At a ceremony January 25 in Waco, Texas, Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director J. Brent Walker was inducted into the Baylor University Alumni Association Hall of Fame for his work defending religious freedom.
Walker, a graduate of the University of Florida, Southern Seminary and the Stetson University College of Law, received the Abner V. McCall Religious Liberty Award. The award honors individuals with close ties to Baylor who “like the award’s namesake … have demonstrated the courage and dedication to defend and advocate for religious liberty.”
McCall was a justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1956, dean of the Baylor Law School from 1948 to 1959 and Baylor president from 1961 to 1981.
In his remarks, Walker lauded McCall for being a strong champion of religious liberty and the Baptist Joint Committee and for helping the organization “negotiate those difficult days of separation from the Southern Baptist Convention.” He was “instrumental in garnering the support of Texas Baptists that continues today,” Walker said.
Walker said he gladly accepts the award, “but it really belongs to the BJC.”
“We are where we are today because of the leadership that preceded me,” Walker said, before mentioning former BJC staff members with close Baylor ties. They included, J.M. Dawson, the BJC’s first executive director and the first editor of the Lariat, Baylor’s campus newspaper; James E. Wood, Jr., former director of Baylor’s J.M. Dawson Institute on Church State Studies; James M. Dunn, Walker’s immediate predecessor and a past winner of the McCall award, and Baylor alum Melissa Rogers, who served as BJC general counsel and later as an advisor to President Barack Obama.
Since 1998, the alumni association has presented the award four times. Past recipients are Dunn, church history scholar Edwin Gaustad, Baptist philanthropist John F. Baugh and Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, who was an ardent supporter of religious liberty on Capitol Hill during his two decades in Congress.