The Tipton Home Story

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

Brother L. E. Fooks, a preacher, has written a 310-page history of the orphan home at Tipton, Oklahoma. Brother Byron Fullerton, Superintendent of the home when the book was published verified that Brother's account is "true and reliable." While it was the intention of Brother Fook to help the home by the writing of the book which was published in 1 9 5 8, some very damaging statements are made. The hand of its friend has wounded Tipton Home.

This initial criticism of the book is in order: It would have been more in harmony with Brother's Fook's profession as a Christian and as a gospel preacher to have deleted the profanity from the dialogue on page 157.

Early History

Brother Fook admits that very little of the type of work now done by Tipton Home was done by churches of Christ before 1920 (p. 30), and that such arrangements were opposed from their beginning (p. 34). Yet some modern institutional apologists would have you to believe that churches of Christ have always functioned through such institutions, and that opposition to such is of very recent origin.

The home now at Tipton was first operated by the church at Canadian, Texas (p.l3). Brother Fook states that the church at Canadian, though caring for orphan children, had not started an institutional orphan home, and did not until much later learn that its child-care work had become an institution (p. 34). Yet the GOSPEL ADVOCATE brethren assert that it is impossible to care for the needy without founding some additional institution.

When the Canadian church decided to cease to provide funds and supervision for the home, other towns began '~putting in their bids" for it (p. 46). An effort was made to move the home to Lubbock, Texas in 1923, but one of the Lubbock preachers was so "bitterly opposed" to it that this idea was dropped (p. 43). It seems that there were "Anti" preachers in Texas way back then. However, the Tipton church finally offered three times as much material aid to the home as Lubbock had offered, and the bid to move the home to Tipton was accepted by the Canadian church (p. 43).

Objection to a "Board"

Brother Solomon T. Tipton, for whom the home was named, donated some land upon which to found the home in Tipton. In the deed conveying the property to the Tipton church, Brother Tipton stipulated that the church must not establish "any supplementary organization not authorized in the New Testament either by precept or example" (p. 48). Though some wanted to put the home under a board of directors as Brother Guy N. Woods and the GOSPEL ADVOCATE affirm to be necessary, Brother Tipton said: "The eldership had to give account. We wanted no directorship, no board, no organization except the church. As ignorant as I am I always knew this" (p. 48).

To this statement Brother Reuel Lemmons, editor of the FIRM FOUNDATION at Austin, Texas, added recently:

"For the forty years it has been there we have been very closely associated with the Tipton Home for Children at Tipton, Okla. . . . The elders of the Tipton church have carried on the task of directing this work just as they have carried on the task of directing the Bible school of the local congregation The elders do not consider themselves a detached 'board of directors'; they consider themselves elders of the church helping the church to carry out James 1:27." (FIRM FOUNDATION, Oct. 22, 1963).

So the Tipton Home, because of the conviction of those who founded and supervised it, was put under an eldership instead of under a board of directors. By their action in this regard, they have indicted as unscriptural about half of the benevolent institutions later to be founded by members of the church, for a "detached board of directors" oversees about fifteen of the present-day benevolent institutions.

His History Incomplete

There are some things about which Brother Fook gives very little information that it would have been interesting and revealing to know more about. For instance, he reports that the entire staff of the home on one occasion immediately resigned without notice. Why? We are not told. There must have been some good reason for the entire force to resign immediately. Too, persistent rumors hint at a morals charge as the reason why one superintendent was summarily dismissed.

In this book would have been a good place to report the reason for the superintendent leaving the home, or to deny the persistent rumors.


A significant part of the operation of Tipton Home is its financing. Fooks reports that Tipton Home has assets of over $500,000 (p. 287). They recently have instigated an additional $750,000 capital improvements drive, with John Banister and Reuel Lemmons leading the way (See Firm Foundation, Oct. 22, 1963). The operation of Tipton 1-Tome is quite an enterprise!

In an effort to raise money, the Home secured the services of three "field representatives." (p. 42). However, the value of such "field representatives" is questionable, since Fooks reported, "The representatives often misrepresented the Home as much as they represented it" (p. 214). This "true and reliable" (p. 8) report should cause us to look with reservation upon some of the fantastic assertions by modern-day "field representatives."

