Granddaughter recalls Wayland during Founders Day celebration

PLAINVIEW – Those gathered on the steps of historic Gates Hall Thursday evening were given a colorful glimpse of the Wayland Baptist University’s founder as Linda Adkins, granddaughter of Dr. James Henry Wayland, spoke of her childhood with “Mamaw and Papaw”.

Adkins was joined by Dr. Estelle Owens, Emeritus Professor of History and University Historian, as well as Dr Claude Lusk, Senior Vice President of Operations and Student Life, who served as master of ceremonies for Founders Day, a celebration of Wayland’s 115th anniversary.

“He called her Sally, and she called him Jimmy,” Adkins said. “They were always making their future plans and hopes. They made the decision together as they grew older to leave their family home at 1501 W. Fifth St and turn it into apartments, just to make a little much-needed money. So, they moved to the Wayland Hotel at the southwest corner of Broadway and Fifth and lived their older years there renting hotel rooms.”

“My family lived in the Big House, as the Wayland home was known,” Adkins said as she explained that “carefree days” were spent with her grandparents at the hotel. “My brother and I roamed the halls and found all the secret nooks and crannies that old building had to offer.”

She then painted a picture of big Sunday dinners where “Granddaddy had absolutely no guilt when he invited people randomly to come and eat” and where “white linen table clothes and napkins with ‘Wayland Hotel’ embroidered discreetly on the corners in royal blue” were used.

She also spoke of Dr. Wayland’s final days when “he no longer saw patients, no longer bustled about town, making his will known to all the business leaders he knew. He no longer had people coming by and asking his advice about matters of concern in our community.”

“He had diabetes and there were no miracle drugs available to him to keep it under control,” she said. “He had one leg amputated, so he was partially bedfast, but never think he did not rule his little kingdom at the hotel the same way he had done the city and the college when he was younger.”

Adkins recalled long talks she and her brother, Bill, had with “Granddaddy,” noting the many good times they had together.

“All good things must end, and in 1948 Granddaddy became gravely ill,” she said. “He was going to have his other leg amputated, but God looked down on him with favor and did not want him to go through this pain. So, He took him to heaven to live with him until the time came that we would all join him there. Our large happy family has now dwindled to two — my cousin Betty and me. The time will come when we will be one big happy family again, and we will talk about the Big House and the hotel and all the good times there was with Mamaw and Papaw.”

Quoting II Corinthians 4:7-10, Owens said, “Those verses could have been written to describe our major founders, James Henry and Sarah Frances Tucker Wayland. Married for more than 60 years, they lived through plenty of troubles and hurts, including the deaths of three of their children and knowing that not even his skills as a physician could save them. They were grief-stricken, but not defeated. They faced the ravages of diabetes that cost him his legs, but they were not destroyed. They lived to see their home cut up into apartments because they needed money, but they soldiered on in the assurance that God would never leave them. If they had never given a dime to establish a college, their lives would have been a great testament to sacrificial living and serving others. That they did give of their financial means to establish the university that bears their name showed them going farther, doing more, caring more, praying more, being more — and bringing others along with them to make the college both a reality and a success.”

“Although 11 other colleges had already been founded in this area by 1908, most of them had failed by the time he proposed establishing one in Plainview,” Owens said. “Doing that in conjunction with the Staked Plains Baptist Association and the city of Plainview was a bold, daring, risky move that could so easily have gone badly wrong.”

“In their lifetime, they gave the modern equivalent of $2.5 million of their income, which meant their own family did without some things they otherwise would have had,” the historian said. “That’s an enormous amount of money from a pioneer doctor who was often paid in chickens or a side of beef because that was all his patients had. More people caught the vision of a local denominational college that would educate their children and attract still more settlers to the area.”

“The Waylands showed us what it looks like when we do all we can do, and then do more; when we pray as hard as we can, and then pray more; when we care all we can, and then care more; when we give all we can and then give more; when we’re being all we can be and then becoming even more.”

The program also featured Wayland’s International Choir singing the school’s alma mater. After the ceremony, cake was served, and students participated in games on the lawn in front of Gate Hall.