Baptist journalist and educator Craig Bird died Dec. 12 at age 73 due to complications from a fall he experienced the week before, according to his family.
Bird, who was born in Arkansas on Oct. 4, 1949, to Clyde and C.W. Bird, most recently served 17 years as a professor at Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas, where he taught cross-cultural communications and theology.
Prior to that, he served a string of Baptist agencies as a journalist, most notably as a pioneer in a bold experiment by the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board in the mid-1980s to place professional journalists on the field around the world. He and his wife, Melissa, were assigned to Nairobi, Kenya.
Bird came to that missionary calling from the staff of the SBC’s Baptist Press, where he had been features editor. The family left Nashville and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, for basic theological education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before moving to Kenya for a decade, 1985 to 1996. Although based in Nairobi, Kenya, he wrote and photographed news and feature stories in 26 African countries.
He had previously earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas and later earned a master’s degree in English from Hardin-Simmons University.
Other Baptist institutions where he served on staff include Hardin-Simmons University, Southwestern Seminary, South Texas Children’s Home, Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina, and Baptist Child and Family Services.
He got his start in journalism working at the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times and the Lawton (Okla.) Constitution-Press. He entered the field of Southern Baptist journalism at the peak of that movement, when there was a network of more than 100 professional journalists working across the denomination.
Friends and colleagues mourned his passing and recalled memories of his kindness and gentle spirit.
“His missionary heart, kindness and grace was second to none,” said a statement from BUA, where he was known for this motto: “Grace always happens.”
Dan Martin, who worked with Bird at Baptist Press, remained friends with him across the years. He posted a tribute on Facebook recalling Bird’s love for grammatical humor, “He told me once that heaven might be a group sitting around a campfire making puns.”
Former student Yamileth Guzmán wrote her appreciation for Bird’s “teaching, his kindness and the way he encouraged us. He had a special love for our Hispanic culture.”
And former student James Reno Reyna wrote: “I loved him very much. He was the professor that probably made the biggest impact on my life in my college days. Hours spent just talking about art and music and deep thought. He pushed me in my songwriting. When I was touring and playing music, he would be one of the first ones I would go to so he could hear what I was working on. I craved his literary critique of my lyrics. I avoided sounding like a fool thanks to his creative ear. He saw something in me that helped push me and keep me inspired during some of the most formative years of my adult life.”
His son Brant wrote: “It is easy for me to define love. Love could be seen in my dad.”
Bird is survived by his wife of 52 years, Melissa; their two sons, Brant and Coby; a brother, David Bird; and five grandchildren. Arrangements are pending.