Casino To Seminary

The Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute which later became Bible Baptist Seminary began in the facilities of First Baptist Church in downtown Fort Worth in 1939. After the death of founder J. Frank Norris in 1952, the seminary moved to a temporary location in the former Brantley Draughon Business School facilities in Fort Worth. A year later the seminary lost its lease and began to look for a permanent location. The Elmo White property was purchased on Highway 80 in Arlington, Texas. A year later the property just east of the White property became vacant. It was then discovered that the property formerly known as Top O' Hill Terrace was under foreclosure to the Lamar Life Insurance Company.

 

This property has gone from being a place to nourish the body . . . to one that nourished the soul. Where playing cards, roulette wheels and dice tables once determined the destiny of fortunes, ministers and other church-related students are now trained and sent out into the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of the historic structures from the days of Top O' Hill Terrace still remain.

 

This is the assembled faculty of Bible Baptist Seminary in 1956, finally achieving a permanent home on the hill. Left to right: Dr. Peter Connolly; Florence Mattison; Dr. Frank Godsoe; Dr. Earl K. Oldham; Dr. Roy Kemp; Martha Norris, and Dr. George Norris.

 

Dr. Earl K. Oldham

In 1942, Earl K. Oldham left his position with the Santa Fe Railroad to follow the call of God on his life. He enrolled in the Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute, housed in the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, under the leadership of Dr. J. Frank Norris and Dr. Louis Entzminger,. By the end of the first semester, Oldham had become a protégé to Dr. Norris and was involved in every facet of the school and church.

 

During those years, the Top O’ Hill Terrace had become notorious in Texas as a premiere location for gambling, drinking, horse racing and prostitution. It preceded Las Vegas in illegal activities and was raided by police frequently. In his efforts to “clean up” the town, Dr. Norris with or without police forces, determined to close the gates of the Top O’ Hill Terrace. Norris took truck loads of students, of which Oldham was one, to storm and break the gates of Top O’ Hill.

 

In 1956, not long after the death of Dr. Norris and legal closure of Top O’ Hill Terrace, Dr. Oldham was informed that this infamous property was for sale. He immediately contacted the realtor and secured a contract without one dollar to pay for it. Within a month, he appealed to the World Baptist Fellowship of churches and was able to secure the funds for purchase. What was once a prime property of ill repute became a Bible College and Seminary for preachers, missionaries and educators to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Arlington Baptist College • 3001 West Division • Arlington, Texas 76012