By Marv Knox
Heaven became a happier, funnier, more joyful place early in the morning of June 14, when Babs Baugh joined the heavenly chorus. Most likely, she started choreographing dance steps to enliven divine music.
Across almost eight decades, Babs sparked joy and laughter and purpose wherever she traveled and in the lives of whoever enjoyed the blessing of her company. Babs loved music and art and beauty because they reflect God’s creativity. She loved laughter and fun, because they lift the hearts of people. She loved Jesus, but you can bet she loved his church almost as much, because it’s his presence here on Earth.
Babs was many people rolled into one effervescent person. Most people knew her as a Christian philanthropist, whose vision and generosity empowered many causes, most of them Baptist. She was a musician, who not only performed beautifully, but also helped other folks sing and dance beyond their dreams. She was a faithful church member, who gave of her time and talents to make her congregation strong and vibrant. She was a champion of historic Baptist principles, who ably filled the legendary shoes of her parents, Eula Mae and John Baugh, in championing religious liberty, church-state separation, the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of all believers.
Babs was all that and more. But what I’m most grateful for is simpler and more personal. Babs was my friend.
Please indulge just a few stories. They’re mine, but they reflect the stories of countless others, because Babs’ friends are legion.
We met on a cloudy afternoon at a church in San Antonio. By then, I’d known her father for years, because I was a journalist, and he was a newsmaker. I’d covered his efforts to save the Southern Baptist Convention from a right-wing takeover and then to help launch a new movement that became the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I admired him enormously.
Babs and I felt we already ought to know each other, because Mr. Baugh connected us. Not surprisingly, we hit it off. While we talked, she tuned out the crowd, and I felt we were alone in that space, catching up on common causes and people and fun. Later, as I watched her walk to her car, I knew I had just found a friend for life.
The first time I spent the night in Babs’ home, and she had coffee brewed when the rest of us entered her kitchen. She fried up a slab of bacon, and then broke eggs directly into the skillet, without pouring off any grease. She saw my eyes widen, grinned and said something like, “Life is short, and bacon and fried eggs—shared with friends—are about as good as it gets. So, eat up, mister!” That pretty much summed up her philosophy of life and relationships. And I can close my eyes and hear her voice and still taste those eggs.
Much later, Babs turned what I thought would be one of the worst days of my life into one of the most grace-full. The Baugh Foundation provided major funding for a Baptist Standard website/social network we called Faith Village. We built it from scratch and reached about 40,000 young adults a month. But we couldn’t figure out how to sustain it. So, I woke up that morning committed to calling Babs and a few others to tell them the sad news.
Babs listened patiently as I contritely reported what I felt was a personal failure. “Oh, Marv, we knew this was a risk,” she said. “We realized the odds for this to work out were long, but it was worth it. And we know all of you did your best. We’re grateful to have the blessing of being part of Faith Village.” Then she went on to tell me about how her father almost lost his proverbial shirt in a big-and-noble venture and assured me faith is about following God’s lead and serving others, not counting successes.
Babs and the Baugh Foundation also made Fellowship Southwest possible. Their grant sustains this ministry, but it’s their vision that fuels it. I pray our work across the region and in northern Mexico will last for generations and always will be remembered as part of Babs’ legacy.
One of Babs’ great gifts to so many people was her endeavor as a matriarch. She wasn’t our mother or grandmother, but she helped raise up generations who carry on the Baugh Family legacy—her daughters, Jackie and Julie, her son-in-law, Kim, and their children and grandchild. I hear Babs’ laughter in their voices and see her smile in their faces.
Babs lives in heaven now. But she left behind causes she championed, ministries she enabled and a family she loved first, last and always.
Marv Knox is coordinator of Fellowship Southwest, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship network across Arizona, New Mexico, northern Mexico, Oklahoma, Southern California and Texas. For many of the years he knew Babs, he was editor of the Baptist Standard, news organization for Baptists in Texas.