PLANO, Texas (BP) — Richard D. “Dick” Baker, a prolific composer and former minister of music, died Sept. 5 in Plano, Texas. He was 84.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored the distinguished alumnus in chapel Sept. 7 and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano will hold a public celebration service in Baker’s memory Sept. 10 at 2 p.m.
Baker began composing songs in 1947 and continued writing throughout his lifetime, publishing more than 300 gospel compositions, with several of them translated into other languages. Baker’s hymns include “All to Thee,” “Longing for Jesus,” “His Way Mine” and “Have You Been to Calvary.” Many of his songs were written with his brother, Bo, a former pastor at Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth and Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving, Texas.
For two decades, Baker and his brother traveled the United States and the world as an evangelistic team.
After relocating from Denton, Texas, where the Baker family was active in First Baptist Church, he and his wife Ann became involved in a 75-member mission in north Dallas that became Prestonwood Baptist Church. In 1978, he was called to serve as the congregation’s first minister of music, developing a 200-300 member choir, full orchestra, music conservatory and choir programs for children and youth. His wife assisted him in much of his ministry, including the development of three annual music productions. In 1992 he returned to be ministry of music evangelism until 2007.
Southwestern Seminary honored Baker with the L.R. Scarborough Award in 2001 and named him a distinguished alumnus 2005. The seminary established the Richard Baker Chair of Music Missions and Evangelism in his honor in 2004.
Baker was born May 12, 1927 to B.O. and Martha Dee Baker in Farmersville, Texas, where the family was active at First Baptist Church. After serving in the Navy near the end of World War II, Baker returned to his studies at Baylor University, graduating in 1950. While a student, Baker became part of the Youth Revival Movement as a music leader and soloist. He began the Baylor Religious Hour Choir that was an integral part of a campus midweek service and a touring gospel choir that remains active 62 years later. He also co-wrote the Baylor fight song that is still used by the university.
After Baylor, Baker served as minister of music at Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth and earned a degree in sacred music from Southwestern Seminary in 1953. In 1956 Baker became a full-time music evangelist. He was a member of the Billy Graham team in the Akron, Ohio, crusade and was recruited to help with music at the New York City crusade in Madison Square Garden which extended to 17 weeks.
Baker was preceded in death in 2008 by his wife and in 2010 by his brother. He is survived by his son Paul Baker, daughter Lori Simmons and four grandchildren.
The Sept. 7 chapel audience of Southwestern Seminary joined in singing Baker’s hymn, “All to Thee” accompanied on the organ by H. Gerald Aultman, professor of music theory and Dick Baker Chair of Music Missions and Evangelism.
“We are so very grateful for the ministry of Dick Baker,” Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson said. “He wrote an unbelievable number of songs. We have lost a great, great missionary and evangelist of song,” he said, adding, “His songs always had such wonderful theological content.”
Even in the last days of his life, Baker labored to share the Gospel and write music, fulfilling his life verse, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. Joy rises in my heart and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).
longtime minister of music.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the endowment fund at Baylor University for the Baylor Religious Hour Choir. For more information about the life and ministry of Dick Baker, pleae visit www.HisWayMine.com.
Compiled by Tammi Reed Ledbetter of the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, with reporting by Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.