Meeting Dr. Hawkins

Dr. O.S. Hawkins

Dr. O. S. Hawkins

Dr. O. S. Hawkins is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of GuideStone Financial Resources for the Southern Baptist Convention, a position he has held since 1997. GuideStone provides financial and retirement benefits for the many ministers of the SBC, and is the largest Christian based mutual fund in the world with funds exceeding 13 billion dollars. Dr. Hawkins has distinguished himself in his position by providing excellent leadership skills combined with loving, compassionate financial advice for tens of thousands of ministers and their families. Dr. Hawkins has not spent all of his professional life in administrative work. The early part and perhaps the most productive and personally rewarding part of his ministry life was as pastor of various churches, both small and very large.

I first heard of Dr. Hawkins when he was the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Cathy’s Mom (Gram Young) and her Dad (Granddaddy Young) were from families who were pioneer settlers of this beautiful and famous south Florida city. Gram Young served the city as a member of the City Commission during the years of 1971-1985 and was either Mayor, Vice Mayor or Mayor Pro-Tem during those years. Following her service as City Commissioner she was appointed to the Downtown Development Authority, a position she held from 1986 to 1993.

She and Dr. Hawkins became good friends despite the fact Gram and Granddaddy Young had been active members of Park Temple Methodist Church for years. Gram and Dr. Hawkins had breakfast together with several other prominent men every Sunday morning at the Riverside Hotel, a landmark hotel which was constructed in 1936 on East Las Olas Boulevard by the Young Construction Company. In the early 1980’s Cathy and I had visited First Baptist Church to hear Dr. Hawkins preach on two separate occasions while visiting her parents but never had the privilege of meeting him.

In June 1985 while serving as a deacon at First Baptist Church in El Dorado I decided to attend the annual Southern Baptist Convention held that year in Dallas, Texas. It was to be a watershed year in terms of the struggle for leadership between the moderates and conservatives of the convention, and approximately 45,000 delegates (messengers) were signed to attend. Cathy was not able to go with me because her parents were in El Dorado visiting with their grandchildren. Our pastor, Dr. Mark Coppenger was in attendance with his wife Sharon, and we were the three messengers from our church.

Dr. Hawkins was President of the Pastor’s Conference that year, and all speakers of the preliminary conference were strong conservatives advocating a return to conservative leadership. Brother Mark and I were attending the final portion of the Pastor’s Conference on Monday morning, and when it was over we wanted to make our way to the front of the auditorium to meet Dr. Hawkins. There were at least two hundred people ahead of us, and we decided to forego meeting him at that time. I jokingly said (and perhaps a little haughtily), “I’m not worried. Before the day is over, Dr. Hawkins will come up and ask to meet me!!” Mark left to have lunch with his wife, and I milled around the convention center to just experience such a historic meeting. I had conversations with several messengers and asked them questions about their beliefs concerning the direction of the convention and how they might vote. The majority of people I polled were conservatives.

I noticed a small crowd gathering down near the street, and it appeared someone had fallen so I approached. An older woman had made a misstep off the curb and had fallen in an awkward manner. She could not stand, and after a brief exam I was certain she had fractured her hip. I asked someone to summon an ambulance and stayed with her to bring her some comfort as a physician. As the ambulance approached she asked me to send a message to her pastor who was there from Wichita Falls, so he could contact her family where the ambulance was taking her.

I went directly to the Press Room to have her pastor notified by a message which would appear on the screens in the main conference room. There were about twenty-five people in the bustling room, but I was standing next to a middle-aged man with the name on his official name tag: “Whiddon—Florida”. I asked, ” Excuse me, are you Gene Whiddon from Fort Lauderdale?” He was shocked I would know his name and said, “Yes I am. Do I know you?” I said, “No, but you are good friends with my mother-in-law, Virginia Young.” I heard her talk often about Gene Whiddon who was President of Causeway Lumber Company with whom they had done business for many years. Gene said, “I know you are from Arkansas because I talked with Virginia just this morning, and she said they were there visiting.” Gene  said he was in the Press Room with his pastor who was scheduled for a press interview. “Is your pastor O.S. Hawkins?” I asked. “He sure is. Would you like for me to introduce you?” He brought Dr. Hawkins over, and I finally met him. We had a wonderful conversation about Gram Young and all the good things she had done and was doing for the city of Fort Lauderdale. I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to tell Dr. Coppenger about Dr. Hawkins coming to meet me!”

