This Week in Texas Methodist History June 5
Texas Conference Celebrates Diamond Jubilee of Organized Women’s Work in Texas 1955
A special celebration was held at the Texas Annual Conference in 1955 in honor of the 75th anniversary of organized women’s work in the conference. Women had been shouldering much of the burden of Methodist work since its beginnings, but the formal organization dates only to the post-Civil War era when the East Texas Conference meeting in Marshall and the Texas Conference meeting in Flatonia created formal organizations for the women.
Prior to Annual Conference, from March 17-20, 1955, the Woman’s Society and Wesleyan Service Guild held a joint meeting at First Methodist Houston. Over 1000 participants attended. (note to readers: In 1955 the Woman’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) consisted mainly of women who were not employed outside the home. Their meetings were commonly held during the day. The Wesleyan Service Guild consisted mainly of women who were employed outside the home. Their meetings were usually in the evenings.)
The highlight of the Diamond Jubilee celebration was a drama, I Send You Forth, written by one of the most accomplished Texas Methodists of the 20th century, Johnny Marie Brooks Grimes (1905-1997).
Johnny Marie Brooks was born in Bellville into a family with deep Texas Methodist roots. Her father, John Williamson Brooks (1856-1939) was a surveyor who had learned his surveying from Martin McHenry Kenney, son of John Wesley Kenney, the preacher/surveyor who organized the 1834 Caney Creek Camp Meeting. She attended Bellville schools, and showed signs of brilliance. If one visits the Bellville Public Library even today and asks for information on the history of Bellville, the librarian will supply a copy of a paper Johnny Marie wrote as an 8th grade student.
Johnny Marie received her B. A. from Southwestern University and then a Master’s from Columbia Teacher’s College and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
She became one of the outstanding Christian educators of the era and worked at both the YWCA and First Methodist Houston. She married the Rev. Lewis Howard Grimes (1915-1989). The couple made their home in Dallas where they both were employed by SMU. Howard was on the faculty of Perkins School of Theology.
Johnnie Marie was research assistant to the president of Southern Methodist University from 1953 to 1975. In that position she provided invaluable assistance to the entire SMU community. She also was elected to the State Board of Education.
Johnnie Marie and Howard attended First Methodist Dallas and, as you could probably guess, were active in educational activities. The Aldersgate Sunday School Class still honors their memory.