By Trustees of the Akin Foundation
In May, 1948, Mr. John W. Akin, a Christian of some financial substance, placed a certain amount of his assets into a non-profit corporation in order that he might make continual contributions to the work of the Lord in the wisest manner possible. The foundation was established under the laws of Texas. The charter provides that three trustees were to be appointed to dispose of funds from the foundation to churches of Christ in the United States of America. Listed below are some of the specific points made in the original charter for the foundation:
1. The charter was to exist for thirty years.
2. The foundation was authorized to distribute funds, either principal or income or both, to any church of Christ in the United States of America.
3. The income or revenue was to be distributed annually as received. Any part of the undistributed income should then be donated and delivered to the Preston Road church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, all property on hand or held in trust at the time of the foundation’s dissolution was to be delivered to the Preston Road church of Christ.
4. The foundation was expressly forbidden to ever attempt to exercise any attribute of power or authority over any church. It was charged to recognize the sovereignty of churches. Contributions were to be made without any conditions subsequent or covenant.
5. Originally, no funds of the foundation were to be donated for the benefit of any trustee of the foundation, save and except for reasonable and necessary operating expenses, including expenses to attend board meetings. In 1955, while brother Akin was still living, the original charter was amended to permit the foundation to contribute to churches whose preachers were also Akin Foundation trustees, and Preston Road church of Christ was removed as the beneficiary of the corpus in the event of the dissolution of the foundation; however, undisbursed income, if any, was to continue to go to Preston Road church.
The Akin Foundation continued to operate without interruption until 1975. During that year charges were brought against the trustees, James W. Adams, Foy Vinson, and Bryan Vinson, Jr., in the 68th District Court, Dallas County, Texas, by the Attorney General of Texas. It is alleged that this action was precipitated because a “friend” of Bryan Vinson, Jr. reported irregularities to the Attorney General. Contrary to rumor, neither Preston Road nor any of its members had any knowledge of this action nor was responsible for it. The 68th District Court prohibited the three trustees from performing their duties until the charges were resolved. It placed the foundation in the hands of a receiver. This same court was responsible for the ultimate resolution of the foundation’s problems, including restoring the foundation to court appointed trustees. We are now able to report happily that the foundation is again operating under its original charter as brother Akin intended and with the full approval of the court.
The guilt or innocence of the former trustees is not the purpose of this article: Civil charges were brought against James W. Adams and Foy Vinson. Early in the proceedings, James Adams was able to satisfy the court and the Attorney General of Texas that he was not guilty of intentional wrong doing, so the charges against him were settled and he resigned as a trustee of the foundation. Subsequently, Foy Vinson had the charges against him settled under similar terms as Adams. Bryan Vinson, Jr. had civil and criminal charges made against him. He was judged “not guilty” in a criminal court by a jury of twelve. citizens. He has settled the civil charges against him and has resigned from the foundation as a trustee.
This report is being made in a widespread manner because of the uncertainty about the concern for the foundation in the minds of so many brethren. Brother Akin, a Christian gentleman and successful businessman, had a problem that only a few Christians have: he was given the stewardship of a rather large sum of money. Desiring to do good with it, he established his foundation. Because his money has done so much good for so long and in so many different areas, we desire that all brethren should have available to them accurate information concerning the resolution of the foundation’s problems and its present status.
During the early part of the litigation in 1975, the court became aware that the difficulties concerning the Akin Foundation were more than legal. Constituent parties differed seriously over doctrine. The doctrinal problems centered around institutionalism. This included “sponsoring church” type of cooperation and church support of human institutions.
In the early 1950’s, brother Akin worshiped with the Preston Road church in Dallas, taking an active and interested part in its functions. Eventually, he expressed his disagreement with the doctrinal position the Preston Road church was following and moved with other Christians to establish another local church of Christ whose practices were different from those of Preston Road.
The trustees selected personally by brother Akin either opposed one church overseeing the funds of many churches as exemplified in the “sponsoring church” or else they were replaced by men who did oppose this facet of institutionalism. Preston Road did not receive any contribution from the foundation prior to or subsequent to brother Akin’s removal of his membership.
While Preston Road church was a contingency beneficiary of Akin Foundation funds, close friends have reported that brother Akin intended to remove them from contingency consideration under both the foundation and his will. He reportedly had instructed his attorney to work with the three trustees in the changing of the charter of the foundation, and also to change his personal will to conform to the changes that were made in the charter of the foundation. It is a matter of fact, however, that neither of these intentions were ever completely carried out by his attorney. Brother Akin died before these actions were consummated. Therefore, both the original charter as amended, and the will, as originally written, were binding. Preston Road church makes the point that brother Akin lived for more than two years following his leaving their membership. Therefore, he had opportunity to change his will but did not do so. In fact, one change was made during that period in the will, but the original contingency remained intact.