Gigantic farming operations were begun by the Tipton church to defray part of the enormous cost of operating the home. Fooks reports that they entered "farming in a big way" (p. 247). The church owns at least 412 acres of valuable farming land (p. 270), and 640 acres more have been deeded to the church (p. 282). An office building also was deeded to the church (p. 282).

The church sometimes makes as much as a bale and a half of cotton per acre on its farm (p. 111). It would be interesting to hear how these brethren would justify this method to raise money, and yet oppose other sectarian money raising schemes. If such money raising procedures are permissible to pay for benevolent work, why not operate another large farm to defray evangelistic and other local church expenses? Even the Tipton church likely would disapprove that.

But money making schemes even more novel than the farming business were employed by the Tipton church to raise money for the home. For example, on one occasion, clothes sent by brethren for the children were taken "down to the main street of Tipton" and "auctioned off to the highest bidder" (p. 70). Remember now, elders of the church sanctioned this! Yet on another occasion, in a business meeting, these elders disapproved of jars being placed in businesses to solicit money for the home (p.123). However, in this same business meeting, the elders authorized the acceptance of "commercial advertising" in the Tipton Home Messenger. This must have been a rather lucrative venture, since they were at this time printing 45,000 copies of the paper. Five pages after reporting the elder's disapproval of the money-jar effort, Fooks states that W. T. Hasley presented a petition "to the business men and citizens of Tipton, asking all to help financially" (pp.1.30, 131). They opposed one unscriptural money-raising scheme but adopted another just as bad.

Brother Fooks also reports, without censure, a unanimous decision of the elders to invest $40,000 of the home's money in "United States Saving Bonds" (p. 232). It seems that if an eldership has an orphan home, it can get away with virtually anything! How can a contributing church or individual brethren tell whether money sent to Tipton Home will be spent to purchase a Duroc sow or a tractor tire for an enormous farm, or to pay a misrepresenting "field representative", or to buy a U. S. Saving Bond?

During the depression years, the Tipton church even appealed to the State of Oklahoma for finances to carry on the homework. The Governor, when first approached about the state helping the Tipton church, replied that such was "unconstitutional" (p. 155). But it was decided that a Governor smart enough to write the constitution, as Gov. William H. Murray had done, should also be smart enough "to write a law around it" (p. 155). They were determined to get the money, whether it was constitutional or not. Apparently they persuaded the Governor to make an unconstitutional act constitutional, for Tipton church received money from the state of Oklahoma from the depression days until 1944 to subsidize the home (p. 251).

I wonder how loudly these Oklahoma brethren would have squealed had this same money been going to a Catholic church for a similar purpose. Fooks reported that they "had to play the political game" to get the money, and that there were some cover charge expense we would not want to look at too closely" (p. 159). This hints at "bribe money" to me. Yet the superintendent (p. 147), and apparently the elders also, approved this whole shenanigan.

The Tipton church also runs a parochial school for the children in the home. The teachers employed by the church were paid out of the state tax money. Yet these same Oklahoma brethren would deplore the effort of the Catholics to get their teachers paid out of the tax funds. Apparently, if churches of Christ receive the tax money, they are for it; if Catholics get it, its unconstitutional!

"In Loco Parentis"??

The most ardent defenders tell us that the institutional orphan homes simply stand in the place of parents (in loco parentis). The lost home and lost parents are said to be replaced by the institutional home and the board of directors. If so, what kind of parents are these new ones? These children at Tipton are said to be fed out of tin plates and tin cups (p. 135). Though it is stated that there is "no better place in which to grow up" (Supt. Chitwood, p. 192), on the very next page we find that in the dormitory "The beds were lined along the walls about a foot apart" (p. 193). Somehow I can conceive of some places a little better in which to grow up.

Remember that the home is supposed to replace the parents which these "Orphan" (?) children are said to have lost. Yet it coldly is stated: "We do not take babies into the Home because we have no facilities to care for them" (p. 292). Some parents! The Potter home at Bowling Green, Kentucky will not accept a baby until it is three years old. One left on the steps of the Potter Home on June 24, 1963 was turned over to the Department of Child Welfare. What's all this we have been hearing about who practices "pure and undefiled religion"? If the baby is hardy enough to survive until it gets a few years old, the Tipton Home will take it in, and try to get some of the business men, the state, or some other church to take care of its expenses while it practices "pure and undefiled religion." Yet if one slaps at such an arrangement, he is said to be cruel hearted indeed.

