Posts Tagged ‘Carl Johnson’

By Jeannie Dortch.

Jim Somerville reminds First Baptist Church members frequently that there are a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth, in Richmond and throughout the world. One of them is giving to FBC’s Endowment Fund. This Fund was established in 1913 with small gifts left by two members who foresaw the potential their generosity held for the future.

Woods and MCV Wood Memorial Building

Dr. Judson Wood and his wife, Mrs. Bettie Davis Wood. An unexpected windfall from FBC member, Judson B. Wood, allowed the Medical College
of Virginia to build their School of Dentistry’s Wood Memorial Building.
The building was dedicated January, 1954.
Photos from http://www.dentistry.vcu.edu/pdfs/winter2008_mag.pdf.

In 1938, the Endowment’s resources increased considerably with Bettie Davis Wood’s bequest of more than $1,000,000. This gift, however, was not initially earmarked for FBC. The story of how it came to the church demonstrates the effect of seemingly unconnected events.

An unpopular professor at Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) was fed up with one particular prank. His students persisted in bringing a small dog to class. One day, strained to his limit, the professor ordered the dog dropped out the window, a distance of about ten feet to the ground. Knowing this to be a possibility, the students had asked a cohort to stand guard under the window. The dog was safely caught, but the incident was reported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Dr. Judson Wood, husband of Bettie Wood, was a graduate of Richmond College, president of its Alumnae Association, one of the first graduate dentists to practice in Richmond, and also president of the local chapter of the SPCA. Incensed by the dog incident, he felt duty-bound to sue his alma mater. Since the dog was not injured, the court dismissed the case, but Dr. Wood cut off all relations with Richmond College, an intended beneficiary, and changed his will. At his death, over a million dollars was left to the Medical College of Virginia instead of Richmond College.

A million bucks out the window

Photo by Dean Hawthorne. “The Annunciation to Mary” is one of two windows dedicated “In Grateful remembrance of Dr. and Mrs. Judson Wood” by the First Baptist Church Endowment Fund. It is located on the east side of the main floor of the Sanctuary and is the second window from the Monument Avenue entrance.
Its companion window, “The Gifts of God,”
is in the corresponding position in the balcony.

Efforts by Frederick W. Boatwright, president of Richmond College, to conciliate Mrs. Wood and win back her favor – and money – proved fruitless. Mrs. Wood, a lifelong member of FBC, was married to Dr. Wood for 47 years. With no children of their own, the Woods focused much of their service on their church, which she chose as her beneficiary. When she died in 1938, Mrs. Wood bequeathed more than one million dollars to FBC. It was only after Mrs. Wood’s death that President Boatwright, also an FBC member, shared this story of how the Woods’ fortune was tossed out the window.

Author’s note: Pamphlets related to the history and ministries supported by the Endowment Fund can be found in the church kiosks. Copies of the fully illustrated Memorial Windows written by Theodore F. Adams and The Open Door, the church’s history from 1780-2005, are available for checkout or purchase in the church library.

Editor’s note: According to FBC Endowment Board President Carl Johnson, this fund began with small donations and grew with gifts from the Woods and many others. It expressed its appreciation for the Woods’ gift and service with the dedication of two windows in the sanctuary, “The Annunciation to Mary” and its companion, “The Gifts of God” in 1949. The Endowment Fund continues to help First Baptist fulfill its mission, giving away $22,000,000 in just the past 20 years.

Jeannie DortchJeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but is presently a member of the WebClass. A retired teacher, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, ringing bells with FBC’s newly formed senior adult Joy Ringers directed by Ruth Szucs, and writing articles for FTF.

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