Centennial Moments

Researched & Written by David Goeke


He grew up a farm boy and the son of a Lutheran pastor. He was born in Cypress, Texas, then moved with his family to Klein, Texas, where his father would die. His mother then took him and his siblings and moved to Fedor, Texas. There, five years later, his widowed mother would marry the widowed Pastor Gotthilf Birkman. HIs name was John W. Behnken. This gifted young man, who knew all about rural life, who grew up speaking German, would go on to study at St. John's College, Winfield, Kansas, in preparation to study for the pastoral office at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

While at St. John's he would lose sight in one eye because of an accident while playing handball. He would then go back to Fedor, Texas, for a short period of time to assist his stepfather, Dr. Birkman, in teaching the elementary school there. Later, he would go to Concordia Seminary, graduate, and be called as a pastor to start a mission in Houston, Texas. This great man would, over the years, serve in various capacities in the Texas District, not the least of which would be the President of the same. Only a few years later, he would be elected President of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and serve during the very chaotic war years of World War II. He sat in the presence of such notables as Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Harry Truman and was a liaison of the Lutheran church to German Lutherans after the war. He would be the first of three Texas District presidents to go on the become Synodical presidents. A mission minded president, a scholar and a man with a pastoral heart and very humble, he was Rev. Dr. John W. Behnken.