The Tipton Home previously was called the Tipton Orphan Home. But Supt. Fullerton said, "I found that practically all of the children had at least one living parent" (p. 293). It therefore is a misnomer to call the home an "orphan" home. Brother Fullerton further said: "You notice we have dropped the word 'orphan' from the Homes s name. That was not without reason. Actually there are very few orphans in any of the so-called orphan homes any more" (p. 293. -- My emphasis--CW) And this is a "true and reliable" account!

Further showing the effect of the Homes refusal to accept infants into its care is the statistical fact that of 235 children in the home, only eleven are not in school (p. 168). And further to show what kind of "parents" run the home, note this statement: "Some of the children ran away or had to be expelled because they refused to conform to the high principles at the Home" (p. 140). Some parents! If you have any difficulty with your child, just expel him from your home. Its no wonder we hear that the orphan homes have ideal children. They can expel those that are undesirable or that are a problem child.

Affection Missing

It has been charged correctly that institutionalized children are not given what they need most--- i. e. affection. Brother Fooks admits this terrific deficiency, yet the Superintendent said that there is "no better place to grow up." Note the following, though heart-rending, scene:

'One morning as Mrs. Chitwood, the superintendent's wife, was going to the Home's office she saw Albert sitting on the sill of one of the big windows. He was clad in striped overalls. His feet were bare. As he stared into empty space through the pane his eyes were focused on infinity. He sobbed silently while the giant tears rolled down over his soft cheeks and dropped into his lap.

"When Mrs. Chitwood saw the lonely child bearing the burden of his sorrows alone with none to help, she could not restrain herself. She ran to the window and placed her understanding arms about the pathetic little figure and wept with him there. She wanted to hold the orphan child to her breast for a long time, but the stark realities of life in the Home flashed through her mind. She remembered there were more than one hundred other children there whose hearts ached for want of love and affection. She withdrew herself from the small boy reluctantly. He wanted to hold on to her."

Who can believe that this little boy got all he needed? Who could have prevented himself from showing the affection that this little boy at this time needed so badly? Brother Fooks further admits:

'There was much to be desired in the Home. On the top of the list for all the children were love and affection. There were just not enough 'mothers' to go around for two hundred and fifty hearts. They wanted more love, in fact they craved more" (p. 194).

In speaking concerning six children whose mother had died while they were in the Home (" they did not get to go to the funeral" (p. 194)), Brother Fooks says:

"They longed for that tender goodnight caress and the tender affectionate hands that tucked the covers of the pallet around them and the final pat on the head before the old coal oil lamp was blown out. It was hard for them to understand why brothers and sisters had to sleep so far apart. They thought they were being mistreated" (p. 197).

Brother Fooks has succeeded tremendously in doing one thing for me; he has made me much more sympathetic with poor little children that have to he reared in such an institution. It is almost blasphemous to call such care "in the place of parents." What kind of parental replacement can one calls such calloused care as is described by Brother Fook?

Brother Fooks wrote THE TIPTON HOME STORY because he wanted to do something to help Tipton Home, and had but little or no money with which to help. However, having read his book, I am not at all sure his book would create a better feeling toward the Home, even in the heart of the most avid institutionalist. Perhaps we need more books like THE TIPTON HOME STORY to eliminate one of the great sociological mistakes of our generation. Some brethren need to learn that children cannot successfully he reared in mass production. Speaking of Tipton Home children, Brother Fooks says: "Socially, most of the children were backward" (p. 269). Sociologists already have learned the mistake of institutionalized dormitory child-care, and a few more Tipton Home stories perhaps will teach brethren this much needed lesson.

(Should you be interested in securing a copy of THE TIPTON HOME STORY for verification and documentation of the points referred to in this article, order it from Truth Magazine Book Store, 3004 Radiance Rd., Louisville 20, Ky. Price $3.75).

Truth Magazine VIII: 3, pp.2-5 December 1963