GAG Newsletter


I got a little bit ahead of myself with my meeting Johnnie. Obviously she had an interesting life. She had spent one year at West Texas State and decided to go to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas at the start of her second year.

She had old maid Aunts – aunt Margie and aunt Helene who had some money and loaned her $250.00 to go to Harding. She loved that semester. She worked in the Patty Cobb cafeteria and had a ball. Her grades suffered somewhat so the aunts were not willing to fund another semester at Harding. She came back and enrolled at WT in the Spring semester of 1953. She got her job back in the cafeteria. I met her briefly at the beginning of the fall semester in 1953. This was detailed in a previous newsletter where we were in a round robin situation saying the name of all of those present. I left for Odessa after a brief enrollment and did not think much about West Texas State until the spring semester of 1954.

The above pictures were taken while she was at Harding. Harding University really made an impression on Johnnie. She did all she could to make sure our two children when to Harding and our two grandchildren went to Harding as well as Silvia Jaimes who found herself a husband at Harding.

After we secretly eloped and came back to West Texas State until the semester was over, we went our separate ways. She told her mother about out marriage and she was very disappointed because she had planned a big wedding in June after we graduated. John and Norene did not have any money to spend on a wedding so she finally accepted this idea and came up with the shower idea after we got back to school for the spring semester of 1955. I went with Walt Byrd for our Medical School Interviews. This was a two week process almost. The first place we went was to Dallas for the interview at UT Southwestern. They told us that they would let us know if we were accepted in just a few days. Then it was to Baylor in Houston, UT in Galveston and Tulane in Louisiana. We were tired puppies when we got back to West Texas State. Walt wanted to go by the post office on campus and pick up his mail and I wanted to do the same. He had and acceptance from Southwestern but my box was empty. What a disappointment. Instead of going to Shamrock to be with my new bride I was so depressed that I went to Lubbock to see my parents and let them know that they now had a new daughter-in-law. They did not seem too surprised. Roomers were out in Canyon and my sister Leola had related this information to my parents.

After I arrived at the Drug Store in Lubbock they could see that I was a little dejected. After about an hour of visiting with them I was planning to visit a few friends around and tell them about my marital status. Before I left, my Dad said “Oh, by-the-way you got this letter the other day”. The letter was from UT Southwestern Medical School and had been sent to my “home” address rather than my college p. o. box. I opened the letter quickly and found that I had been accepted into the freshman class starting in September 1955. I started hooping and hollering and finally settled down enough to call Johnnie and let her know the news. She was getting her degree in Primary Education and she said that she would start researching the schools in the Dallas area for positions.

We also decided to get back to West Texas State a little early before enrollment time so we could look for a place to live. I was anxious to get back and see my bride!!!!!

Zelma Wood Lawyer – Missionary – Author

My mother, Bessie Beatrice (Wood) Graham was my aunt Zelma’s older sister.  My mother used Aunt Zelma’s name frequently when trying to encourage me to continue on the straight and narrow.  This was not a rare event.  I will mention a few of the occasions when this occurred.

After graduating Morton High School, it was my intent to become a preacher.  This pleased my mother (and aunt Zelma).  There was some difficulty in staying in college because of finances and at age 17, I left college and went to Ruidoso, New Mexico to get my parents to sign so I could enlist in the army.  Mother was opposed to this and used aunt Zelma’s name in trying to discourage me from joining the military.  I just needed one signature, therefore my Dad obliged me.  Off to Fort Ord, California I went.

Four years later when I was discharged from the service and getting ready to enroll in college in the pre-med field, Mother invoked aunt Zelma’s name again.  She even asked me to read aunt Zelma’s book “I Married a Missionary” and loaned me her copy of the book.  She said aunt Zelma would be displeased if I did not continue in the previous field of preaching the Word of God.

I did read aunt Zelma’s book and must admit that I was a little disappointed.  She had a very good story to tell and yet she fictionalized portions of the book.  She changed names and did not have the name of Ray or Zelma Lawyer in the book. She use the name “Roberts” for the family name.  She did not talk about her oldest child, Jeanne who was about 3 years old when they left the states for Africa.  She did mention her second child, George, and indicated he was born shortly after they reached Cape Town.  Jeanne (Lawyer) Stinson, in her book, “I Dream of Jeanne” does set the record straight so to speak in the sense that George at age two did have a bad case of dysentery and died.  Zelma, on the other hand keeps him alive in her book after a frightening illness.

Aunt Zelma did have a severe depressive episode after returning home after her husband, Ray Lawyer died.  Perhaps she could not tell the true story because it was too painful to bare.  This was intimated when she was describing the incident that lead to Ray Lawyer’s (Mr. Roberts) death.  She deserves a lot of credit for what she accomplished in Africa and is worthy to have an endowed scholarship established in her name.  This scholarship has been initiated at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas and will be called The Ray and Zelma Lawyer Endowed Scholarship for missionary students.

Check out her book at Digital Commons @ ACU and look up “I Married a Missionary” by Zelma Wood Lawyer.  It is free.  It has a soul saving message.