It was a cold day in December 1953 when a group of Southern Baptist denominational employees met in a small room of the Sam Davis Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the feasibility of planning an organization consisting of people who worked for the denomination in areas of public relations.
Nine persons- representatives of eight Southern Baptist institutions- were in attendance:
- Joe Abrams, The Baptist Record;
- Arther S. Davenport, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma;
- Frances Davis, SBC Executive Committee;
- Badgett Dillard, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary;
- Clarence Duncan, Radio and Television Commission;
- Agnes Ford, Sunday School Board;
- Leonard Holloway, Baptist General Convention of Texas;
- Albert McClellan, Executive Committee; and
- R. Alton Reed, Relief and Annuity Board.
At that 1953 Nashville meeting, the Baptist Public Relations Association was conceived. Leonard Holloway was elected chairman of a committee for "the organization of public relations, publications, and promotional representatives for Southern Baptists."
Following the historic Nashville session, these individuals met and drafted a constitution and bylaws for the new organization, to be presented at the group’s next meeting. It included seven articles with accompanying bylaws for duties of officers and committees, dues, voting and holding office, quorum and change of bylaws, and it spelled out these requirements for charter membership:
…individuals who attended the planning-organization meeting in Nashville in December 1953, and other eligible individuals who expressed a desire for membership by communication with the temporary chairman prior to the conclusion of the 1954 Southern Baptist Convention.
Later it was agreed that anyone who joined BPRA during 1954 also would be a charter member. The result was 24 charter members:
Hazel Rogers Bland
Arthur S. Davenport
Ben C. Fisher
Cort R. Flint
Agnes G. Ford
R. Alton Reed
James M. Sapp
Leonard E. Wedel
During the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention held in St. Louis, Mo., in 1954, the original nine plus six other persons met on June 3 at the Jefferson Hotel for the founding of the Baptist Public Relations Association.
Founding members approved and adopted the constitution and bylaws, with minor changes, as recommended by the committee named at the Nashville meeting. Joe Abrams was elected the first president of the organization.
As a result of quality membership and outstanding leadership, the association has prospered for over 40 years. The organization’s constitution and bylaws have remained relatively unchanged; and its officers have stayed true to the original intentions of the association’s founding members.
In 1996, members voted to change the name of the organization to Baptist Communicators Association. At the time, leadership cited factors such as the expansion of technology and the ever-changing professional responsibilities of its membership as reasons for the change. The new name reflects a broader membership, one which not only includes public relations professionals, but all Baptist communication professionals who promote Baptist causes around the globe.