President Emeritus of Baylor University, Herbert H. Reynolds, died suddenly this morning. Here is the Baylor Press Release.
I first met Dr. Reynolds while attending Baylor as a freshman. During an evening reception for a small group of religion majors at the home of Winfred Moore, I had the opportunity to visit with Reynolds over coffee and listen to him explain why the Baylor charter change of three years earlier was necessary. I remember my initial impression that Herbert Reynolds was both extraordinarily intelligent and powerful. He was a layman courted by preachers, something inverted in my experiences to that point. I remember thinking that his courtesy and charm softened the reality that he was fierce and relentless in pursuit of his vision for Baylor and Texas Baptists.
The second time I visited with Herbert Reynolds was during a ministerial banquet in the elegantly appointed Barfield Drawing Room on the second floor of Baylor’s Daniel Student Center. By that time, I’d heard him vilified as the thief who “stole Baylor” and a liberal who “didn’t believe the Bible.” I had also heard my childhood Sunday School teachers praise him as the man who saved “the crown jewel of Texas Baptists.”
Any way you sliced it, Texas Baptists had definite and intransigent opinions about him.
I had the chance to interview Dr. Reynolds last year, and I found him both helpful and honest. He had no hesitance to tell me exactly what he thought about “the fundamentalist takeover,” as he called it. He had more than enough to say about the personalities involved as well. His mind was keen and his words were careful. Hidden in the recesses of his recollection were the dirty little secrets of scores of people, both fundamentalists and liberals, and he was cautious about revealing them.
I prodded and pried, and managed to get him talking on the record. Even then, he was careful.
I knew that President Reynolds wasn’t pleased with how Robert Sloan turned out as his successor. We all knew it. I knew that he wasn’t pleased that Texas Baptists were still supporting Southern Baptist causes, and he was equally disappointed in how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship struggled with anemia. He had retired, but he was still fully engaged. He was often tenacious. Occasionally, he was ruthless. Either way, he was always Baptist.
Last year, Herb Reynolds did me a favor I will always appreciate: When I needed an afternoon with John Baugh, Reynolds was kind enough to set the whole thing up. Other than that, our interaction was limited.
I suppose we are watching a major transition in Baptist life. Within days of each other, Herbert Reynolds and Jerry Falwell died. It shall not be long before a generation arises that knows not Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, Cecil Sherman, or Daniel Vestal.
Sometime this week, I will make a journey to Waco, TX, to pay my final respects to Herbert H. Reynolds. He will probably be remembered most for his effort to save Baylor from fundamentalism. With his and John Baugh’s passing in the same year, a void of Texas Baptist laymen has occurred. The days are approaching when preachers will be completely disinterested in “the convention.” I suspect the day when Baptist laymen are disinterested has already arrived.