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SBC Presidents

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Since the Southern Baptist Convention was constituted in 1845, SBC presidents have led the Convention through many difficult times in the country’s and Convention’s history. The men elected to this office have been pastors, denominational workers, laymen, educational institution heads, and political leaders. Although the president’s official duties have not changed much since 1845, each presidential term has been shaped by current events and the president’s personality and vision.

Prior to 1932, each SBC president was elected at the beginning of the annual meeting and would preside immediately. The 1932 SBC annual meeting would be the last time a president would preside the year of his election. This same meeting also introduced the election of the president who would preside over the following year’s annual meeting, which is still the practice today. William Joseph McGlothlin was elected at the beginning of the 1932 SBC annual meeting, and Fred Fernando Brown was elected at the end to lead the 1933 meeting. The 1932 SBC annual meeting was the only meeting during which two SBC presidents were elected. Unfortunately, Brown was unable to preside over the 1933 meeting due to illness; he is the only SBC president never to have led an annual meeting during his term. The Convention’s vice president at the time, Monroe Elmon Dodd, presided in his absence.

J. B. Gambrell and George W. Truett

SBC President J. B. Gambrell (center left with white beard) and George W. Truett stand amidst the crowd gathered on the US Capitol’s east steps during the 1920 SBC annual meeting. Truett later addressed the crowd on “Baptists and Religious Liberty.”

The president appoints the Credentials Committee (Bylaw 8B), tellers (Bylaw 10D), the Committee on Committees (Bylaw 19), and the Committee on Resolutions (Bylaw 20). He is also a member of the Committee on Order of Business (Bylaw 21) and an ex officio member of the boards of the Executive Committee, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, and GuideStone Financial Resources (SBC Constitution, Article V). He presides over the SBC annual meeting with assistance from SBC parliamentarians (Bylaw 11). He may also call special meetings of the Convention with the concurrence of the other officers of the Convention and of the Executive Committee (SBC Constitution, Article XI). The president acts as the face of the Convention as a fraternal messenger to the annual sessions of the American Baptist Churches and the National Baptist conventions (Bylaw 17). Unofficially, the president represents the Convention to the media and outside publics.

“Baptists and Religious Liberty”

Edwin Hearne’s painting of George W. Truett delivering his 1920 address “Baptists and Religious Liberty” is part of the Eight Great Moments in Baptist History series. Photo and painting courtesy of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

The only official qualification required of Convention officers is that they be “members of Baptist churches cooperating with this Convention” (Constitution, Article VIII). A presidential candidate may be nominated by any messenger to the Convention. The nominator will generally include additional information to demonstrate a candidate’s fitness for office, such as the nominee’s connection to and support of the SBC, the nominee’s education and training, where the nominee has served and is serving in ministry, the nominee’s support of ministry via the Cooperative Program and by other means, and personal accomplishments as well as those of the nominee’s church or ministry. Messengers are encouraged to vote according to the leading of the Holy Spirit for the candidate they feel will best represent Southern Baptists in the year to come.

  1. William Bullein Johnson (South Carolina) *
    President, South Carolina State Baptist Convention
    Elected 1845, 1846, 1849
  2. Robert Boyte Crawford Howell (Virginia) **
    Elected 1851, 1853, 1855, 1857
  3. Richard Fuller (Maryland) **
    Elected 1859, 1861
  4. Patrick Hues Mell (Georgia) **
    Chancellor, University of Georgia
    Elected 1863, 1866, 1867, 1868, 1869, 1870, 1871, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887
  5. James Petigru Boyce (South Carolina) *
    President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Elected 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1888
  6. Jonathan Haralson (Alabama) ***
    Elected 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898
  7. William Jonathan Northen (Georgia) ***
    President, Georgia Baptist Convention
    Elected 1899, 1900, 1901
  8. James Phillip Eagle (Arkansas) *
    President, Arkansas Baptist Convention
    Governor, Arkansas

