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Former Southwestern Seminary prof John W. Drakeford dies

Updated Oct. 20

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–John W. Drakeford, a distinguished professor emeritus of psychology and counseling and a writer-in-residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Oct. 16.

Drakeford, 80, was a scholar, teacher, preacher and prolific writer.

He held baccalaureate or equivalency degrees from the Morling Theological College (New South Wales, Australia, 1942), the University of Sydney (Australia, 1947) and the Sydney Teacher’s College (1948). He earned two masters degrees from Texas Christian University (1958, 1960), and two doctorates from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1956, 1967).

Drakeford authored or co-authored 41 books with titles such as “Marriage — How to Keep a Good Thing Going,” “Mothers are Special,” “A Christian View of Homosexuality,” “Pornography, The Sexual Mirage,” “The Awesome Power of the Listening Ear” and “Counseling for Church Leaders.”

In recent years, Drakeford’s ministries included performing dramatic monologues and leading a cancer survivor support ministry.

In dramatic monologues, he brought to life Christian historical figures such as Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin and John Bunyan. His wife Robina would help him get into a period costume and then introduce the character to audiences at Sunday Schools, churches and conferences.

“His dramatic monologues … showed an incredible depth of historical insight and understanding,” said Ian Jones, chair of Southwestern’s department of counseling and psychology.

Born in Sydney, Australia, Sept. 26, 1924, Drakeford was athletic as a young man. But his life took a different trajectory after he was hospitalized for a sports injury. It was in the hospital that he became a Christian. During that time Drakeford also met Robina Bailie, a young woman from Scotland by way of Northern Ireland, whom he married Dec. 13, 1942.

The Drakefords were active in Baptist ministry in Australia while they were raising two sons, Brenton and Warwick. Drakeford was a chaplain in the Australian Army and later a pastor of several Baptist churches. He was also a street preacher, taking the Gospel to hundreds of people.

In 1955, Drakeford moved Robina and their young family from Australia to Fort Worth, Texas, to accept a teaching position at Southwestern Seminary. Eventually, the entire family would become American citizens.

He taught counseling and psychology at the seminary for 31 years. By the time he retired from the faculty in 1985, Drakeford’s contributions to Christian counseling had impacted many people.

“He trained a generation of counselors and developed the largest counselor training program among Southern Baptist seminaries, and, possibly any seminary in the world,” Jones said.

In 1960 Drakeford founded the Baptist Marriage and Family Counseling Center at Southwestern Seminary. Scott Floyd was one of Drakeford’s students and currently serves as associate professor of psychology and counseling at Southwestern Seminary and chairs the seminary’s division of behavioral science. Establishing the center was a pioneer event, Floyd said, because at the time there were few, if any, counseling centers in America that focused primarily on marriage and family. The ministry continues today in the seminary’s Walsh Counseling Center.

“Dr. Drakeford had a passion for helping struggling individuals,” Floyd said.

Bob Welch, dean of Southwestern’s school of educational ministries, agreed.

“Dr. John Drakeford was an early pioneer in the integration of the study of the human psyche and the biblical truths of Holy Scripture,” Welch said. “His remarkable insight into the human dynamics that can be interpreted by Scripture, as well as a developed Christian philosophy for dealing with the human character — defining both a biblical response and a Christian empathetic counsel — was the impetus for the Christian counseling program we see today.”

Drakeford and his wife flew worldwide for conferences, speaking engagements and seminars, teaching thousands of families how to have biblical marriages and raise healthy children.

Former students said that Drakeford subscribed to the “old school” method of teaching — serious, no-nonsense and strict. Yet outside the classroom, he was universally remembered as supportive and open, former students said.

“I first met Dr. Drakeford when I came to seminary as a student in the 1970s,” Jones added. “He was a committed evangelical, fine scholar and excellent teacher. One memory that I recall vividly was his open door policy at his office on campus. You did not need to make an appointment to see Dr. Drakeford. If his door were open, then you could go right in and visit with him.”

Said Wes Black, professor of student ministries at Southwestern Seminary, “When I came on faculty as a new faculty member in 1983, I was intimidated by Dr. Drakeford because he had been one of my toughest professors. The first time I was in the faculty lounge I did not know what to expect. However, he came across as one of the warmest, loving and most affirming colleagues I had met. He continued to be that way both at the seminary and as friends after he retired.”

Drakeford is survived by his wife, Robina; and their two sons, Warwick and Brenton.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, in the sanctuary of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. His family will receive friends during a visitation at Robertson Mueller Harper Funeral Directors, 1500 8th Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 19, 5-7 p.m.

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  • Brent Thompson