During the era of 1951-1960, social and religious pressures from both internal and external sources weighed heavily on the United States; Baylor University and the administration were not immune to such tensions. Racial integration and liberal youth behavior were points of controversy. Additionally, Communist ideals were creating instability around the world. These social issues created restlessness on Baylor University’s campus, which required the university’s attention and attempts at resolution. In response, W.R. White and the institution as a whole fought to maintain the Baptist heritage of Baylor University for multiple reasons.
Nate Hutcherson’s White, the Pastoral Philanthropist: Christian and Business Leadership in Higher Education focuses on how President W.R. White sought to create a gleaming picture of the Baptist institution. He largely communicated with Christian appeals and marketed toward the desires of Baylor University’s potential donors. The skills developed during his years of pastoral experience were integral characteristics of his financial strategy. While White did increase the endowment and financial stability of Baylor, his techniques potentially created institutional dependence on him and his religious appeals.
Kevin Singer’s The Vision of a Literate World: The Local, National, and International Impact of the Baylor Literacy Center details the early history of the Baylor Literacy Center (1957-1958), which would become far more than a noble effort to implement President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 commencement call for an educational revolution in America. It became the center of a regional, national, and international movement that promoted freedom and introduced illiterates to Jesus Christ through “literacy evangelism.”
Britney Graber’s A Socialization of Nationalism and Christian Values: The Baylor University Conference on American Ideals highlights the 1950s annual conference series promoting the American way of life coupled with Christianity. Specifically, conference addresses reiterated themes of freedom and democracy, Communism, and Christian faith in attempt to indoctrinate the audience into a specific framework of belief and practice. Baylor pursued her agenda of saving the world from Communism by providing civic (i.e., American) and moral (i.e., Christian) education to conference goers.
Zack Jackson’s Segregation and Spirituality on the College Campus: The Case of Baylor University in the 1950s looks at the relationship between segregation and spirituality in the final years of segregation’s grip on American life. Specifically, this work examines the language used by campus leaders like President W.R. White and those in the broader community to explain how Baylor, a Christian institution, interpreted this critical era in United States history.
Maintaining the Baptist heritage at Baylor University was an important agenda for W.R. White. Whether he was increasing the university endowment, mediating the conflicts arising from integration, socializing Americanism into the lives of the Baylor community, or promoting literacy for the sake of biblical understanding, White attempted to develop Baylor into a prominent institution bolstered by American and Christian values he believed the world needed.