Barbara Nell (“Babs”) Baugh, president of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation, died on Sunday, June 14, after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 78.
The lifelong Texan led an adventurous life, leading several professional singing and dancing groups that toured in Texas, traveling the world and establishing a travel agency to help others plan their trips, as well as serving in church and community initiatives throughout her life.
She also leaves a lasting legacy of tireless efforts to continue the work her parents began of supporting the moderate-to-progressive Baptist movement.
With wit and wisdom, she called Baptists beyond the narrowness of religious fundamentalism to a larger, more generous, “big tent” mindset and ministry.
Filling any room she entered with laughter, Baugh encouraged those around her to join in the merriment and to find ways to make even serious, important work joyful.
Baugh’s outlook on life can be glimpsed in her choice of a favorite movie, which she shared in her 2014 “Profile in Goodwill.”
She selected “Auntie Mame,” the 1958 film starring Rosalind Russell, commenting that “it is just heart-warming and fun, and I wish that I could be Auntie Mame to others!”
Fun, hilarious, generous, energetic and the life of the party were common descriptors of Baugh offered by interviewees in a 2017 video tribute produced by Baptist Center for Ethics / EthicsDaily.com and Baptist News Global.
“When I think about Babs, I think there should be a Babs emoji that would have to be probably a smiley face with a feather boa around it,” Garrett Vickrey, her pastor at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, said in the video. “Because Babs is all about creating joy and beauty wherever she goes and bringing the best out of people.”
Through her leadership of the Baugh Foundation, established in 1994 by her parents Eula Mae and John, she has supported countless ministers and ministries, providing substantial funding for denominational entities, faith-based non-profits and theological schools.
The significance and impact of her generosity, and that of the Baugh Foundation, cannot be overstated.
Many moderate-to-progressive Baptist entities would not have existed, or would no longer exist, without Baugh’s support, and many Baptist ministers would not have received an affordable theological education without her generosity.
“Babs Baugh breathed joy, laughter and resolve into the world. Her wit, smile and hospitality were infectious, inspiring people of faith to live boldly into their callings” said Mitch Randall, EthicsDaily.com executive director / Good Faith Media CEO.
“While a gracious and kind soul, Babs had a steely determination which strengthened her resolve and empowered a movement. Baptists around the world owe her, and her family, a debt of gratitude. The final curtain may have been drawn, but her life’s performance will never be forgotten.”
Baugh was an active member of the BCE / EthicsDaily.com board of directors until the time of her death.
In 2010, she was named EthicsDaily.com’s “Baptist of the Year.” In his editorial announcing the recognition, former executive director Robert Parham (1953-2017) wrote:
“Make no mistake: Philanthropists equip and empower social justice advocacy, theological education, religious liberty promotion and other worthy efforts. As the Apostle Paul needed Phoebe, goodwill Baptist organizations need Babs Baugh and the Baugh Foundation.”
Parham concluded by noting that Baugh is “representative of an eternal truth: Moral reformation, social justice and advancing the common good happen because somewhere, often offstage, an individual with moral grit and generous spirit writes checks to make things happen.”
Baugh is survived by her husband, John Jarrett; daughters Jackie Baugh Moore and husband Kim Moore, and Julie Baugh Cloud; as well as her grandchildren, Sterling Moore and wife Jenni, Katie Moore, Jake Moore and fiancé Alayna Hudson, Breck Ortiz, Alexa Ortiz and Clara Cloud; and her great grandson, Asher Moore.