Dr. W. O. Vaught was born in Versailles, Kentucky, and grew up on a
farm near Brooksville, Mississippi. He was a graduate of Mississippi
College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Following pastorates in Missouri and Texas, Vaught came to Little
Rock in 1945 to become pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, a position
he held until April 1983. During his years at Immanuel, the church
grew from one building to a complex covering two city blocks. For
many years Immanuel led the state in contributions through the
Cooperative Program, the denomination's funding arm for all
convention-wide causes, and in gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas
Offering, which provides one-half of the total support for Baptist
foreign missions. More than twenty churches grew out of the Immanuel
fellowship during Dr. Vaught's tenure. The Immanuel tape ministry,
begun eight years before Vaught's retirement, distributed 3 million
sermon tapes world-wide.
Following his retirement from Immanuel, W. O. Vaught conducted Bible
conferences across the nation. He also authored three books,
Believe Plus Nothing, God's Calendar, and The Best is
Yet to Be.
Dr. Vaught was a leader in state and national Baptist circles. He
served as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and as
president of the ABSC Executive Board. He also served on the Board
of Trustees of Ouachita Baptist University and the Board of Arkansas
Baptist Home for Children. In 1955, Ouachita Baptist College (now
University) conferred on him the Doctor of Divinity degree. Members
of Immanuel Baptist Church spearheaded the endowment of the W. O.
Vaught Chair of Bible At Ouachita Baptist University in 1983.
W. O. Vaught was a member of the Relief and Annuity Board of the
Southern Baptist Convention, president of the Southern Baptist
Pastor's Conference, and vice-president of the Southern Baptist
Convention. He served 16-plus years on the Southern Baptist
Convention's Foreign Mission Board and was chairman of the Building
Committee when the present headquarters building was constructed in
Dr. W. O. Vaught,
Jr. arrived in Little Rock on Friday, April 13, 1945, but for the
church that was a lucky Friday, the 13th. He was Immanuel's
thirteenth pastor, and on the following Sunday chose for his first
sermons, "My Maximum for Christ," and "What's Next."
Dr. Vaught is known
as "W. O." but for the curious, and in fairness to previous pastors
named, it should be explained that these initials stand for "Worley
The new pastor came
to Little Rock from Abilene, Texas, where he had been pastor of
University Baptist Church since 1941. He had been closely
associated with students of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene
which enabled him to continue his former, special interest in young
from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Dr.
Vaught served as Baptist student secretary for Missouri, May 1935 to
January 1, 1940. He then became pastor of the Bethany Church,
Kansas City, Missouri, from where he went in 1941 to serve the
Abilene church until accepting Immanuel's call.
Church had looked forward to the coming of an inspired leader to
carry forward their work for Christ, they were not quite prepared
for the energetic leadership they received. They soon learned that
the new minister expected them to work hard for worthwhile goals,
and that he would work with them.
Dr. Vaught has
always said that he knew when he was only seven that he wanted to be
a minister of the gospel. He was born in Kentucky to devout
Christian parents, both teachers, but his family soon moved to
Mississippi where he was reared and graduated for Mississippi
His interest in
religious work and his vision of the possibilities for his church
have radiated in many directions, with Christ always at the center.
Competing with worldly interests that tend to detract his members
from their Christian service, the pastor began to introduce "color"
to the church program. He began the use of visual aids, dramas, and
attractive, colorful publicity.
It took some of the
membership quite awhile to get used to the use of movies and slides
in the church, but those who are active in church work know that the
pastor has in mind only the promotion of Christian growth and
With the coming of
color to newspaper advertising, special church announcements have
been made in color. For attracting attention to certain events and
offerings, The Immanuel Record is sometimes printed on color paper.
Dr. Vaught believes that this use of modern means of attracting
attention has created much more interest, and added more vitality to
the church program.
Upon his arrival at
Immanuel, he was enthused with the mission program which had
originated under Dr. C. C. Warren's leadership. He immediately took
up where Dr. Warren had left the work. When a mission location
needed repair or remodeling, or if a church needed building, the new
pastor was there in his work clothes to help Immanuel men and
Dr. Vaught found
that the eight missions previously established were without
pastors. Laymen from the church were going out to conduct services,
and he began to find a pastor for each mission because he felt the
work need his stabilizing influence. The missions became churches
after securing pastors.