Accordingly, therefore, under the charter and the will, the Preston Road church had the legal right to receive funds from the Akin Foundation, and was named as a contingent beneficiary by the will.
It is not the present trustees’ desire or intention to pass judgment on merits of the claims of the Preston Road church of Christ. In working out a solution with them, we did as the court did: that is, we accepted the legal documents at face value. We assumed that these documents represented brother Akin’s intentions as to the disposal of his assets at the time of his death.
Prior to the present trustees’ attempt to resolve this problem, another concerted effort was made by individuals, under the leadership of brother Roy Cogdill, to legally restore the foundation to the trustees and thus end the receivership. These men proposed installing specific procedures in order to insure public confidence, as well as the confidence of the court, in their directorship. The court resented this group’s efforts. Their plan was withdrawn after they were held in contempt, and upon threat of jail and fine by the court.
Subsequently, it became apparent that the court intended to decide the ultimate solution of the foundation’s problems in favor of the Preston Road church. In fact, the court ordered the receiver to pay a large sum of money to the Preston Road church under the charter’s provision that this church should receive any and all parts of undistributed income at the conclusion of the fiscal year. Furthermore, it became reasonable to assume, in light of the above fact, that Preston Road would receive a vast majority of the foundation’s assets and that they would also be influential in the court’s appointment of future trustees of the foundation. By this time the court had extended the life time of the foundation.
At this point, several interested individuals met in Dallas, Texas with the attorney who had represented the Cogdill group and who was fully informed in all aspects of the case. They met to discuss the cost of funding an appeal, assuming the court rendered an unfavorable ruling to the foundation’s trustees. At this meeting, James D. Yates of Houston, Texas, requested the time to contact the Preston Road church in an attempt to work out an acceptable compromise which could be recommended to the court as a final solution. The group agreed to this. Yates brought in Harry Pickup, Jr. to assist him in the attempt. Pickup made his personal investigation and determined that he could support the effort. He and Yates arranged a meeting with the Preston Road elders and found them to be favorable to a compromise which would remove the foundation and churches of Christ from unfavorable publicity in both the papers and the courts. Yates and Pickup found the Preston Road elders to be men of principle, honor and integrity in their dealings. Even though we recognize the doctrinal differences between us, we have found them to be exemplary and cooperative in their actions as regarding the resolution of the Akin Foundation’s Problems.
Their attorney, Mike Boone, who is also a deacon in the Preston Road church, has been especially helpful and fair to us. We acknowledge our grateful appreciation to him.
The compromise agreement is as follows:
1. The Preston Road church would receive 60 percent of all assets; the Akin Foundation would retain 40 percent. This division does not include the one time large sum awarded to this church by the court.
2. The Preston Road church would recommend to the court that Yates and Pickup be appointed as trustees of the foundation, thereby returning the foundation tojhose men who hold the conservative point of view regarding institutionalism.
3. The Preston Road church would remove itself for all time as a contingency beneficiary under the charter and the will.
The court agreed with this procedure and appointed Yates and Pickup as trustees, instructing them to work out a viable solution with Bryan Vinson, Jr., and at the same time to recommend to the court a third trustee. Yates and Pickup recommended Fred A. Hutson, Christian and banker of Alto, Texas. He was appointed by the court as the third trustee upon the resignation of Bryan Vinson, Jr.
Brother Cogdill and other brethren of his group are to be commended for the personal sacrifices that they made in an unsuccessful attempt to save the whole of the foundation. They contributed considerable amounts of time, energy and money.
Brethren, these problems are now resolved according to the wisdom of the court. Sixty percent of brother Akin’s endowment has been transferred to Preston Road church of Christ. The remaining 40 percent will be under the present trusteeship of James D. Yates, Fred A. Hutson and Harry Pickup, Jr. The income from the assets will be used exactly as brother Akin directed. Churches will recieve contributions in due course as directed by the charter. The current trustees will continue to correct any inadequacies of procedures and will instigate procedures which will assure confidence in this trusteeship. We will work faithfully to follow brother Akin’s instructions explicitly to the best of our abilities, God being our helper.
Trustees of the Akin Foundation
Truth Magazine XXIII: 49, pp. 794-795
December 13, 1979