From humble beginnings in Edgewood, Texas, to being considered the “conscience of Southern Baptists,” Foy Valentine was a prominent figure in Christian Ethics and Southern Baptist History. The Texas Collection is pleased to announce the opening of the Foy Valentine Papers for research.
Consisting of 249 boxes of materials, the largest series in the collection documents approximately 27 years of Valentine’s service in the Christian Life Commission (CLC), the social and ethical arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. His service in the commission coincided with tumultuous times and issues—civil rights in the 1960s, social morality in the 1970s, and perhaps the most contentious matter for Southern Baptists in the 1980s—the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Upon leaving the CLC in 1987, Valentine continued to work diligently in Southern Baptist and religious agencies. His service in the Baptist Joint Committee of Public Affairs, from 1953-1961, 1974; and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in 1969-1987, 1990-1997, are only two of the ten religious agencies that are reflected in his papers. Among the closest to his heart was the founding of the Center for Christian Ethics and the publication, Christian Ethics Today. As founding editor for CET, Foy was able to continue his vocation in Christian education in the ethics.
Fifty years ago, Foy made the following statement:
While the present age has brought the nation an awe-inspiring technological advance, a superabundance of material comforts, and greatly increased leisure time, it has brought no corresponding improvement in the moral condition of the nation. We are deeply concerned that more than ten million Southern Baptists have utilized so little of their potential to reverse the moral decline in America. ~Christian Life Commission minutes, 1964 (Foy Valentine papers, Series I, Box 3 Folder 2)
Foy worked for the betterment of the moral condition his entire life. Even today, his influence is evident in the recently created (2013) Foy Valentine Endowed Professorship in Christian Ethics in the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. In many ways, Foy Valentine has come full circle—he graduated from Baylor in 1944 and came back to Baylor with his materials now open and available to researchers. We invite you all to make use of these newly released papers. This collection will interest anyone studying religion, but especially those interested in Southern Baptist history.
“The mission of the Christian experience is expressed in the gospel of liberation, sharing the good news of what God has done in delivering his people from oppression. The gospel of liberation is rooted in the Judeo-Christian faith. It is an experience which is concretized in history. It is a happening, a living reality. This is good news for an oppressed people. God is the God of freedom, He participates in the historical process to liberate his people from oppression and bondage.” –Marvin Griffin, “Teaching Christ through the Black Experience,” 1973
On this 45th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important to remember that there were many others who fought, and who continue to fight, at a local or regional level for African American civil liberties. One such warrior from the central Texas region was Rev. Dr. Marvin Griffin.
Marvin Collins Griffin was born in Wichita, Kansas, on February 20, 1923, and felt a call to ministry at the young age of seven. Education proved to be a powerful medium through which Griffin could equip himself to preach the gospel and fight for African American civil rights. Griffin earned his bachelor of arts from Bishop College in 1943, a divinity degree from Oberlin Graduate School of Theology in 1947, and a master’s degree in religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1955. That last degree was particularly noteworthy, because Griffin was the first African American to earn a degree from SBTS. Years later, Griffin would go on to attain a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Griffin used his quality education and his sense of calling to fuel his ministries. His first significant pastoral assignment was at New Hope Baptist Church in Waco. From 1951 to 1969, Griffin led his congregation in Christian and social activism. He began an extensive radio broadcast ministry and led various marches and pickets in Waco. The Marvin C. Griffin papers at The Texas Collection feature more than 1,500 audio recordings of his sermons and broadcasts, starting in the 1960s and continuing into the 2010s.
In 1969, Griffin relocated to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Austin, Texas where he remained for the next 42 years. Once again, Griffin believed that his church should be involved in the spiritual and secular life of the community. He led the church’s efforts in creating the East Austin Economic Development Corporation in 1998. This organization was a vehicle through which the church could assist the underprivileged through housing programs, day care centers, counseling, and financial assistance. In 2002, the EAEDC building was renamed in honor of Marvin Griffin.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Griffin was also involved in local politics and denominational affairs. He served as the first African American president of the Austin Independent School District Board of Directors, during which time the schools were using buses to encourage efforts of desegregation. Griffin was also involved in the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas, was the Director of the Christian Education Enrichment Program at the National Baptist Fellowship of Churches, and served as a Director-Lecturer for the Teacher Training Department of the National Baptist Sunday School Congress.
On July 31, 2011, Reverend Griffin retired from his tenure as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Like Martin Luther King, Griffin devoted his life to preaching the gospel and empowering his peers to rise above the injustice of racial discrimination.
The Marvin C. Griffin papers, which have recently been processed, are now open for research. The materials therein provide an in-depth glimpse of Rev. Griffin’s pastoral ministries, his involvement within the Baptist denomination, race relations in the church and in central Texas, as well as the development of a liberation theology. This collection represents a treasure trove for researchers. Come on down to The Texas Collection as we celebrate the life’s work of a revolutionary in Texas race relations!
Learn more about Griffin’s leadership in Waco race relations in this article from the Waco History Project on his role in beginning the interracial Doris Miller Dialogue Group (DMDG) shortly after Martin Luther King’s assassination.
By Thomas DeShong, Archival Assistant and Digital Input Specialist
Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for August:
Cego German Evangelical Church Records: These records contain the minutes of Cego German Evangelical Church (located in Falls County, Texas), produced by secretary A.A. Miller during the Great Depression.
Matthew Ellenberger Papers: The Matthew Ellenberger Papers contain Ellenberger’s research notes and correspondence as well as literary publications concerning Texas Revolutionary Albert C. Horton and American Revolution figures Thomas Walker and Jack Jouett.
Texas Cotton Palace Records: This collection contains correspondence, legal and financial documents, literary productions, photographs, and an artifact pertaining to the Texas Cotton Palace and its festivities in Waco, Texas.
Benajah Harvey Carroll Papers: The Benajah Harvey “B.H.” Carroll Papers consist of correspondence, financial records, and literary productions regarding the various positions Carroll held throughout his life, including pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, professor and chairman of the board of trustees of Baylor University, secretary of the Texas Baptist Education Commission, and founder and president of Baylor Theological Seminary/Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.