Goldia Naylor leaves a golden legacy of faith
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Born exactly one year after the founding of the seminary her family would later serve and cherish, Goldia Dalton Naylor defined the wife’s role as a co-laborer and helpmate. Goldia Naylor, wife of former pastor and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Robert E. Naylor, died Sunday, Jan. 31, at the age of 100.
“While we know that this is a loss for the family, Dorothy and I feel the loss also,” said current seminary president, Paige Patterson. “Mrs. Naylor passed her years in grace and growing grace. Her impact at Southwestern was still growing. We loved her profoundly. Heaven is sweeter now for us than ever before.
“Not only did Mrs. Naylor serve magnificently as the first lady of Southwestern Seminary, but she was also a genuinely devoted servant of Christ and one of the sweetest encouragers that I have ever had.
“Our prayers are for the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit to be extended to the children—Dick, Bob, and Rebekah—and the grandchildren also.”
Patterson announced that the seminary will cancel chapel on Wednesday morning and offices will be closed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to allow students, faculty and staff to attend funeral services at Travis Avenue Baptist Church.
Born Goldia Geneva Dalton on March 14, 1909, in Virginia, she came to Southwestern Seminary as a student in 1928 and eventually earned a Diploma in Religious Education. She married Robert Naylor in 1930, and the two enjoyed 68 years of marriage together.
Goldia served faithfully alongside her husband as a pastor’s wife for more than 30 years at churches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas, including six years at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. According to her family, she served as choir director, Sunday school superintendent, teacher and leader of the women’s mission organizations.
In 1958, Robert Naylor was elected the fifth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served for 20 years and was named president emeritus until his death in February 1999. Throughout those years, Goldia ministered to both students and students’ wives. Drawing from her own experiences, she taught a class for seminary students’ wives designed to prepare them for a life of ministry alongside their husbands.
As important as ministry was to her, Goldia believed her primary calling was that of wife and mother. She left a golden legacy of faith for her children and grandchildren.
In a 2008 interview, her daughter, Rebekah Naylor, spoke about the profound influence her mother had on her life.
“Growing up in the Naylor household was a wonderful thing,” Rebekah said. “It was a home where we had daily family worship. It was a home of joy and happiness. I was always taught to love God first, and I think that, along with the disciplines I was taught, equipped me for what God wanted me to do in life.”
“Mother is a very graceful, elegant lady. I learned much from her about social issues, behavior, attitudes; she modeled what it was to be a Christian woman and that was extremely important and has continued to be so.”
The Naylors served as president and first lady at Southwestern during an exciting time of growth at the seminary. As the student body and faculty increased, the seminary renovated existing facilities and constructed four new buildings. With a heart for hospitality, Goldia was intricately involved in the design and decoration of three of these buildings: the Naylor Student Center, the Goldia and Robert Naylor Children’s Center, and the President’s Home on campus.
The Naylors retired in 1978, staying in Fort Worth and continuing ministry in churches and at the seminary. The seminary awarded Goldia the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1977, and in 1989, she and her husband became recipients of the Southwestern’s B.H. Carroll Founders Award. In 2001, Goldia was honored with the Mrs. J.M. Dawson Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Minister's Wife by the Southern Baptist Ministers’ Wives organization. This award is typically given to recognize distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church.
Goldia Naylor was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, Robert E. Naylor.
She is survived by two sons, Robert Naylor, Jr., and his wife, Mary Jo, from Owls Head, Maine; and Richard Naylor, and his wife, Nancy, from Austin; and by a daughter, Rebekah Naylor, from Fort Worth. She is also survived by three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Her daughter Rebekah Naylor worked with the International Mission Board for 35 years as a surgeon at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Southwestern. Her ministry as a medical missionary is documented in the book “Rebekah Ann Naylor, M.D.: Missionary Surgeon in Changing Times.” Southwestern is in the process of gathering funds for an academic chair with her namesake.
“If I have a regret, it is that we did not succeed in finishing up the Rebekah Naylor Chair of Practical Missions,” Patterson said concerning Goldia Naylor’s passing. He knows how much it would have meant to her to see the academic chair installed.
“Good, new progress was made in 2009,” Patterson said, “and we are within reach of establishing that endowed chair. I think that we will complete it this year; and if so, I pray that God allows her to see it from heaven.”
Visitation will be held in the Rose Room, which honors the wives of former Southwestern Seminary presidents, in the Naylor Student Center on the campus of Southwestern Seminary, Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Funeral services will be held at Travis Avenue Baptist Church at noon, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010. Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Thompson’s Harveson & Cole Funeral Home.
The family has asked that memorial gifts be made to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, designated for the Rebekah Naylor Chair of Practical Missions, or to the International Mission Board, SBC, designated for the Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India.