Since SBC President Bryant Wright’s September 19 announcement to the Executive Committee that he had unilaterally appointed an “unofficial” task force to study changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention, there have been many new names that have been suggested. Some of the names I have seen bandied about at SBC Voices are: Evangelical Baptist Convention, Assembly of Evangelical Baptists, and the Great Commission Baptist Network. Dr. Steve Lemke, at SBC Today, although not endorsing a name change, has nevertheless proposed Fellowship of Baptist Christians (FBC) as a potential new name.
On Wednesday over at SBC Voices, in a comment on my OP, “SBC Name Change: Silence of Elder Statesmen Deafening,” a new name was thrown into the ring: Dixie Baptist Convention. I don’t know what to say. It’s hard enough having an entire region of the country share my name, but now the largest Protestant body in the United States. I’m not sure I could live up to such pressure!
For those who have never taken the time to read the “About” page here at From Law to Grace, let me share a little bit about my name. My full name is Dixie Howell Scott, II. I was named after my father, Dixie Howell Scott, who himself was named in honor of Millard Fleming “Dixie” Howell. For Alabama Crimson Tide fans, the name Dixie Howell will ring a bell. Howell played on the 1934 Rose Bowl Champion Crimson Tide team with future legends Paul “Bear” Bryant and Don Hutson (who went on to play with the Green Bay Packers). “Dixie” Howell, who was the 1935 Rose Bowl MVP, was also named to the all-time Rose Bowl Team and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.
Growing up in the small central Florida town of Lake Placid, my father was a well-respected funeral director and community leader. Everyone knew Dixie. From as early an age as I can remember, I have, for the most part, used my middle name, Howell. It wasn’t because I wasn’t proud of my first name, but rather because that’s the name my parents began using when I was an infant. Since I could not rightly be called a “Junior,” Howell became the name that everyone knew me by. That was, until I went north for college.
At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., it would be safe to say that I was a fish out of water. A southern, Christian boy in a hostile environment, with an interchangeable middle and last name and a first name that, despite it’s use with males in the first part of the 20th century, was not only uncommon, but also now considered to be a “girl’s” name. And believe me, no young man in their freshman year of college wants to carry such baggage. What to do?
In a frantic attempt to hide my name so that my fellow students and fraternity brothers — almost all of whom were from states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — would not find out my real name, I tried to use my middle name. It didn’t work. In every class, the official roster, from which the Professors would take roll, had my full name: Dixie Howell Scott, II. For the first few classes, I tried in vain to get them to use Howell, but I finally gave up and resigned myself to the fact that I would, at least in class, be known as Dixie.
However, the fraternity — Phi Sigma Kappa, Lambda Chapter — would be a different story. Or so I thought. Attempting to blend into this mix of predominantly Jewish and Roman Catholic band of brothers from the northeast, I just knew that they would not like the name Dixie. At the time, I wasn’t too crazy about it myself. Because of my name, associated with all things southern, I figured that the best thing to do would be to hide my first name and just go by Howell.
On the night of our induction as pledges into PSK, it stood to reason that a guy named Howell, who lived in Thurston Hall, along with Bob, his roommate from Denver, would both somehow end up with pledge names related to Gilligan’s Island. When the Inductor (Pledge Master) came up behind me and said, “Your pledge name is cups,” it took me a moment to get it. Needless to say, from that moment on, I have been known as Dixie to my fraternity brothers and friends from G.W.U.
Dixie Howell Scott, II is the name that I have lived with my entire life. While it has not always been an easy name to carry, I am extremely proud to bear the name of my father. In many ways, we are known by our names. With that, we take the good and the bad. I would be lying if I said that I had never thought about changing my name? Anyone with an unusual name (I think a man named Dixie in the 21st century qualifies) has certainly entertained those thoughts.
But, it seems like the older I get, the more that I like my name. My fondness for my own name doesn’t come from sentiment, nostalgia, heritage, or tradition. It comes from the fact that my name says who I am. Oh, I suppose I could change my name to something more hip and cool, like Seven, but a name change would not really alter who I am or who I hope to be. My fraternity brothers would still call me Dixie (or “Dix” for short). My mother and sister would still call me Howell. And, my wife would just call me crazy!
By changing my name, would it allow this southern boy with the racial moniker to overcome barriers to establishing more relationships with people from different races, religions, or regions? Perhaps, but then again, no one — absolutely no one — has ever rejected my friendship because of my first name. Rejected for other reasons, to be sure, but not the name. I give people more credit than to knee-jerk dismiss someone because of their name. In the end, maybe the hang-up with names is more our problem than it is their’s. Well, that’s the way that Dixie Howell Scott, II sees it, anyway.