Wise as it Was: ‘Dallas stole our college’

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, April 21, 2018

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In March of 1898, the Messenger announced Decatur Baptist College would begin taking in students on a permanent basis that September.

“Since it is one of the correlated schools of the Baptist denomination in Texas and has the sympathy and support of the undivided brotherhood of the whole state, its success is assured,” the Messenger wrote.

Perhaps a bit optimistic, the college remained in Decatur for another 67 years, until it moved to Dallas in 1965, and eventually became Dallas Baptist University.

“Dallas stole our college,” joked Mary Louise Woodruff, who taught history at DBC for five years in the 1950s. Her brother was the dean of the school at the time of the relocation. “They wanted an accredited college, and they convinced the board to move it.”

The college real estate and buildings were put up for auction in the fall of 1965.

Trustee John Winder told the Messenger at the time “the old administration building was a landmark in Decatur and [I am] hoping it can be acquired for a county museum or library though the county may not be in a position to make a bid at this time.”

An ad for the auction in a September 1965 edition of the Messenger proclaimed the college was selling “55 Choice Acres and 11 Rugged BUILDINGS…With Many Practical Uses.”

For Woodruff, who grew up near the college and remembers sliding down the fire escape as a young girl, it was a sad time. In addition to her brother, her uncle had also served as a dean at DBC, and her mother taught at the college.

“I was sad when they moved to Dallas, but it was having trouble, especially after the second world war,” Woodruff said. “All the young men had been drafted and attendance was down.”

The school reported an enrollment of 110 students in its last semester.

Local businessman Coke L. Gage bought the campus, wanting to bring a new college to the town, according to the Wise County Historical Society. When that failed, he donated the administration building to the historical society and it became a museum just as John Winder wanted.

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, DBC alumni will host a reunion at the Wise County Heritage Museum. All are invited. There will be a luncheon to follow at First Baptist Church in Decatur.

Woodruff, the last living teacher from the DBC campus, will be honored at the reunion.

“It was a nice place to be,” she said of DBC. “I had so much family connection to it. It’s always held a special place in my heart.”

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