Two World War II veterans make mark on Dallas church
Aug. 10, 2005
|A UMNS photo by John Lovelace
Truitt Brinson (left) and Bryan Clark stand with members of the Sunday school class that bears their names.
By John A. Lovelace*
DALLAS (UMNS) — About four years ago, the young couples class at Oak
Lawn United Methodist Church changed its name to honor two veterans.
Not longtime teachers or beloved ministers, but veterans as in
“military.” As in World War II, Pacific Theater. As in VJ Day (Victory
over Japan), Aug. 15, 1945.
On that day, 60 years ago, Navy Seaman 2nd Class Truitt Brinson was
“never working harder in my life,” overseeing military supplies coming
and going on the island of Kwajalein. U.S. forces had captured the
island from the Japanese in the Pacific campaign.
On VJ Day, Marine Sgt. Bryan Clark was in Hawaii, training to invade
Japan when the news arrived. He had survived the battle of Iwo Jima, one
of only three from his 160-man company to leave the volcanic
mountain-island alive and uninjured. He knew personally all six Marines
featured in the historic news photo of the flag raising on Mount
Brinson-Clark Class member David Betz explains the young adults’
affinity for the two men. “Soon after getting married, my wife and I
intended to visit several United Methodist churches in Dallas. Our
search was cut short after our first visit to Oak Lawn because Truitt
and Bryan assured us that we had found our new church home.”
The name change for the class was overdue.
“The Sunday school class we joined at Oak Lawn was originally named the
Young Adults Class,” Betz says. “We knew a name change was necessary
when church visitors wrongly assumed that class members were teenagers.
Renaming the class in honor of Truitt and Bryan was an easy decision.
They are credited with welcoming so many class members to this church.”
|A UMNS photo by John Lovelace
Bryan Clark shares a story with Brinson-Clark Class members Ann Richards (back to camera), Erin Eads and Ray Lee.
The two men, who are best friends, say they consider the class’s action one of the highest honors they have received.
It’s worth coming early to Sunday morning worship at Oak Lawn to watch and hear the two veterans in action.
Some of Truitt Brinson’s friends are convinced that he could sell life
insurance to a mortician. A longtime agent for Mutual of New York, he
won the firm’s “Man of the Year” award in 1986. Bryan Clark attended the
At Oak Lawn Church, smiling warmly, Brinson quietly sidles up to a
visitor, introduces himself, asks where he or she would like to sit,
leads the way to the preferred spot, then introduces the newcomer to at
least one other person nearby. Satisfied that he has completed this
task, he goes looking for another person — longtime member or newcomer,
never mind. He’ll also snag any member passing by and suggest, “Step
over there and introduce yourself to those folks.”
Clark, the more outgoing of the two, could strike up a conversation with
a fence post. When he spots someone he doesn’t know, he steps forward,
hand outstretched and announces, “I’m Bryan Clark. Tell me your name.”
His next overture is apt to be either “What brings you to Dallas?” or
“Where are you from?”
And, if the answer to that second question is almost anywhere in Texas,
he’s off to the races. There’s hardly any place in Texas he hasn’t heard
of or been.
In addition to their Sunday morning activities, Brinson follows up
Sunday visitors with Monday evening phone calls, thanking them and
inviting them back. On Tuesday mornings the two men and the church’s
membership secretary, Mildred Lacy, go over attendance records and plan
any additional follow-up.
As for their wartime service, Brinson admits that his was “a good bit
quieter than Bryan’s.” He served in the Navy until October 1945 — two
months after the fighting ended and a month after Japan’s formal
surrender. Upon discharge, he returned to Texas and his young bride,
Jeannie, and their first-born son, Ray. Brinson had had only 11 days
with his son before shipping out in 1943. He soon landed a sales job
with Fairbanks-Morse, rose to national sales manager, then switched to
MONY, where he worked until retirement.
Clark has no equivocation about the two atomic bombs that forced Japan
to surrender because they spared him and thousands of others the deadly
duty of invading Japan. Instead they entered a subdued Japan to begin
that nation’s initial rebuilding. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
in August 1945 killed more than 200,000 people outright and injured
Returning home in late 1945, Clark enrolled at Texas Tech University,
played a year of minor league baseball for the Lubbock Hubbers (West
Texas-New Mexico League), then started a 36-year career with the
National Auto Theft Bureau. This carried with it a special commissioning
as a Texas Ranger, the legendary “one riot, one Texas Ranger” statewide
law enforcement agency.
The two veterans first made contact in 1976, when Clark was stationed in
Dallas for 10 months and he and his wife, Reba, joined Oak Lawn Church.
“Truitt and Jeannie took us under their wing,” Clark recalls.
When the Clarks returned permanently to Dallas in 1982, the men’s new
era of service to the church began. Both men chaired the church’s
administrative board, and Clark served several years as lay leader. The
Clarks have also chaired the Methodist Central Hospital of Dallas
auxiliary and logged thousands of hours of volunteer service there.
Three years ago, when Oak Lawn undertook a months-long study of its
vision and values, consultants Richard Hearne and Rev. Don Renshaw
included this in their 54-page report:
“A source of great pride for the membership of OLUMC is that the consultants have never
(emphasis original) met two better greeters and ushers than Mr. Bryan
Clark and Mr. Truitt Brinson. They take great pride in the fact that no
one can visit OLUMC and not be greeted by one of them. Not only do Mr.
Clark and Mr. Brinson greet persons, they truly welcome visitors as if
they were in their homes. ... If every church in the (United Methodist)
North Texas Conference had a Bryan Clark and Truitt Brinson, we would
not have the small growth that we have.”
Their welcoming service continues. Erin Eads, a Brinson-Clark Class
member, says they are examples of people who can say, “do as I do.”
“Bryan and Truitt have shown what it means to welcome strangers and
acquaintances with the same unconditional, sincere friendliness that
they show to members who are long-time dear friends.”
*Lovelace is editor emeritus of the Dallas-based United Methodist Reporter and a member of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com
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