Founder was visionary, service-minded man in community

Release Date: August 8, 2008

PLAINVIEW – As Wayland Baptist University begins its Centennial Celebration this month, it is fitting that the first official event celebrates the man behind the university’s inception.

The theme for the year, “Dreams to Reality” was chosen because the university stands as a testament to the dream of Dr. James Henry Wayland, a pioneer physician, and his work and personal sacrifice of making the dream of higher education for the children of the high plains a reality so many years ago.

“Just as Dr. Wayland had a dream so many years ago that came true, so we believe Wayland Baptist University has been instrumental in helping students make their own dreams reality for 100 years,” said Hope English, chair of the centennial celebration. “The new statue honoring Dr. Wayland is testimony to the power of dreams and sacrifice to really make a difference in the world.”

Though he died 60 years ago, Dr. J.H. Wayland’s service has had a far-reaching impact for more than the century the university has been in existence. His desire to better the world started decades earlier.

Born April 22, 1863, in Missouri, the doctor attended medical school in Kentucky and moved to Texas at the age of 20 to begin his practice. Boarding with a family in Parker County, near Weatherford, he soon fell in love with their daughter, Sarah Tucker, and the two soon wed in 1883. While family legend claims the Waylands were originally Methodists, he converted to the Baptist denomination in order to win the hand of his bride-to-be.

The newlyweds moved to Hunt County and then on to Hale County in 1891, seeking the higher and drier climate that would keep the doctor’s asthma in check. At the time their family was growing, with three children already, and the plains offered a new start and a place to care for the people of West Texas. Dr. Wayland was the second doctor in the growing area, and he later opened a drugstore to serve the city as well.

As their family grew, the Waylands built a large home off the Runningwater Draw, located about where Don’s Photography is now on Fifth Street. “The Big House,” as it was called, was one of the larger family homes in Plainview and was quite the hub of social activity, especially after church on Sunday mornings.

The couple joined the First Baptist Church soon after moving to town and became active members in the growing congregation, serving there for 57 years. He also served as a member of the executive board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Soon, the doctor began to see a need for higher education in the expanse of the high plains, and he felt strongly that an education grounded in faith in Christ was key. Though other Baptist schools had struggled in small regions or from great competition, the denomination still pushed for educational institutions in the state.

In 1906, Dr. and Mrs. Wayland offered $10,000 and 25 acres of land to the Staked Plains Association to form a Baptist school, contingent upon churches and the area raising another $40,000. The association took the challenge and entered into an agreement, and Wayland Baptist University was chartered on August 31, 1908. Dr. Wayland continued to support and give to the school, giving more than $100,000 over his lifetime, which was an enormous sum of money in the early 1900s.

“While the cost to some of us was enormous, we do not regret that, and we are very much pleased over the results of our gift, for we have seen many great and noble boys and girls leaving Wayland Baptist College to exit upon their life’s work – not only in this great State of Texas but in many other states and even foreign fields,” Dr. Wayland said in a lengthy interview with Hale County historian Mary Cox in 1933.

Throughout his years of service to the people of West Texas, Dr. Wayland promoted many special projects in Plainview. He was instrumental in bringing the railroad to town in 1907. He also donated land for parks, served on the city council and promoted such ideas as paved streets, street cars and eliminating outhouses from the alleyways downtown. He and Sarah had nine children, three of whom preceded him in death. Marvin died as a toddler in Hunt County. Catherine Leola died at the age of 10, Beulah, died from complications of child birth after giving birth to their first grandchild, also named Beulah. Dr. Wayland was survived by his other six children, Mabel, John, Sarah, Mary and the twins Marguerite and Robert.

Dr. and Mrs. Wayland also raised their grandchild, Beulah. The baby’s father, Rosser Winn, was grief stricken when his wife died in child birth and moved to Yuma, Ariz., where he lived until his death in 1949. The Waylands couldn’t bear to be separated from their grandchild – who was only two years younger than the Wayland twins – and asked if she could stay to be raised with their children. Winn agreed and she lived as one of the Wayland children, visiting her father when she could.

Dr. Wayland gave up his medical practice in 1921, but continued to operate a small cattle ranch and the Wayland Hotel. As time passed, he battled health issues including adult onset diabetes, which eventually caused circulation problems that led to an amputated leg. He never fully recovered from the surgery and died on Feb. 6, 1948, at the age of 84. Sarah continued to live in Plainview until her death on Oct. 29, 1955.

Though they have been gone many years now, the legacy of the Wayland family lives on though his dream of a faith-based school that is now one of the largest Southern Baptist schools in the nation.

Thought not a large man in stature – certainly not so when he moved to the plains weighing a sickly 108 pounds – Dr. Wayland left an indelible mark on the city, the region and now the world as Wayland University boasts 14 campuses reaching students of all ages, races and backgrounds. All are united by the dream of education that opens doors, one first held by the school’s founding father. As university historian Dr. Estelle Owens once said, “Dr. Wayland was a giant of a man who stood only 5-feet, 4-inches tall.”

In the introduction to a volume of the Hale County History devoted to the pioneer doctor, he was lauded for his spirit, his care and his vision.

“Without a doubt, Dr. J.H. Wayland is one of the cornerstones of Hale County heritage. In every sense of the word, he was a true pioneer. But he was more. He was both a hard-headed realist and a far-sighted visionary. He lived courageously in his own time but dared to dream impossible dreams for the future. Yet he did more than dream, and today Plainview, Hale County, yea all of West Texas, bears witness to the feet which he put to his faith.

“What made J.H. Wayland a great man? It certainly was not his wealth, for though much money and land passed through his hands, he never placed great stock in accumulated wealth. Nor was it power, for patriarch that he was in his own family, he seldom attempted to exploit or manipulate another person’s life.

“His power and greatness lay in his spirit, a spirit as far-reaching as the limits of his medical practice… His was the spirit of the pioneers – faith, hope, adventure, compassion and self-reliance. Yet, he never lived unto himself, and today Hale County bears the benchmark of his great stewardship.”