In my current responsibility as a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention I get to fellowship with Dr. Hawkins whenever we meet, and have introduced Cathy to him. He is always gracious and kind to us, and we remind him of the impact he once had on our beloved Gram Young. We never could get her to consider switching their membership from Park Temple Methodist to First Baptist because she said, “His preaching and invitations are too long.” She might have been right, but Dr. Hawkins not only impacted her for Christ, but countless others in Fort Lauderdale and every other place he has served. I thank God for such a servant leader!

Dr. John


Borrowing Money From Gram Young

1969 Fiat Spider

1969 Fiat Spider

When Cathy and I lived in New Orleans during my surgery residency days at Charity Hospital we were doing surprisingly well on poverty level income. For my first year of residency and our first year of marriage the hospital paid me the paltry sum of $125 per month, which based on a one hundred and twenty hour work week amounts to approximately twenty-six cents per hour. Not bad for a hospital to hire a surgeon at that wage even though I was in training. Cathy’s salary as an elementary school teacher, although small by today’s standard, kept a roof over our head and food on our table. At one point that first year we asked an official of the state of Louisiana if we qualified for food stamps and were told from a financial standpoint we did qualify, but the state would not issue food stamps to a medical doctor. Go figure! Because we had no indebtedness and were frugal in our spending neither Cathy nor I considered ourselves poor.

During my second year of residency a representative group of interns and residents at Charity Hospital appealed to the hospital board and the state of Louisiana for a significant raise in salary, and it was granted. I was then paid the unheard of sum of $500 per month, and Cathy and I thought we suddenly had struck it rich! We had learned to live on so little we were able to put money into a savings account for the following year. In July, 1967 we were blessed with the birth of our son John Aaron, and our new expenses caused us to begin using our savings. We had two automobiles which we each owned before marriage and had no indebtedness on either.

In the fall of 1968, we decided we could get along well with only one car so we sold my Corvair Monza and traded Cathy’s Cutlass for a Dodge Station Wagon. I was able to ride to and from Charity Hospital with my surgical colleague, Jack Welch who lived nearby. That arrangement worked very well for us during my last year of residency, because I seldom had to go back to the hospital at night even when on-call. I simply allowed the third year resident to resolve problem consultations, because they were required to stay in the hospital on their call nights.

Upon completion of my training, I had a two year commitment for active duty in the US Air Force. I was certain I would be sent to Viet Nam, because the war there was near its’ peak, and I was a fully trained surgeon from the “battlefields” of New Orleans. In the wisdom of the military, however I was assigned to the Air Training Command Base at Valdosta, Georgia which was Moody Air Force Base. Several months before I was to report for duty Cathy and I realized we again needed a second vehicle, since we would be living in town and the base was a ten mile drive. Our problem was our ability to pay for  an automobile even an inexpensive one.

While visiting Cathy’s parents in Fort Lauderdale we discussed our situation with them, and her mother (Gram Young) offered to loan us enough money for the car stating “we could pay her back when we could afford to.” That sounded like a great plan to us, but we set a two year limit on the payoff, and we agreed to send her a check each month.

We shopped for a suitable car in Fort Lauderdale, and I found the perfect one for me a 1969 Fiat Spider (pictured above). The car was purchased in my name with a check given us by Gram Young. We used the bank interest rate at the time to calculate the two year payout, and Cathy and I signed a hand-written promissory note to Gram. She said we didn’t have to do that, but we insisted not wanting to take advantage of her generosity.

For the next two years we faithfully sent her a check each month, and I included a hand- written note telling her how we were doing and what our plans were for the following month. Every time we saw her and many of the times when we talked with her by phone, she would tell us how she enjoyed our notes.

Finally near the end of our two years in Valdosta I mailed her the last payment on the Fiat, and Cathy and I breathed a sigh of relief to again be debt-free. For years afterwards whenever she thought about it Gram would say, “Can’t I make you another loan? I loved getting those notes from you each month!” I now regret having stopped writing her, but we did talk with her often by phone and made frequent family visits to Fort Lauderdale. She and Granddaddy Young came to El Dorado at least twice each year and would stay with us for five to seven days. I have to admit Gram Young was the most generous and wonderful creditor we ever had!

Dr. John

PS: We sold our 1964 Corvair Monza convertible to Cathy’s Uncle Bobby Shuman for $500. He got a great bargain. Today the same vehicle would sell for ten times that amount! 😦