History of the BHHS

Organized in Richmond, Virginia, in 1938, the Southern Baptist Historical Society® elected three officers: W. O. Carver, head of the Department of Comparative Religion and Missions at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, president (a position he held for fifteen years); Rufus W. Weaver, executive director of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (who was instrumental in forming the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs), vice president; and Hubert I. Hester, head of the Department of Religion at William Jewell College, secretary-treasurer (Hester served as secretary for thirty-eight years—until 1976).

Originally chartered in Kentucky, the society was rechartered in Tennessee in 1952 as an auxiliary to the Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. It continued in that relationship until 1995.

When the SBC decided in 1995 to eliminate the Commission, the society voted that spring to become an independent Baptist history organization.

In 2000, the Fellowship of Baptist Historians was created as an auxiliary to the society and has since held an annual meeting in connection with the society’s meeting.

In 2001, the society changed its name to Baptist History and Heritage Society.

In 2005, the Society adopted a set of plans for 2006-2009 to help Baptists celebrate their 400th anniversary.

From 2007 to 2011, the BHHS had an office on Mercer University’s Atlanta campus.

From 2011 to 2017, the Society’s offices were in Bozeman, Montana and Macon, Georgia.

From July 2017 to the present, the Society’s offices are in Savannah and Macon, Georgia.

For further information, please see Carol Crawford Holcomb (society member and professor of religion at Mary-Hardin Baylor University in Belton, Texas), “The History of Southern Baptist History, 1938-1995.“

Presidents—The  BHHS has had 43 presidents, including 36 men and seven women. Presidents served multiple-year terms in 1938-70, single-year terms in 1970-95, and two-year terms in 1995-present. Many names on this list comprise a virtual who’s who among Baptist historians. The presidents include:

  • William Owen Carver, 1938-1952
  • Richard N. Owen, 1952-1954
  • Bailey F. Davis, 1954-1958
  • Richard N. Owen, 1958-1968
  • Loulie Latimer Owens, 1968-1970 
  • Spencer B. King, Jr., 1971-1972
  •  F. Wilbur Helmbold, 1972-1973
  • Rollin S. Armour, 1973-1974
  • R. A. McLemore, 1974-1975
  • Walter B. Shurden, 1975-1976
  • John S. Moore, 1976-1977
  • Stan B. Rushing, 1977-1978
  • H. Leon McBeth, 1978-1979
  • Paul D. Brewer, 1979-1980
  • W. Morgan Patterson, 1980-1981
  • David O. Moore, 1981-1982
  • J. Glen Clayton, 1982-1983
  • Robert G. Gardner, 1983-1984
  • John R. Woodard, 1984-1985
  • Flynn T. Harrell, 1985-1986
  • J. M. Gaskin, 1986-1987
  • Carolyn D. Blevins, 1987-1988
  • Lee N. Allen, 1988-1989
  • G. Thomas Halbrooks, 1989-1990
  • Adrian Lamkin, 1990-1991
  • E. Earl Joiner, 1991-1992
  • Fred Anderson, 1992-1993
  • Hargus Taylor, 1993-1994
  • Albert W. Wardin, Jr., 1994-1995
  • Rosalie Beck, 1995-1997
  • Alan Lefever, 1997-1999
  • Merrill M. Hawkins, Jr., 1999-2001
  • Dan Gentry Kent, 2001-2003
  • Glenn Jonas, 2003-2005
  • Carol C. Holcomb, 2005-2007
  • Jerry L. Faught, 2007-2009
  • Mike Williams, 2009-2011
  • Delane Tew, 2011-2013
  • Bill Pitts, 2013-2015
  • Pamela Smoot, 2015-2017
  • C. Douglas Weaver, 2017-2019
  • Pamela R. Durso, 2019-2022
  • Christopher Moore, 2022-Present

Executive Directors-Treasurers — Five persons have served as Executive Director-Treasurer or Executive Director of the society since it asserted its independence in 1995:

  • Albert W. Wardin, Jr. (1995-96)
  • Slayden A. Yarbrough (1996-99)
  • Charles W. Deweese (1999-2009)
  • Bruce T. Gourley (2010-2017)
  • John M. Finley (2017-Present)

In addition, Walter B. Shurden served as Interim Executive Director in the Fall of 2009.

Other Staff Members—Five persons have served the society in various capacities: James E. Taulman as part-time Assistant to the Executive Director, 1999-2003; Pamela R. Durso as full-time Associate Director, 2003-06, Associate Executive Director 2006-09, and Associate Executive Director-Treasurer, 2008-2009; Kris Norris as part-time office manager, 2009-2010; and Jackie Riley as office manager, 2010-present.

Office Locations—Society offices have been located at the following places: at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (1938-52); in the Historical Commission, Southern Baptist Convention, offices in the SBC Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee (1952-84); in the Historical Commission, SBC, offices in the SBC Building in Nashville, Tennessee (1985-97); at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma (1997-99); at the Baptist Center of the Tennessee Baptist Convention in Brentwood, Tennessee (1999-2007); at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia (2007-2011); in Macon, Georgia and Bozeman, Montana (2011-2017); and in Macon and Savannah, Georgia (2017 to the present).