Presnall H. Wood, who was editor of the Baptist Standard through one of the most tumultuous periods in Southern Baptist history, died March 10 in Dallas. He was 89.
Wood was editor of the Baptist Standard from 1977 to 1995, the longest tenure of any editor in the newspaper’s history. At that time, the Baptist Standard had the largest circulation of any Baptist state newspaper.
He followed in the footsteps of his boyhood pastor at First Baptist Church Vernon, E.S. James, who was editor of the Baptist Standard from 1954 to 1966.
Wood earned his undergraduate degree from Baylor University. At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he earned his doctorate in church history writing his dissertation on the history of the Baptist Standard.
As part of his doctoral research and prior to the publication of his book, “Prophets with Pens: A History of the Baptist Standard,” Wood “read every page of every Standard ever published” up to that point, said Toby Druin, who served as associate editor throughout Wood’s time as editor and succeeded him in that role.
“He loved the Baptist Standard,” Druin said. “Nobody on the Earth was as familiar with the Standard as Presnall Wood was.”
Druin called Wood “the consummate Christian” and “probably the most level-headed guy I ever knew.”
“It was a pleasure to work for him and to work with him,” he said.
In his next-to-last editorial in the Dec. 6, 1995, edition of the Baptist Standard, Wood reflected on the newspaper’s place in Texas Baptist life.
In fact, the Baptist Standard during his editorship reported regularly on what critics called the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and supporters termed the convention’s conservative resurgence beginning in 1979.
Wood guided the Baptist Standard through a time of “unrest and struggle in the Baptist family” and “helped Texas Baptists navigate troubled denominational waters,” said William M. Pinson Jr., executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1983 to 2000.
Pinson hailed Wood as “a wonderful friend, an encouraging co-worker, a devoted Baptist Christian and a terrific editor.”
“His deep knowledge of Baptist beliefs and heritage gave him perspective. His experience as a successful pastor helped him deal with crises in a calm, thoughtful way,” Pinson said.
“Although quietly spoken, he did not hesitate to declare his position on very controversial issues. His deep faith in the lordship of Christ and trust in God’s word provided him courage as he dealt with persons highly critical of him when he took particular stands.
“In the midst of turmoil and divided opinions he endeavored to be fair. Presnall provided the kind of sterling Christian leadership that was so desperately needed in the time of his editorship.”
Before assuming the editorship, Wood was pastor of Park Place Baptist Church in Houston. Presnall Hansel Wood was born May 7, 1932, in Vernon to J. Hank Wood and Bertha Brock Wood. He married Joyce Ann Middlebrooks on May 28, 1953, in Vernon.
Previous pastorates included Crestview Baptist Church in Midland, First Baptist Church Goldthwaite and several rural congregations in Coryell County.
Upon his retirement, Wood served as director of church relations for Buckner International. He had a longtime interest in fountain pens and was involved with the Dallas Pen Club.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce Ann Wood; son Jeffrey Wood and wife Ellen of Allen; son Jed Wood and wife Sheri of Fort Worth; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Graveside services are scheduled at 10 a.m. on March 16 at Crowell Cemetery in Foard County under the direction of Sullivan Funeral Home in Vernon.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on April 2 in Ellis Chapel at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.
Memorial gifts can be made to the endowment fund of the Baptist Standard at P.O. Box 259019, Plano, TX 75025 or at https://www.baptiststandard.com/donate/ or to Buckner International at 700 N. Pearl St., Suite 1200, Dallas, TX 75201 or at https://www.buckner.org. Messages of condolence may be sent to the family at www.sullivanfuneralhomevernon.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Ken Camp and was originally published by the Baptist Standard, news service of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.