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proclaiming the abiding relevance of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ . . .

and providing financial support for the study and application of Christian Ethics

 

"Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." (I John 2:6)
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T. B. Maston: The Man, His Family, and His Ministry
by A. Jase Jones

In 1999, Dr. A. Jase Jones gave two speeches under the title "T. B. Maston: The Man, His Family, and His Ministry. The first was on January 13, 1999, at First Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, where Dr. Jones was a member. The second was on March 27, 1999, at the Logsdon School of Theology, Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas.

Some material here was added by Dr. Jones between the January 13 and March 27 speeches.

Introduction

Let me introduce to you the subjects of this study. They are Thomas Buford Maston and his wife, Essie Mae Maston, née McDonald. Both were native Tennesseeans but were destined to spend the greater part of their lives in Texas. They had two sons, Thomas McDonald (1925) and Harold Eugene (1928). Dr. Maston spent more than four decades as student and professor in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

Who was T. B. Maston? What kind of person was he? The attempt to answer those questions has been the most difficult part of the preparation of this speech. To describe facts and events and ideas can be somewhat routine, but to put into words the essence of a complex human being can be a daunting experience. My aim, at least in this part of my presentation, is to describe Dr. Maston so accurately that he could recognize himself in that description.

He was a gentle and genial man. He could be firm when necessary, firm without being harsh or hard or overbearing. He was resilient, flexible. he had a delightful sense of humor. He could laugh at himself. He was open-minded - open to the truth, open to others. He was approachable, accessible. He was open to other viewpoints. For someone to disagree with him was not a challenge to his ego.

He was genuinely humble. He was self-effacing, without being self-conscious about it. He was responsive to others and their needs, problems, sufferings, defeats, and their calls for help. He was a man of love, the agape kind of love, the kind defined by Dr. W. T. Conner as "active good will." A renowned New Testament scholar wrote that the English word that most accurately expresses the meaning of agape is the word "selflessness." That could be the word that most completely epitomizes the character of T. B. Maston.

A Family Man

Dr. Maston was a family man. His life was centered around his wife and their two sons, Tom Mc and Gene. His former students remember his stress on the home as the first institution founded by God and his admonition to them never to forget, in all their obsession with their pastoral and church duties, that their first and most important responsibility is to their families. He certainly always applied this to his own life.

I remember watching him at dinner as he held Tom Mc's head up with one hand and fe him spoonful-by-spoonful with the other, occasionally taking a bite for himself from his own plate. Too, I remember going to their home on a hot day while Dr. Maston was cutting the grass, all the while keeping Tom Mc in the shade and on the side of the house where he was working and where Tom Mc could watch the cars and people go by. On another occasion when the Mastons were visiting us, Dr. Maston and I went to church. Mrs. Maston and Vivian stayed at home with Tom Mc. Vivian said that she and Mrs. Maston were talking and Tom Mc was sitting motionless and expressionless until he heard Dr. Maston's voice as the two of us entered the house. She said that Tom Mc straightened up and brightened markedly at the sound. Tom Mc had to be helped in everything. He could not turn over in bed, so the Mastons turned him over during the night. When the Mastons went to Beirut, Lebanon, for Dr. Maston's teaching stint there, they discovered that Tom Mc was a good traveller.

 

 

 

Moral Integrity

Dr. Maston's character and, as well, his approach to both the interpersonal and intergroup expressions of moral wrong was marked by (1) moral sensitivitiy, (2) moral integrity, and (3) moral courage. He was sensitive to every expression of moral deviance and sensitive to and sympathetic with the struggle of people to overcome their human limitations and gain control over sin's attraction and its power over them. As for integrity, one dictionary defines it this way: "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." (Random House) Another offers this: "the condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting." (Compact OED) The term "moral integrity" would certainly apply to Dr. Maston. Finally, to challenge the forces of hatred and prejudice in the struggle to secure justice for African Americans and for American Labor required moral courage of the highest order.

Beginning of a Lifetime of Ministry

This man whom we have been describing, T. B. Maston, was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, on November 26, 1897. He graduated from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee in 1920. A fellow graduate was Miss Essie Mae McDonald. Both these young people had felt the call of God for special Christian service during college days. After graduation, they enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in the fall of 1920.

Although they were planning to be married, they thought that they should wait until they had completed their seminary work before marrying. During their first year at Southwestern, they observed that a large proportion of the student body was composed of young married couples. So, when they went back home for the summer recess, they were married on June 11, 1921, and returned to Southwestern in the fall as married students.