By John D. Pierce
In our progressive Baptist world it is enough to just to say “Babs.” We all know who you’re talking about — the feisty, funny Texan whose life made an impact beyond degree.
Yet the surname “Baugh” stood — and stands — for something very significant. And no daughter, an only child, could have been a better steward of her parents’ legacy of faithfulness and generosity than Babs.
News of her death yesterday brought expected sadness along with a big dose of gratitude. As reported by EthicsDaily, “The significance and impact of her generosity, and that of the Baugh Foundation, cannot be overstated.”
One of Babs’ last initiatives through the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation, along with her daughters Jackie and Julie, was envisioning and supporting the formation of Good Faith Media: bringing together the resources of EthicsDaily and Nurturing Faith into single, enlarged mission set to launch in July.
“While a gracious and kind soul, Babs had a steely determination which strengthened her resolve and empowered a movement…” said Mitch Randall, Good Faith Media’s CEO. “The final curtain may have been drawn, but her life’s performance will never be forgotten.”
Visits with Babs in her San Antonio home were unlike any others. Sprawling, diverse art from around the world surrounded the conversation while her humor and hopefulness warmed the time and space.
Any place with Babs was a BS-free zone. Even noting her honesty seems like an understatement. You never had to guess what Babs was thinking about whatever subject was at hand.
During one visit I enjoyed an in-depth “conversation” that was shaped into a cover story for Nurturing Faith Journal — so readers could know her more personally. I titled the article, “Curiosity & Generosity” — two descriptive terms that marked her good, adventure-filled, quick-witted life.
With trademark honesty, Babs told how as a young girl she and her maternal grandmother were so successful at the card table.
“Mama Nell and I won every hand of Canasta forever because we cheated — and they never saw us,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “My grandmother used to slip cards to me under the table.”
She recalled her mother, Eula Mae, taking her by bus to the library every Saturday to encourage a love of reading. And playing baseball with her father, John, who would introduce her as “my son, Barbara” just to gauge the reaction.
Before her father’s success in forming SYSCO Corporation, the world’s largest food-service company, he distributed frozen foods. Young Babs took it on herself to help with his success while her mother shopped for groceries.
“He represented Pictsweet Frozen Foods, and Birds Eye was the competitor. So…I would go stand by the freezer. If somebody picked up a package of Birds Eye green beans, I’d say: ‘Wouldn’t you really rather have Pictsweet? It tastes a lot better.’ Mother was kind of horrified when she found out I was doing that.”
Such stories flowed one after another. We will share that conversation again in the next issue of Nurturing Faith Journal as part of a tribute to Babs.
In the meantime we will continue remembering and celebrating the unique and remarkable gift of Babs Baugh — and her effective stewardship of her parents’ commitments to historic principles of religious and individual liberty, open inquiry and freedom of the press.
“You can’t out-give God,” said Babs of the importance of stewardship, and “to whom much is given, much is required.” That doesn’t just apply to money, Babs noted, it also applies to giving time and care — “but you do have to give money if you have it.”
Babs found great comfort in knowing her family’s legacy of generosity continues in such capable hands. “My daughters are equal partners with me in the Foundation,” she said a decade ago.
While Jackie and Julie might argue their votes didn’t always carry equal weight to their mother’s, they certainly share her and their grandparents’ commitments that they will carry on.
“It is a job — but I really should say a joy,” said Babs of the Foundation’s work. “It is a job because you need to make good decisions. But it’s a real joy.”
The impact of Babs’ life cannot be stated in any one tribute — or even in the many that are now surfacing.
But there is a galaxy of people and organizations doing more good today than would have been possible without the support and encouragement of this special, warm-hearted, sharp-minded and straight-speaking Baptist laywoman who leaves a Texas-sized hole in our world, but a legacy that endures.