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” at EthicsDaily.com.
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.
“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.”
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.
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley remembered Baugh as “bold faith personified. Like her parents before her, she demonstrated the capacity of committed Christians to change communities, congregations and the world. All around us, we see evidence of her impact.
“I echo the words of former CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal in saying, ‘Babs Baugh was a bright light shining in our world. All of us grieve her death but celebrate the truly beautiful and exuberant life she lived. She was generous, loving and fun. Her influence and legacy for good will extend into future generations. Thanks be to God.’”
“We give thanks to God for the beautiful life of our friend, Babs Baugh, who brought joy, laughter, and grace into every room she entered,” said Central President Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Durso. “Her influence has been and will continue to be a beacon of goodness, a shining light in our world. Her kind generosity surely touched most every corner of our Baptist world, including Central Seminary, and she will be greatly missed by our Central community.”
“Babs Baugh – like her parents, John and Eula Mae Baugh – was an iconic figure in Baptist life and truly a shining example of Matthew 5:16,” said Baylor University President Linda A. Livingstone. “She let her bright light shine and glorified God through her good works and joyful, generous spirit that supported Baptist causes, the local church and universities and institutions.”
“The University and I personally have lost a dear friend,” said Mercer University President William D. Underwood. “I loved Babs. She was funny. She was fun. She cared about important things. She cared about freedom of belief and thought. She cared about the Baptist witness to the world. She cared about making the world a better place.”
“We are grateful for the financial support and encouragement Baugh and her family’s foundation have provided for years to Word&Way. Without such support, it’s quite likely we would not still be here today informing and inspiring Baptists,” said Word&Way Editor Brian Kaylor.
“I am thankful for her vision to support Baptist journalism, which remains desperately needed. Each time I saw her, she was gracious with her time, and I will always appreciate those encouraging moments.”
Baugh served on countless boards for nonprofits and Baptist organizations such as Christian Ethics Today, the B. H. Carroll Theological Institute, Mercer University, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and Texas Baptists.
In addition, Baugh was an active member of the BCE / EthicsDaily.com board of directors until the time of her death, and was named EthicsDaily.com’s “Baptist of the Year” in 2010. 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.”
She also volunteered at Woodland Baptist Church, her home church in San Antonio, and was active in music programming through her church. She has passed along the same commitment to philanthropy to her daughters, who serve as the directors and officers of the family foundation.
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.