Dr. Bruce Collins Cresson

Pastor FBC Hillsborough, 1957-1961

Dr. Bruce C. Cresson became the church’s assistant pastor in October 1954 while Dr. Charles Maddry was pastor.  Upon Dr. Maddry’s resignation in 1957, he became pastor and served in that capacity until September 10, 1961.  While pastor, he decided that the church needed a monthly newsletter.  The newsletter’s title was suggested by his wife, JoAnne.  The newsletter listed all church activities and organization meetings for the upcoming month and contain news of general interest, records and notes from the Pastor’s Desk. The newsletter continues to be called the Messenger.  With the consent of the Church, he attended graduate school at Duke University eventually becoming a full-time student and earning a Ph.D.1 Subsequently, he resigned his position as pastor to pursue a teaching and research carrier in religious education.  While pastor and attending graduate school, Cresson serve part-time as instructor in Old Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (1957-58:1958-59) and part-time as an instructor in the Department of Religion at Duke University (1961).2

Cresson was born on October 27, 1930 and reared in Lenoir, Caldwell County, NC.  He decided to go into the ministry at age 18 and was licensed to preach by Avenue Baptist Church. He entered Wake Forest College in 1948 and graduated in 1952 with a BA degree.  While in college, he served as an assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church in Black Mountain, NC in the summer of 1951.  After college, he entered the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forrest, NC in 1952, graduated with B.D. in 1955 and with a Th.M. in Old Testa­ment Interpretation in 1956.  He was ordained into the ministry by his home church in 1954 and served as an interim pastor of the Southport Baptist Church, Southport, NC before being called to serve as the assistant pastor, First Baptist Church, Hillsborough.  He married Betty JoAnne Suddreth in 1955, became pastor of the Hillsborough Church in 1957, eventually resigning to pursue a fulltime Rockefeller Doctoral Fellowship leading to a Ph.D. from the Duke University Divinity School in 1964.2,3

From 1962 to 1966, Cresson served as instructor of Hebrew at Southeastern Seminary and instructor of Religion at Duke University.  He then joined the faculty at Baylor University4 eventually becoming W.W. Melton Professor of Religion and continued there until his retirement in December 2000. While at Baylor, he held several directorships, was Dean of the University’s School of Religion from 1984-1987.  He spent 25 summers excavating in Israel while Director of archaeological excavations. Cresson has authored and coauthored many books, chapters and journal articles pertaining to the Old and New Testaments and archeological findings that provide insight into the culture of Palestine during Biblical times.  He was honored by his peers in 2000 with the John Gammie Award, given annually to the outstanding scholar in the field of religious studies in the southwestern region of the United States. Baylor University has a scholarship named in his honor for his work as the founding director of University Scholars and founding director of Baylor's Phi Beta Kappa chapter. For several years, Cresson served as Baylor's Director of International Programs.5

He and JoAnne currently reside in Waco, Texas and are active in the Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.  They have two grown children, Joanna Lynn and Bruce II.

  1. Minutes, 1962-66, from First Baptist Church, Hillsborough, NC Records 1853-2010.
  2. Lloyd, Pauline O., and Lloyd, Allen A. History of the Churches of Hillsborough, N.C.: Ca. 1766-1962. Hillsborough, NC: The Authors, 1963.
  3. Cresson Resigns at Hillsboro to Study (September 2, 1961). Biblical Recorder. p. 15; accessed at: http://recorder.zsr.wfu.edu/Default/Skins/WakeforestA/Client.asp?skin=WakeforestA&AppName=2&AW=1359222600685
  4. North Carolina Man Named Baylor Prof. (February 14, 1966). Baptist Press.Nashville, TN. p. 30.  Accessed at:  http://media.sbhla.org.s3.amazonaws.com/2154,14-Feb-1966.pdf
  5. Transcript, Oral memoirs of Bruce Collins Cresson.  Interviewed on February 7 & 14, 1986, by Rebecca M. Sharpless, Bayloror Institute for Oral History. Online:  http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/buioh/id/2482
Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian, FBC Hillsborough; Photographs are courtesy of FBC Hillsborough, NC Archives.
Last Updated: January 26, 2013