Trouble at Tipton Home
Dudley R. Spears
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Some time ago, brother Cecil Willis wrote an article called, "The Tipton Home Story."
His article was a review of the book by the same title, written by L. E. Fooks. The "Tipton Home Story" is an unfinished story and every so often another chapter needs to be written so as to include the various workings of the institution. Each chapter has a definite influence upon the Lord's church. Just recently a State Commissioner of Charities and Commissions was called to investigate the situation at Tipton. A near riot involving the people of Tipton, Oklahoma, rumors of brutality toward the children in the institution, and some newspaper stories of four teen-age girls who ran away from the institution with some area boys, plus the charges filed against the youths by W. I. Yoakum, Superintendent of the institution, have focused attention on this brotherhood project. Some revealing things have been reported which, when known by the brotherhood, should disenchant some members of the church from this institutional set- up which has brought such havoc into the church.
This is not the first time Tipton Home has been in the news in this state. They were involved in litigation several years ago when they refused to free some of the children in their custody to the children's parents! They even took the lawsuit to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. Such is not good for the cause of Christ unless it might serve to awaken some who have nearly idolized these human institutions, referring to them as "divine institutions," or homes.
There is no doubt in my mind that there were some brutal beatings of some of the children in the institution. This is apparently why Yoakum had to resign. The man conducting the investigation for the State of Oklahoma is also persuaded of this, although no report was released for public study. Had Yoakum remained as Superintendent of the institution, a State charge would have been filed against the corporation controlling the institution. There were irregularities found by the investigators that were remedied with the resignation of Yoakum and his assistant.
In the farewell letter from Yoakum, printed in the Tipton Home Messenger, Vol. XLII, Number 2, he writes:
"I do not think I failed in but one area. The report of Mr. Ivan Gates in this issue gives the area. He stated that the discipline of children was not as he would discipline. I tried the method my father used on me and the method I used on my children. I apologize."
The Commissioner told me by telephone that one teen-age girl had to leave the public school and return to the institution because she "literally could not sit down." Yoakum "apologizes" for his method of discipline, which to the State investigator, was one area of failure.
In a letter to this writer from our Attorney General, Mr. Charles Nesbitt, I was told:
"There never was a sworn complaint filed with the Commissioner requesting an investigation of the Tipton Home as required by Law. Mr. Yoakum, Superintendent of the home, requested the investigation. Mr. Ivan Gates, the Assistant Commissioner, did conduct an investigation and talked to a great many people about the conditions in the home; however, no sworn statements were taken, for the reason that the corrections recommended by the Commissioner were made without the necessity of the filing of formal charges (My emphasis, DRS). Mr. Yoakum and Mr. Pippin, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Home, respectively, both resigned (My emphasis, DRS), and Mr. O. C. Garrison was named by the governing Board as the acting Superintendent of the home. A recent check by the Commissioner of Charities and Corrections has determined that the irregularities originally found have been corrected by the present management."
(All emphasis is my own and this letter is dated Dec. 28, 1965).
I have no taste for a "scandal report" of the workings of Tipton Home, but it is evident that some legal gymnastics have been done to cover up the real Tipton Story. If things were wrong and there were "irregularities found" at the institution, then the forthright and honest thing would be to expose it and correct it not just whitewash it (Eph. 5:11). One is reminded of the U-2 boners and the "Bobby Baker case" and the efforts that were made to cover them up. There are many brethren who shudder at such things in politics that practice it in that which they say is "pure and undefiled religion." I have a question to ask of those who endorse Tipton and other institutions. Were they in the practice of "pure and undefiled religion" at Tipton? Were they in the practice of "pure and undefiled religion" at Childhaven recently when the board fired the Superintendent for mishandling of funds and for being in contempt of the court?
The claim is made that the elders of the Tipton church, who serve as the directors of Tipton Home, Inc., are elders over that "home" in the same way they are elders over their Bible classes. Of course, this is not true, but if it were, they demonstrated their lack of leadership in such a poor selection of a "superintendent." Can you imagine a condition developing among Bible -lasses that would require a request for the State Commissioner of Charities and Corrections to make an investigation? One thing should always be remembered about this incident. The very fact that the State Commission of Charities and Corrections here in Oklahoma was called to investigate the situation and that this Commission has the legal right to do so, should show any honest person that this is a public institution, separate and apart from the Tipton church which is overseen by the elders of the Tipton church, not as elders, but as "Directors of the Home." Considerable amounts of money have been allotted to Tipton Home by the Oklahoma Department of Welfare. A quotation from Roy E. Cogdill is very enlightening just here.
"In fact with its school aid and welfare aid, such an institution has a difficult time telling where the authority of the State ends and the supervision of the elders begin. It is another example, as in the case of the Old Folks Home at Cordell and the one run by the Central Church in Houston, Texas, where it is hard to tell the difference between the church and the State - they are so amalgamated. Such institutions receive grants of State funds, borrow money from the Federal Government, and are such public institutions, that it is rather ridiculous to claim that they are under an eldership and the work of the churches of Christ."
"The whole fact is that brethren have created a spiritual 'frankenstein' that they do not know how to operate and which threatens to engulf the church not only in shame and disgrace, but has already led it into complete apostasy. They do not know how to run it for the Bible furnishes no authority for it's existence, much less its operation. Tipton 'Home' does not stand alone in such difficulties. The rest have been involved in similar situations and it should indicate that something is wrong with the set-up." Winnetka Ave. Church of Christ Bulletin, Vol. 3, No 39.
I believe that the situation that developed at Tipton Home, which required the resignation of Yoakum in order to prevent the pressing of State charges against the institution for criminal action, should be exposed and corrected. However, the legal footwork done by the directors of Tipton Home and her ax-superintendent, have buried the real truth. It is doubtful that the truth will ever be known fully. But, in the minds of brethren who really believe in practicing "pure and undefiled religion," a shadow of doubt and suspicion will hang over such brotherhood promotions which can bring the cause of Christ into such distasteful circumstance.
I do not write these things as an expose but with the apostle Paul would say:
"But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
--- 2 Cor. 4:2
I beg the directors of Tipton Home to apply the passage of scripture to what happened to cause the trouble at Tipton Home.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 7, pp. 18-19 April 1966