The Dallas Bible Theological Institute Story
“An Institution from humble beginnings”
In the early 1940s, the Dallas Bible Theological Institute was organized as the Open Door Mission by Rev. Rodger W. Wynn. Rev. Wynn was proactive in preaching the gospel on the streets, in jails, and ministering to the sick and poor. In the early years, Rev. Wynn recognized a need for a school to train individuals for ministry. With the support of the National Baptist Convention, he pushed forward raising funds for a school building while making a special appeal to the Southern Baptist Convention. A building was purchased for this work and named, Open Door Mission. It was first deeded to the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board and then later deeded to the Dallas Baptist Association to be a ministry training center for Black Ministers. It was declared that the Dallas Baptist Association would fund the salary of the director and the school would operate as a joint board consisting of individuals from the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention. Roger Wynn was named the first Director. Rev. Wynn was succeeded by Marvin C. Griffin. After serving for about one and half years, Rev. Griffin resigned to accept the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Marvin C. Griffin made history by becoming Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s first African American graduate. He was a longtime pastor and trailblazing civic leader.
On October 15, 1951, the Board of Directors elected D. Edwin Johnson as the next Director. The Home Mission Board then requested that his official title be changed to Dean D. Edwin Johnson. The school had fifteen students and three teachers at that time, but Dean Johnson was able to persuade Southwestern Seminary to adopt the school as a Seminary Extension. Dr. Johnson's goal was to reach students who were unable to enroll at other four-year Bible institutions of higher learning. In a cooperative effort with the Christian Life Commission/Baptist General Convention of Texas and Southwestern Seminary, the opportunity of creating the Open Door Mission as an extension school of Southwestern Seminary was voted upon and accepted. Upon recommendation of Dean Johnson, the school’s name was changed from Open Door Mission to the Inter-Racial Baptist Fellowship Institute during the Fall of 1951. Dean Johnson along with two faculty members, Dr. G. A. Burke, and Dr. D. B. Brown with the cooperation of the Dallas Baptist Minister's Union, enrolled forty-eight students in the school. The racially diverse and dedicated instructors shared biblical instruction on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to an integrated student body, offering 14 approved courses through the Southern Baptist Convention Seminary Extension and Bishop College. The school which was previously located in the Hall-Thomas area later moved to 1212 Third Avenue.
In 1963, Dean Johnson pioneered the efforts of six city, state, and national Baptist groups to construct a much-needed building. This dedicated effort led to the construction and completion of a new school building located at 1212 Third Avenue (later named Robert B. Cullum Blvd.). The school building included a chapel, administrative offices, dining areas, and six teaching classrooms. Financial support continued from the National Baptist Convention, Dallas Baptist Association, Southern Baptist Convention, Dallas Baptist Minister’s Union, and Texas Convention Direct Mission Department.
Dean Johnson served nearly twenty years with distinction from 1950 to 1969. He spent his life devoted to the work of this strategic institution. Under his leadership, the school became nationally known as an institution for preparing ministers and church leaders to be proactive witnesses for the gospel. In honor and memory of the sacrificial work of Dean Johnson and upon recommendation of the faculty and board, the board approved the name change from the Inter-Racial Baptist Fellowship to D. Edwin Johnson Baptist Institute.
Succeeding Dean Johnson in 1969 was Rev. Harvey L. Hollmon. The school continued to strive. Dean Hollmon served admirably for nine years. He resigned in spring 1978 due to a lack of community support. The school remained closed for approximately one year. In 1979, Rev. J. R. Allen and other pastors form a committee to organize a financial campaign to reopen the school by working in a collaborative effort with the Dallas Baptist Association. This effort led to raising $10,326.26.
D. Edwin Johnson Baptist Institute was reopened in spring 1979. Rev. T. E. Brown was elected and served as Dean from 1979 to 1982 with an enrollment of fifty-one students. Succeeding Rev. Brown was Rev. L. E. Robertson who served faithfully until his death in October 1983. In 1984, Dr. Fred C. Parker became dean. Under Dr. Parker's leadership, the school reached an enrollment of one hundred students. Dr. Parker served approximately seven years until he resigned to minister to the health needs of his wife.
In September 1991, Chris Simmons was elected Dean. Great improvements in school administration and curriculum were the hallmark of his leadership. Succeeding Rev. Simmons in 1996 was Rev. Hardin L. Ward. Under Rev. Ward's leadership, satellite campuses were created at Mt. Hebron Baptist Church and St. John Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas along with a school website. Succeeding Rev. Ward was Rev. Alfred J. Brown. Rev. Brown strengthen the preaching curriculum and served from 2007-2011. Succeeding Rev. Brown was Rev. Willie Range who served from 2011 to 2012.
In December 2012, the Board of Directors voted to change the name of the institution to the Dallas Bible Theological Institute (DBTI). The school would later relocate from its Robert Cullum Blvd address to 9780 Ferguson Road in Dallas, Texas. The school’s leadership staff was reorganized to include the Office of President, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, and Registrar. Dr. Johnnie Bradley was elected president in January 2013. Under the leadership of Dr. Johnnie Bradley, the school continue to thrive, debts were paid off and more campuses were established. Dr. Bradley served through December 2021.
In February 2022, Dr. Leon Moore was elected president. Dallas Bible Theological Institute has gone through many challenges since 1943, but God has chosen to continue His work. The school continues to carry out the vision of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and is a major support to the churches and communities served.