Robert Cooke.Buckner







Handbook of Texas Online - BUCKNER, ROBERT COOKE     



ROBERT COOKE BUCKNER. To a Baptist minister, Rev. Daniel Buckner, and his wife, was entrusted a baby boy, January 3, 1833. Their home was in Madisonville, Tennessee, where Daniel Buckner was pastor of the Baptist church. They named their son Robert Cooke. Soon the family moved to Somerset, Kentucky, where young Robert was saved, and by his father baptized, before he was twelve years old. Believing that grace had marked their son for kingdom work, the fond parents sacrificed to give him the advantages of a finished education, sending him to Georgetown College and other schools. He had the good fortune to sit at the feet of Drs. Howard Malcolm, J. L. Reynolds, and R. D. Campbell, three of Georgetown's greatest presidents. But before, and after, he sat at the feet of the divine Teacher, who counted him worthy and called him into the ministry. In after years Keachi College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, and Baylor University gave him Doctor of Laws.

He was set apart to the ministry by Somerset church, Kentucky, November 13, 1852. Before reaching his majority we find him the brilliant young pastor of Albany Baptist church, of that State. It was at Albany that he had the joy to win the heart and hand of Miss Vienna Long, whose walk by his side down to the present time has given him unceasing happiness and inspiration. June 7, 1916, was their sixty-second wedding anniversary, and both were in vigorous health.

Seven glad years of labor in Kentucky as pastor, at Albany, at Owensboro, at Salvisa, in evangelistic meetings and as mission secretary, so built up the Lord's Zion in that goodly State that people are still thanking God in the third generation. God having willed it, in 1859 he turned his face towards the Empire State of the Southwest, landing in Paris, Texas. Texas from the first has been a Baptist country. Even at that remote date Texas Baptists had a membership of nearly 30,000, and claimed the whole State as their one big open door. Right soon we see the new Kentucky preacher installed as pastor at Paris. "Bandbox preacher and calico-bonnet church," no commented the town wits. And yet not in all the land were to be found a nobler and more refined people than held membership in this same Paris Baptist church. The church grew and soon had its home in the best meeting-house in North Texas. Meanwhile, its pastor made excursions in every direction, evangelizing, baptizing, and founding churches.

The Civil War came on, calling the strong men to the tented fields; but this pastor remained with the remnant until the war- cloud had passed away. There he remained fourteen years and his flock was again built up and grew in numbers, influence and faith to a great force of three hundred members. During his stay at Paris he organized a prayer-meeting and a Sunday-school that still live, and the first Ladies' Aid Society in that State.

A medium of communication was needed for the growing Baptist people of North Texas. R. C. Buckner was the man for editor, and for ten years he sent "The Texas Baptist" into the homes of his brethren, unifying, building, and mobilizing them for God. His editorial labors count among the most fruitful of Dr. Buckner's young manhood.

Time came when Texas Baptists must develop a safe and capable leader. They were inquiring of God. In 1875 the Sunday School Convention of the General Association chose Dr. Buckner as president. This cause he guided for five years, until its consolidation with the South Texas body.

In 1880 he was elected president of the General Association, of which he was already mission secretary. Here he continued as general overseer of the sowing and reaping through many golden years of ever-increasing harvest.

Later came the memorable year of consolidation of all Texas general bodies, and Dr. Buckner thought it wise to retire, which he did for a season, to work more effectually for that cause. But in 1894 he was again called to the front, and the gavel of the great General Convention was put into his hand. Thenceforward for twenty eventful years he led this State-wide body as its honored president. Some of his rulings have taken their place as precedents in Baptist jurisprudence, as the "historic ruling" at Waco in 1898, that the "Convention is composed of individual messengers and not of churches;" and on numerous occasions that " the Convention is the sole judge of its own members."

Would we see Dr. Buckner's picture in his ripened years? He was the leading spirit in founding the Woman's Missionary Training School, now at Fort Worth, the joy of the women of the whole State ; in founding the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, at Dallas, which is the pride of all Baptists, and for five years its president; in founding the Dixon Colored Orphanage, at Gilmer, Texas, and for five years its president. He is the foster-father of many educational, moral and philanthropic enterprises; a great peacemaker among his brethren in Texas and the nation; and the founder and builder of the greatest Orphans' Home in the world. Who since Paul has served his day and generation better? The crowning work of Dr. Buckner's life is in Buckner Orphans' Home. Sentiment in its favor was created away back in the seventh decade of the nineteenth century. Many of his editorials in "The Texas Baptist" were written with this end in view. A Deacon's Convention was organized to stand by the enterprise in its earlier days. At Paris, Texas, July 17, 1877, the first money was contributed and he made the first appeal and gave the first dollar. The first children were gathered in 1879. The first site of forty-four acres was purchased in 1880, and the first "Home," a two-story frame building, was erected in 1881. This year, also, eighty-three additional acres of land were purchased. The site chosen was a high prairie, four miles East of Dallas. He has by purchase added more land from time to time, until now the holdings are around 1,600 acres, including rich farms, attractive parks and meadows, and much of the original site is covered with cottages and stately brick buildings. The plant is worth nearly $1,000,000, and is unincumbered. The real estate is held in fee simple by the corporation, Buckner Orphans' Home, and is by its charter made inalienable. From its founding until the present, 10,000 orphan children have been cared for, and from the first until now R. C. Buckner has been in charge. The family numbers on an average 650 each year. They are maintained and trained for good citizenship and for heaven.

Dr. Buckner ia strong and a hard worker in his eighty-fourth year. He visited his son, Hal, and his grandson, Robt. E. Beddoe, missionaries in China, after he was eighty, and then made a world tour of thirty-seven thousand miles. He still abides, a vigorous preacher and worker, in favor with God and men.

Baptist Biography edited by Balus Joseph Winzer Graham - 1917