    Elected 1902, 1903, 1904
  9. Edwin William Stephens (Missouri) ***
    Elected 1905, 1906, 1907
  10. Joshua Levering (Kentucky) ***
    Elected 1908, 1909, 1910
  11. Edwin Charles Dargan (Georgia)
    First Baptist Church, Macon
    Elected 1911, 1912, 1913
  12. John Lansing Burrows (Georgia)
    First Baptist Church, Americus
    Elected 1914, 1915, 1916
  13. James Bruton Gambrell (Texas)
    Elected 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920
  14. Edgar Young Mullins (Kentucky) *
    President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Elected 1921, 1922, 1923
  15. George White McDaniel (Virginia)
    First Baptist Church, Richmond
    Elected 1924, 1925, 1926
  16. George Washington Truett (Texas)
    First Baptist Church, Dallas
    Elected 1927, 1928, 1929
  17. William Joseph McGlothlin (South Carolina) ***
    President, Furman University
    Elected 1930, 1931, 1932 =
  18. Fred Fernando Brown (Tennessee)
    First Baptist Church, Knoxville
    Elected 1932 =
  19. Monroe Elmon Dodd (Louisiana) *
    Elected 1933, 1934
  20. John Richard Sampey (Kentucky) *
    President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Elected 1935, 1936, 1937
  21. Lee Rutland Scarborough (Texas) *
    President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Elected 1938, 1939
  22. William Wistar Hamilton (Louisiana) *
    President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
    Elected 1940, 1941
  23. Pat Morris Neff (Texas)
    President, Baylor University
    Elected 1942, 1944
  24. Louie Devotie Newton (Georgia)
    Druid Hills Baptist Church, Atlanta
    Elected 1946, 1947
  25. Robert Greene Lee (Tennessee)
    Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis
    Elected 1948, 1949, 1950
  26. James David Grey (Louisiana)
    First Baptist Church, New Orleans
    Elected 1951, 1952
  27. James Wilson Storer (Oklahoma)
    First Baptist Church, Tulsa
    Elected 1953, 1954
  28. Casper Carl Warren (North Carolina)
    First Baptist Church, Charlotte
    Elected 1955, 1956
  29. Lawrence Brooks Hays (Arkansas) ***
    Elected 1957, 1958
  30. William Ramsey Pollard (Tennessee)
    Broadway Baptist Church, Knoxville
    Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis

    Elected 1959, 1960
  31. Herschel Harold Hobbs (Oklahoma)
    First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City
    Elected 1961, 1962
  32. Kenneth Owen White (Texas)
    First Baptist Church, Houston
    Elected 1963
  33. William Wayne Dehoney (Tennessee)
    First Baptist Church, Jackson
    Elected 1964, 1965
  34. Henry Franklin Paschall (Tennessee)
    First Baptist Church, Nashville
    Elected 1966, 1967
  35. Wallie Amos Criswell (Texas)
    First Baptist Church, Dallas
    Elected 1968, 1969
  36. Carl Elkanah Bates (North Carolina)
    First Baptist Church, Charlotte
    Elected 1970, 1971
  37. Lawrence Owen Cooper (Mississippi) ***
    Elected 1972, 1973
  38. Jaroy Weber (Texas)
    Broadway First Baptist Church, Lubbock
    Elected 1974, 1975
  39. James Lenox Sullivan (Tennessee) *
    Elected 1976
  40. Jimmy Raymond Allen (Texas)
    First Baptist Church, San Antonio
    Elected 1977, 1978
  41. Adrian Pierce Rogers (Tennessee)
    Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis
    Elected 1979, 1986, 1987
  42. Bailey Eugene Smith (Oklahoma)
    First Southern Baptist Church, Del City
    Elected 1980, 1981
  43. James Thomas Draper Jr. (Texas)
    First Baptist Church, Euless
    Elected 1982, 1983
  44. Charles Frazier Stanley (Georgia)
    First Baptist Church, Atlanta
    Elected 1984, 1985
  45. Charles Jerry Vines (Florida)
    First Baptist Church, Jacksonville
    Elected 1988, 1989
  46. Morris Hines Chapman (Texas)
    First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls
    Elected 1990, 1991
  47. Homer Edwin Young (Texas)
    Second Baptist Church, Houston
    Elected 1992, 1993
  48. James Bascom Henry (Florida)
    First Baptist Church, Orlando
    Elected 1994, 1995
  49. Thomas David Elliff (Oklahoma)
    First Southern Baptist Church, Del City
    Elected 1996, 1997
  50. Leighton Paige Patterson (North Carolina) *
    President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Elected 1998, 1999
  51. James Gregory Merritt (Georgia)
    First Baptist Church, Snellville
    Elected 2000, 2001
  52. Jack Norman Graham (Texas)
    Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano
    Elected 2002, 2003
  53. Bobby Hayward Welch (Florida)
    First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach
    Elected 2004, 2005
  54. Franklin Stuart Page (South Carolina)
    First Baptist Church, Taylors
    Elected 2006, 2007
  55. Johnny Marshall Hunt (Georgia)
    First Baptist Church, Woodstock
    Elected 2008, 2009
  56. George Bryant Wright Jr. (Georgia)
    Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta
    Elected 2010, 2011
  57. Fred Luter Jr. (Louisiana)
    Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans
    Elected 2012, 2013
  58. Ronnie Wayne Floyd (Arkansas)
    Cross Church, Springdale
    Elected 2014

