Baptists from across the country gathered Oct. 23 in San Antonio, Texas, to thank the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation for generous support of Baptist institutions and causes including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and numerous CBF partners.
Forty-three Baptist organizations joined as sponsors of Baptist News Global in a ceremony presenting the 13th Founders Award by the BNG board of directors to Babs Baugh, the couple’s only child who now leads the foundation that carries on their philanthropic legacy.
The award, first given by BNG predecessor Associated Baptist Press in 1999, honors individuals and organizations who demonstrate a significant commitment to the news organization’s founding principles and mission.
“Our ministry is sustained by generous supporters who believe an autonomous and trustworthy source of news and information is essential for the integrity of the gospel and for the vitality of the Baptist movement,” said David Wilkinson, executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. “Our stakeholders believe a free and responsible press is an important corollary to the historic principles we Baptists cherish — the freedom to interpret Scripture, religious liberty and separation of church and state, freedom of conscience, the priesthood of believers and the autonomy of the local church.”
The crowd of more than 400 in a sold-out banquet hall represented a myriad of ministries that have benefitted from the fortune dedicated to Baptist causes by Eula Mae Baugh, a preacher’s daughter and Sunday school teacher, and her husband John, a pioneer in food distribution who beginning in the 1960s merged nine independent operations into the multi-billion dollar company known today as Sysco Corporation.
An active church layman, John Baugh fought unsuccessfully to defend Baptist principles at risk in the Southern Baptist Convention during the last quarter of the 20th century before turning attention to new ventures that continue to prosper thanks in part to the foundation established prior to the couple’s deaths six months apart in 2007.
“I doubt if there is anyone in this room who can think of anybody or any organization that better lives out these principles than the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation,” Harriet Harral of Fort Worth, Texas, an officer of the BNG board, said in introducing the Founders Award. “Their history of advocacy for Baptist causes, their commitment to historic Baptist principles and their amazing generosity are legendary.”
Board member Anne Guidry of Jackson, Miss., presented Babs Baugh with a color lithograph by Maxwell Mays of the harbor in Providence, R.I., featuring the First Baptist Church in America, founded by Roger Williams in 1638.
“We hope when Babs looks at this lithograph, she will remember the ways she and her family have been leaders in Baptist life,” Guidry said.
A video tribute to Babs Baugh by Cliff Vaughn of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a CBF partner on which she serves as a member of the board of directors, featured poignant and funny stories from numerous beneficiaries of the family foundation’s support, many of whom attended the banquet.
“This room represents some organizations, institutions, churches and people that are the best kind of Baptist you will ever know,” said Jackie Baugh Moore, a BNG board member who with her sister, Julie Baugh Cloud, join their mother on the foundation’s board of directors.
“They’re the people with whom we love to be in community and fellowship and with whom we are honored to support and partner,” she said. “We encourage the study of the Scripture with the best scholarly tools available, and we support the theology schools and seminaries that encourage real thinking and studying and conversation.”
Babs Baugh added her personal thanks for all the friends and causes represented in the crowd.
“We simply cannot thank you enough for being here and just saying you are our friends,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to look out and see people we love. That’s how we judge things, how much love is there? We love you all.”