NORMAN, Okla. (ABP) – Associated Baptist Press presented its Founders Award April 18 to Dan Hobbs, a longtime recording secretary of the ABP board of directors whoses minutes of meetings chronicle most of independent news agency’s first two decades of existence.
Hobbs, a layman active in NortHaven Church in Norman, Okla., is the ninth recipient of the award established in 1998 to recognize individuals and organizations that embody the founding principles of ABP and have supported its mission through significant professional or financial contributions.
Lavonn Brown, Hobbs’ longtime pastor at First Baptist Church in Norman, where Hobbs was a member for 50 years, said both of them became concerned about developments in the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“While many Southern Baptists during that time put their heads in the sand and pretended that no one could see, Dan put his time and energy into chairing and championing Baptist freedom,” Brown said.
Hobbs was involved early on in leadership of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at the national level and in 1992 became first moderator of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma.
In 1991 Hobbs joined the board of ABP, which had formed the previous year, and served faithfully in leadership roles before rotating off last year. For most of that time he kept minutes of the board meetings, recording the organization’s history for 18 years.
“After the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, there were some Baptist Press editors and some state Baptist paper editors that were fired and some experienced censorship,” Brown said. “They began to hire editors who would print only the good things about the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“One state paper editor resigned when his board suggested that news copy, and I quote, should be based not on what was most truthful but what was most politically expedient,” Brown said. “So it was essential that we have a free Baptist press.”
Hobbs, who retired in 1998 after 27 years with the the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, said much of his interest in Southern Baptist life came from what he saw while serving on the SBC Executive Committee from 1979 until 1988.
“During those 10 years when the takeover was going on a group of convention leaders went around the country and held their little tea parties and told Baptists that their seminary professors were liberals and they did not believe the Bible,” Hobbs said. “Enough people believed them that they got into power. Well I can tell you that 10 years after the takeover started and they were in complete control, there had not been on single seminary professor fired, not one. But half of the historians were gone. The rest of them were intimidated, and half of the state Baptist editors were gone. So it’s some indication there was some prevarication going on at that time.”
“Early in the takeover event there were some brave souls that got together and created the Associated Baptist Press as a free standing and freedom-loving First Amendment operation and swore that they would tell both sides,” Hobbs said.
David Wilkinson, ABP’s executive director, also paid brief tribute to Cecil Sherman, the first coordinator of the CBF national organization, who died April 17 from a massive heart attack.
“I would be remiss if I did not say tonight how much Associated Baptist Press, the gratitude for the friend we had in Cecil Sherman, who was pivotal to support of our organization 20 years ago,” Wilkinson said. “He was a great supporter and believed in the cause of a free Baptist press.”
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.