* Engaged in denominational service at the time of election.
** Ordained minister who was not serving in a church or denominational role at the time of election.
*** Layman

The Southern Baptist Convention had a triennial presidential election in 1846.
The Southern Baptist Convention began biennial presidential elections in 1849.
The Southern Baptist Convention began annual presidential elections in 1866.

= Prior to 1932, each SBC president presided the year of his election. McGlothlin was elected at the beginning of the 1932 SBC annual meeting, and Brown was elected at the end to lead the 1933 meeting. Unfortunately, Brown was unable to preside over the 1933 meeting due to illness.

The SBC Annual Meeting was deferred due to war on four occasions: 1864, 1865, 1943, and 1945.


SBC Presidential Facts

The state of Texas has the largest representation of elected SBC presidents with 12, followed by Georgia (9) and Tennessee (7).

Four churches had multiple individuals elected to serve as SBC president at the time they were serving as pastor of the church.

  • Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee
    Robert Greene Lee (#25)
    William Ramsey Pollard (#30)
    Adrian Pierce Rogers (#41)
  • First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas
    George Washington Truett (#16)
    Wallie Amos Criswell (#35)
  • First Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
    Casper Carl Warren (#28)
    Carl Elkanah Bates (#36)
  • First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Oklahoma
    Bailey Eugene Smith (#42)
    Thomas David Elliff (#49)

Three SBC presidents served simultaneously as state convention presidents.

  • William Bullein Johnson (#1)
  • William Jonathan Northen (#7)
  • James Phillip Eagle (#8)

Three SBC presidents were former governors.

  • William Jonathan Northen (#7)
  • James Phillip Eagle (#8)
  • Pat Morris Neff (#23)

James Phillip Eagle (#8) served simultaneously as governor of Arkansas, president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jonathan Haralson (#6), the first layman elected, was an Alabama state supreme court justice.

Nine SBC presidents were heads of educational institutions when elected, six of whom were SBC seminary presidents.

  • Patrick Hues Mell (#4)
    University of Georgia
  • James Petigru Boyce (#5)
    The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Edgar Young Mullins (#14)
    The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • William Joseph McGlothlin (#17)
    Furman University
  • John Richard Sampey (#20)
    The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Lee Rutland Scarborough (#21)
    Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • William Wistar Hamilton (#22)
    New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
    (formerly Baptist Bible Institute)
  • Pat Morris Neff (#23)
    Baylor University
  • Leighton Paige Patterson (#50)
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Four other presidents also served as SBC entity heads, though not at the time of their election.

  • James Lenox Sullivan (#39)
    Baptist Sunday School Board
  • Jimmy Raymond Allen (#40)
    Radio and Television Commission
  • James Thomas Draper Jr. (#43)
    LifeWay Christian Resources
  • Thomas David Elliff (#49)
    International Mission Board

Two SBC presidents were subsequently elected as president of the SBC Executive Committee.

  • Morris Hines Chapman (#46)
  • Franklin Stuart Page (#54)


Andy Beachum is production manager with the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Rebecca Wolford is communications specialist with the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee.

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September 2014 Edition
Volume 23, Issue 1
September 2014