Porter W. Routh
Executive Secretary-Treasurer, 1951-1979
Porter W. Routh was born in Lockhart, Texas, into a renowned Baptist family. His father was a pastor, editor, and denominational leader. The names and faces of learned and accomplished Baptist statesmen were commonplace in his home, preparing him for a lifetime of service to Southern Baptists. A layman, Routh attended his first SBC annual meeting in 1939 and did not miss attending the annual meeting for more than forty years.
Routh met Ruth Elizabeth Purtle while they were students at Oklahoma Baptist University. They were married for fifty-one years and had five children. He became an instructor in journalism at his alma mater and later was editor of the state convention’s Baptist Message. He also served as secretary of brotherhood and promotion for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
In the post-war era, he was secretary of survey, statistics, and information for the Baptist Sunday School Board and was elected SBC senior (recording) secretary for six terms. In 1951, he was elected SBC treasurer and executive secretary-treasurer for the SBC Executive Committee, a position he held for almost twenty-eight years. He was the author of five books and was awarded honorary degrees from Oklahoma Baptist University, Wake Forest University, and Georgetown College.
Following his retirement in 1979, Routh continued to be active in Southern Baptist life, serving as interim executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and as an adjunct professor at three SBC seminaries. He and his wife visited numerous Southern Baptist mission fields.
Routh served as a Southern Baptist representative to the Baptist World Alliance until 1985, serving as the program chairman for the 1985 BWA meeting, and was an SBC representative on the board of managers of the of the American Bible Society until his death in 1987. In 1986, he received the first Joseph M. Dawson Religious Liberty Award from the Baptist Joint Committee.
A resolution of appreciation adopted by the Convention in 1979 noted Routh’s “personal dedication to Jesus Christ, his personal discipline as an accomplished administrator and leader, and his personal loyalty to Baptist ideas and causes.” It noted he had been “supremely faithful to the mission and ministry of the local Baptist churches in which he has held membership” and called him “a worthy exemplar for other devoted churchmen.”
- Routh successfully created a synergistic relationship with the Home Mission Board for numerous church-assistance initiatives, including the HMB church loan ministry.
- Under Routh’s leadership, the Cooperative Program budget process grew into a three-tier process: CP allocation budget, CP capital needs budget, and CP advance (challenge) budget.
- As the number of SBC agencies grew and building programs expanded, Routh sought to broaden CP support, establishing the Stewardship Commission in 1960.
- Routh helped shepherd the 1959–1964 Baptist Jubilee Advance with other North American Baptists to carry out “all phases of the Great Commission with zeal and fervor.”