News Articles

Missionary ‘legend’ left mark on Spanish-speaking world

EL PASO, Texas (BP)-—Frank W. Patterson was a craftsman in every sense of the word. As a missionary editor and prolific writer, as a pastor and even as a photographer, he shaped lives and built friendships throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

The emeritus Southern Baptist missionary directed “Casa Bautista” — the Baptist Spanish publishing house in El Paso, Texas — for nearly three decades and wrote and edited numerous Christian books, columns and a variety of curricula. Patterson died Jan. 20 at the age of 96.

The impact of his career is still remembered and cherished by those who knew him simply as “Dr. Pat.” Patterson is credited by many with transforming the publishing house from a small print shop into a powerhouse, providing Christian curricula to the Spanish-speaking world.

“Dr. Patterson was one of those rare legends who lived long enough for those of us in a new generation to know and appreciate the dedicated efforts of pioneers that served our Lord so faithfully,” said Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board.

“A tremendous and widespread harvest continues today throughout the Spanish-speaking world because of the work of Dr. Patterson and others who served with him and carried on his legacy to publish Bibles and literature at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso.”


Patterson’s missionary career began in 1939 when he and his wife, Pauline, were appointed by the IMB. Before being appointed, Patterson preached in Baptist churches in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

He became general director of the publishing house in 1943 and served in that position until 1971. His years of service at the publishing house earned him the title, “general director emeritus.”

Patterson went on to work as a field representative of the mission board until he retired in 1972. Those who worked closely with Patterson during his years at the publishing house remember his passion for writing and sharing the Gospel.

“I held him in very high esteem because of his utter dedication to the work,” said Clark Scanlon, a former IMB field representative for Middle America. “His dedication was very much intertwined in his work and his life. You couldn’t really separate the two.”


According to the book “Rivers of Ink” by Thomas Hill (Convention Press, 1977), the publishing house saw tremendous growth under Patterson’s leadership.

The publishing house went from producing a mere 12 periodicals and a total volume of 255,000 per year to 30 periodicals for a total volume of nearly 3 million in 1970. The number of books also increased from eight to 90 with a total of more than 40,000 volumes and 5 million tracts.

In 1972, Patterson became acting general director of the Casa Publicadora Baptista in Rio de Janeiro for about a year. He would go on to work two brief stints as a professor at the Mexican Baptist Seminary in Mexico City and at the Lacy Baptist Seminary in Oaxaco, Mexico.

During his retirement, Patterson continued to write and also preached for six years at High Rolls Baptist Church in Mountain Park, N.M. He preached off and on until late in life, delivering his final sermon at the age of 92.

When Patterson finished writing, he had penned a total of 18 books — seven of them in English and 11 in Spanish. His last book was published in 2000.


Friends say Patterson’s passion for writing and educating others about the Bible consumed him, but writing was only one aspect of the man they loved. He also was talented in photography and loved working outdoors.

He built a cabin in the mountains at Cloudcroft, N.M., and photographed many images of nature during his time there. His love for photographing birds merged with his love for writing when he began writing a column titled, “A little bird told me.”

Scanlon, a former missionary who now lives in Richmond, Va., remembers his close friend as a dedicated writer. He fondly remembers visiting Patterson and his wife years ago at their cabin.

“He was greatly loved by the missionaries and the Hispanics who worked in the Spanish House,” Scanlon said. “The publishing house material spread all over Middle America. He was a very careful historian and craftsman in what he wrote.

“His life was involved in literature and the furthering of Baptist work.”


Joe Poe of El Paso, Texas, also remembers Patterson’s leadership when he first began working at the publishing house. Poe credited Patterson’s mentoring and encouragement as one of the reasons he later became general director of the publishing house from 1992-97. He still works there part-time today.

“He was there 20 years before me — he was an experienced veteran and I was green,” Poe said.

“He was my mentor, leader, my supervisor and my chief. He was a very important person in my life.”

Patterson is survived by two sons, Burton H. Patterson and Donald Ray Aldridge, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. His wife Pauline Widener Gilliland preceded him in death on March 27, 2000.

Memorial gifts to honor Patterson can be made to the Baptist Spanish Publishing House Foundation, 7000 Alabama, El Paso, TX 79904.
Casa Bautista website:
— Spanish: http://casabautista.org.
— English: http://casabautista.org/cbp/english/cbp1.htm.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FRANK PATTERSON.

    About the Author

  • Shawn Hendricks