One dog and three missing women


The former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Paige Patterson, has relaunched his personal website, started hitting up the preaching circuit, and he recently granted an hour-long popcorn interview on Christian talk radio.

We spent a little time parsing Patterson’s biography on his newly-deployed website (HT: Sharayah). Some of the things we’ve noted:

  • 18 years at Criswell College, 11 years at Southeastern, 15 at Southwestern. No word on why he left Criswell and Southwestern.
  • Does Patterson have a Ph.D. or a Th.D?  Is there a difference?
  • No specific information is provided about former pastorates.  They were: First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Ark. (1970-75), Bethany Baptist Church in New Orleans (1966-70); Second Baptist Church in Abilene (1963-65); and Sardis Baptist Church, Rotan, Tex. (1962-63).*
  • No mention of any pastoral role at First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX.
  • No mention of an original desire to study at Southern Seminary or worries that a low GRE score would prevent admission to the doctoral program.
    • In a letter dated Feb. 22, 1967, to Wayne Ward, Patterson expresses a desire to attend Southern. In a follow up letter that year, Patterson stated: “I need to know when you (sic) Sabbatical will be. I should hate to come to Southern for my doctoral and about the time I start on my thesis, for you to leave.”*
    • In a letter to Ward dated Dec. 6, 1967, Patterson states: “I took the GRE test here and I do not think I did very well, though I have not received my grade. If I did not make the required 950, does this eliminate me from being able to take the Miller Analogy Test? Dr. Eddlemen is upset about the GRE, but I am not sure what he can do about it. As you know, it had a great deal of math on it and that happens to be my weak field. I am not afraid of the Miller Analogy though. Even though I took the GRE, I did yet apply for the entrance in the doctoral program here [at New Orleans]. (Note: Patterson’s GRE score came in above the cut off for admission to New Orleans’s doctoral program. He did not formally pursue application to Southern Seminary’s doctoral program.)*
  • There are the obligatory and oft-repeated references to 135 countries visited, sportsman banquets, big game hunting, and meetings with Yasser Arafat and Menachem Begin.
  • He’s led church planting movements in several states? What? Which states? When?
  • There’s an interesting reference to operating a “coffeehouse in the famous French Quarter,” where he claimed ministry to “runaway teenagers from across the United States.” More about that later.
  • There’s mention of his father, T.A. Patterson, but no mention of his mother, Roberta “Honey” Patterson.
  • There’s mention of one daughter, but no mention of a second “adopted daughter.” The last published reference to an adopted daughter we can find is in the Nov. 1981 issue of Texas Monthly.
  • There’s no mention of a sister, Dawn. (Note: In a letter dated July 8, 1999, to a woman in Winters, TX, Patterson writes: “In regard to your questions about mom, she passed away just a little over a year and a half ago. She was living with Dawn, my sister, in Kansas at the time of her death. There was a service there and then at grave side in Dallas where we buried her next to dad. Mother never finished the book, and the manuscript, if it still exists, is in Dawn’s possession. I do not have a good relationship with Dawn (she is now living with her third husband, and I fear that one will not last past her money running out), and though I hurt for her and would do anything even now to help her, she does not seem to wish to have the relationship with me.”**
  • There is a closing mention of a black Labrador Retriever, of course.


Editor’s Note: Broken relationships happen in every family, and they are some of the more painful experiences in life. In recent weeks, we have interviewed persons closely familiar with the Pattersons’ adopted daughter narrative, and their testimonies are equally painful. We’ve pulled wedding records in Arkansas, divorce records in Mississippi, and genealogy records. We’ve scoured hours of oral history interviews, pored over dozens of years of personal correspondence, and exchanged numerous emails with University of Arkansas alumni from the 1970s.

The whole story of Mary Sinclair has never been told publicly. Her identity has been excluded from every Patterson family Christmas Card for nearly 40 years. She is not mentioned in any published biography, and we cannot find any reference to her in available audio or video recordings of Dorothy Patterson’s sermons. People have known the Pattersons for four decades or more and never heard of her. We’ve asked around.

But we’ve been intrigued by the disappearance of an adopted daughter. For one, if the Pattersons adopted her in New Orleans, as Texas Monthly reports, why was her name “Mary Sinclair” on documents in Fayetteville? And why did she ask for her membership to be withdrawn from FBC Fayetteville on July 11, 1973, just weeks after she was married? And why did Paige tell Texas Monthly that her birth mother “had harmed her?” What harm? Was there ever a legal adoption?

And why did Dorothy misspell “Carmon” on their 1972 Christmas letter? (See above image.)

There are so many more questions.  And we have many answers.

But the rest of it will be included in a chapter of our forthcoming book.  That chapter is currently in draft and tentatively entitled, “Break Them Down.”


*Wayne Ward Papers, Archives and Special Collections, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
** Paige Patterson Papers, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, TN.