Other missions that
have organized into churches under Dr. Vaught's direction are:
Davis Chapel, Remount, Garden Homes, Green Memorial, Arch Street,
and Forest Tower, the twelfth church to be organized out of
Immanuel's missions program.
Dr. Vaught was a man
of vision. He wanted Immanuel to grow and meet the needs of the
people. Plans were made to build a Education Building. A modern
three-story education building was completed in 1951, with the
lovely Whitington Memorial Chapel in the northwest corner. This
addition, costing about $470,000, provided space for 15 different
departments, from infants to 12-year-olds. The chapel, with it
adjoining bride's room, seats 325 and has been in much use for
assemblies, study courses. weddings and funerals.
The pastor's study
formerly in this wing, was furnished in honor of Miss Gulnare
McGuire. The chapel's beautiful windows and its colorful pews, with
theater-type seats, were memorials or gifts honoring Immanuel
Because of crowed
conditions, Dr. Vaught began on October 3, 1954, having two church
services each Sunday morning. At 9:20 a.m. there was a Youth
Service, followed at 10:50 a.m. by the usual service. It was
necessary to continue this double service for 12 years, until the
recent building program was completed.
Baptist State Convention met at Immanuel Church in November, 1955,
and the church had the privilege of hearing their former pastor, Dr.
Warren, address the convention as president of the Southern Baptist
The sanctuary was
enlarged and remodeled during the last half of 1959, with the
$200,000 cost covered by the unified budget, which for 1960 was
$350,000. The remodeling program provided a better lighting
system, and added space for a new platform, choir loft, baptistery
and baptismal dressing rooms. The new platform could be
converted into space for dramas and pageants, and equipment was
install for controlling stage lighting and for showing films.
By 1963, Immanuel Church had spent in the past ten
years a total of $767,528 in building programs and remodeling. The
last payment on the note due on the Educational Building was paid
off in December, 1963, three years and two months ahead of schedule.
The second major building program, completed in 1966
under Dr. Vaught's leadership, actually added four building areas.
To the south of the church, extending the full length of the block,
the addition houses three separate units. A new children's building
is on the west which contains eight departments for children from
grades 1 through 6. It also has eight nurseries equipped with
individual heating and air-conditioning units.
The new fellowship hall located in the central area
of the addition contains a new dining room and banquet area which
accommodates 500. It can be divided into three smaller dining
rooms, all served from a new stainless steel all-electric kitchen.
The dinning area has a stage for dramas and other presentations.
This $800,000 building program also included at
ground level and attractive administrative wing north of the church,
near the sanctuary. The new Ola Youngblood Memorial Library is in
the west side of this wing, while the second level consists of an
adult department and three music rooms.
Dr. Vaught held several revival meetings each year
in other churches, and sometimes conducts the services for
Immanuel's own spring or fall meeting. He is in demand as a speaker
for many out-of-state meetings, especially on college or university
campuses. In December, 1966, he was a guest speaker for Spiritual
Emphasis Week at the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board,
Many of Immanuel's Revivals were Tent Revivals which
were held only a block away from the main church building. The
revivals were held during the summer months, before the church had
air-conditioning. Dr. Vaught always would bring in top leaders to
these meetings. On several occasions we had the opportunity of
hearing the late Dr. Harry Rimmer, Charles Wells, Chester Swor, and
Angel Martinez. Also he had those noted for their music and singing
such as Homer Rodeheaver, Stuart Hamblen, George Beverly Shea, and
Dick & Bo Baker. On several occasions he had outstanding Christian
laymen such as Roy Rogers (movie star), Howard E, Butt (founder of
HEB grocery chain), and Congressman Brooks Hays (Past President of
the Southern Baptist Convention).
After each service Dr. Vaught would stand at the
front of the sanctuary and hand out his favorite gift to the
Dr. & Mrs.
On April 17, 1983,
on his thirty-eight anniversary as pastor Dr. Vaught resigned. He
was ready to retire. Soon he would be named Pastor Emeritus of
On April 21, 1983,
Dr. Vaught preached his last sermon as pastor of Immanuel Baptist
Church. The title of the sermon which was published was "Ten
Things I Want You To Remember." Dr. Vaught listed the ten
most important doctrines he had taught as pastor of Immanuel.
Dr. W. O. Vaught, Jr. went to be with
the Lord on (Christmas Day), December 25, 1989.