‘Brother Jack’ Ridlehoover Topic of Historial Association Presentation
By LORETTA FULTON
The late Jack Ridlehoover, longtime pastor of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, will be the topic of one of the presentations Saturday, April 15, during the final session of the West Texas Historical Association.
The association is holding its annual meeting at the Elegante Suites Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15. Dr. Rich Traylor, history professor at Hardin-Simmons University, will present a paper titled, “Influencing Abilene: Pastor Jack Ridlehoover at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.”
Dr. Rich Traylor
The presentation will be among several about Abilene history during the final time slot, 10:15-11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 15, in the Baja Room at Elegante Suites. There is no charge for the public to attend the session.
Ridlehoover, known as “Brother Jack,” died June 19, 2022, at age 91. He was pastor at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church for 29 years, from 1963 to 1992. After retiring from the pulpit in 1992, Ridlehoover filled 22 interim posts and started a ministry called Minister’s Mentoring and Consulting Service.
Traylor’s presentation will be based on a book his has completed on the history of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. It most likely will be published by the end of the year. Traylor has been a member of the church for about 20 years and he heard Ridlehoover speak on occasion.
“When an almost 70-year-old church has a pastor for 29 years, clearly his fingerprints will be all over its history,” Traylor said.
The focus of the talk will be on Ridlehoover, his influence on the church, the Abilene community, and Baptist affairs in the state of Texas. His ministry can be “read” like a leadership manual, Traylor noted.
“He led the church out of a rocky time in the early 1960s, helped it survive, unified it, and pointed it toward its many accomplishments over three decades,” he said.
Ridlehoover was known for calling himself a benevolent dictator, but investing in and caring for people was the core of his success, Traylor said. He also was known for making birthday calls to every church member, young and old, each year. By the end of his pastorate, he worked from a card file numbering over 4,500.
Ridlehoover’s influence extended far beyond the walls of Pioneer Drive Baptist church and beyond the city limits of Abilene.
“Everyone involved in Texas Baptist life knows of Pioneer Drive in Abilene,” Traylor said.”That’s due in no small part to Brother Jack.”
Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene