after he retired and moved to Corsicana.
The J. M. Dawson Studies in Church and State at Baylor is a living memorial to
the distinguished religious leader of more than 60 years.
Surviving are three sons, two daughters, 17 grandchildren and 27
great-grandchildren, four sisters and two brothers.
The Corsicana Daily Sun
- Mon., July 9, 1973
He died in Corsicana. But he is buried in Oakwood
h/o Willie Evelyn (Turner) Dawson s/o Martin Judy Dawson
and Laura Fredonia (Underwood) Dawson son – Leighton Brooks Dawson is buried
in Oakwood, Corsicana, Tx.
Photo from the Baylor Round Up, 1904
Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, McLennan County, Texas
Antonio Navarro, Co-Creator of Texas, Baylor University Press, 1969. LOC: 73-112732
a vivid account of one of the major founders of Texas. In it we find fresh and full
recognition of his noble origins, his self-education in a period of great turmoil, his
versatility as successful lawyer, businessman, rancher and legislature, and his vast
||A Thousand Months to Remember : An
Autobiography (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1964)
||Baptists and the American Republic
|| The Ethical
Thought of Joseph Martin Dawson (Th. D. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, 1966).
|| Travis L. Summerlin, Church-State Relations in the
Thought of Joseph Martin Dawson (Ph.D. dissertation, Baylor University, 1984)
||Dawson, Joseph Martin: America's Way In Church, State
||DAWSON, JOSEPH MARTIN: Separate church and state now.
||Dawson, Joseph Martin: America's Way in Church, State,
Turner Byars, Navarro County Scroll, 1965