Tidwell Bible Building

Tidwell Bible Building stands as a physical memorial not only to the formation of Baylor’s modern Department of Religion, but also as a symbol of the university’s dedication to Christian ideals.

Prior to 1910, Baylor’s Bible Department offered primarily professional training for ministers. Yet the entire department moved to Fort Worth after becoming a theological seminary officially independent of the university in 1908. As the new head of the Baylor religion department, Josiah Blake Tidwell shifted the focus of the department toward the education of undergraduates. Though it reflected Tidwell’s highly traditional and conservative values, he viewed the department as a primarily academic department, and his work served as the origin for the current religion department.

Strongly influenced by his work, 125 of Tidwell’s students met at the Baptist General Convention of Texas at Mineral Wells in 1936 to discuss plans to erect a building on the Baylor campus bearing his name. Although the students launched a fundraising campaign for the construction of a simple building that same year, it took nearly eighteen years for the realization of their vision.

As enrollment increased at Baylor University and classroom space dwindled, the Tidwell Bible Building Committee formed in the mid-1940s when the university realized the practical need for a new building for the religion department. The committee employed different marketing strategies in order to obtain enough money to complete the project. For instance, December 2, 1945 was declared Tidwell Bible Building Day, and Baptist churches throughout the state took up collections to fund the construction. But it was a pamphlet produced in the late-1940s and early-1950s bearing Guy A. Carlander’s suggested design for a grandiose building which ultimately secured enough pledges for the groundbreaking ceremony to take place in 1949.

Baylor president W. R. White spoke at the dedication held in Tidwell Bible Building’s Miller Memorial Chapel on October 22, 1954. Designed by the architectural firm Birch D. Easterwood and Son to bear enough symbolism to indicate its use for religious purposes without resembling a church structure, the seven-floor building cost around $600,000 to construct.

Sixty-eight limestone panels depicting biblical scenes make up one of the most distinctive features of the building. Planned by Baylor religion professors and designed and carved by Ira Correll and son, the ornate panels encircle the building twice bearing images of stories from both the Old and New Testament.

In addition to housing enough classroom space for up to 800 students, the new building also held space for the Tidwell Bible Library, office space for faculty, and Miller Memorial Chapel. Since its dedication in 1953, the structure has housed classes for the religion, history, philosophy, sociology, nursing, modern foreign language, and sacred music departments. Today, Tidwell Bible Building remains home to the religion and history departments, and towers over the campus as a physical reminder of the university’s commitment to Christian ideals and education. 

Images

Souvenir Postcard

Souvenir Postcard

Designed to bear religious symbolism without resembling a church structure, Tidwell Bible Building towered over Baylor in 1954 as a symbol of the university's commitment to Christian beliefs. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A Prankster's Warning

A Prankster's Warning

According to a university newsletter, an unknown prankster posted a large banner near the construction site of Tidwell Bible Building on April 12, 1953. Proverbs 26:27 reads, "Who diggeth a pit shall fall therein; and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Construction Begins

Construction Begins

Baylor University contracted Leslie Crockett Construction Company of Austin to build the $590,00 building designed to honor the legacy of Josiah Blake Tidwell, to meet the needs of the growing campus, and to provide a location for the Bible Department's library. View File Details Page

Biblical Imagery

Biblical Imagery

The panels lining the tower of Tidwell Bible Building depict Old Testament stories such as the tale of the Israelites' servitude, the call of Moses, and Moses appearing before Pharaoh, which are depicted in this image. The New Testament panels begin on the west side of the building. Although more panels were planned, only sixty-eight were completed due to budget concerns. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Long Awaited

Long Awaited

The dedication of Tidwell Bible Building was met with much excitement. Miller Chapel was filled to its five-hundred-seat capacity with donors, benefactors, and students eager to honor the legacy of Professor J. B. Tidwell. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A New Home

A New Home

The need for a location for the Bible Department's library was one of the reasons for the construction of Tidwell Bible Building. In this photograph, Dr. B. O. Herring stands with Dr. Josiah Blake Tidwell in the Tidwell Bible Library when it was first housed in Carroll Library. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Sacred Space

Sacred Space

As the oldest existing chapel on the Baylor campus, Miller Chapel has provided a quiet place for prayer and meditation for students and faculty for many years. In the mid-afternoon, the chapel is filled with blue and green hues as afternoon light shines through the stained glass windows and illuminates the pews. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A Generous Donation

A Generous Donation

Tidwell Library provided a home for many rare books possessed by the university. In this photoraph, R. W. Severance, librarian, Dr. Humphrey, professor of Bible, and President W. R. White examine four rare English Bibles which had been donated to the Tidwell Bible Library by Ray Dudley, Baylor trustee and former student. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Room to Grow

Room to Grow

Meeting the needs of the rapidly expanding university, Tidwell housed classes for over seven academic departments following its dedication in 1954. Today, the history department and the religion department, which has its roots in J. B. Tidwell's early-twentieth-century classes, reside in the building. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amanda Sawyer and Ezra Reilly, “Tidwell Bible Building,” Waco History, accessed May 23, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/102.

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