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Dr. George Shaw

“There will always be an England.”
(The following was taken from the book A Tree God Planted by Troy Damron)

This slogan may not be accepted as veritable truth by non-Anglophiles, but the British believe it, and to them that is all that really matters. Dr. George Shaw, beloved teacher and dean of Toccoa Falls College from 1933 until his death in 1949, was an Englishman who believed in the eternal character of the British and who never allowed his students to forget his conviction.

Dr. Shaw was born in London, England, on March 31, 1870. While still a teenager, he left England and moved to St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, where he was apprenticed to a tailor. He learned his trade well and often asserted that he always did all of the repair work on his own clothing.

He heard the call of God to the ministry and began to make plans to prepare himself for this new work. He came to the United States in 1893 and in 1897 enrolled in Hamline University. In 1901 he graduated with an A.B. degree and entered Drew Seminary in Madison, New Jersey. He earned a B.D. degree from Drew in 1903, and some years later he also received an honorary D.D. degree from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. Dr. George Shaw

Sometime during his early ministry, he married, and together he and Mrs. Shaw engaged in a variety of ministries. For some time they worked with the Salvation Army. During that time they ardently campaigned for temperance. Not uncommonly, this zealous, young couple would enter the saloons of the city to sing hymns and to give a much needed witness to the local imbibers.

Despite his zealous temperance work, however, Dr. Shaw tried always to keep things in proper perspective. On one occasion, while crossing the ocean, he was accosted by the Anglican bishop responsible for the Sunday services aboard ship. It seems that a quantity of wine had been consecrated for a communion service that had been poorly attended. Rules of the bishop’s church required that the consecrated wine must all be used. Since the wine was fermented and was more than the bishop alone could safely drink, he asked Dr. Shaw to assist him in disposing of the problem. Dr. Shaw obliged and helped rescue the good bishop from his predicament.

In 1914, Dr. Shaw returned to the British Isles to take special courses at the Presbyterian schools of Glasgow and Edinburgh. He then returned to the United States and entered into a full preaching and teaching ministry. He received American citizenship but never lost his English flavor.

When the United States entered World War I, he returned to England where he assisted the “doughboys” stationed there to adjust to the English customs and culture. He often served as a guide for the Americans to English historical sites and never ceased to be amused at their naiveté. On one occasion, while showing a group of soldiers one of the royal castles, he pointed out to them the queen’s bathroom. He remarked that the queen often took her bath in fine wine. While waiting for this bit of pomposity to register, he heard a doughboy mutter, “I wish I could have drunk the suds.”

The fact that Dr. Shaw was an American citizen did not prevent him from retaining many of his English mannerisms and attitudes. In his mind, the Americans were brash upstarts who did not appreciate the great wonders of antiquity. Americans considered buildings in the United States that date to colonial times old, but the English do not consider a building old until it has stood for at least a thousand years.

Although his students sometimes questioned whether or not he was truly an American, he laid that matter to rest by recounting an episode from his life. After World War I, he was returning to America on the same ship with a contingent of American troops. When the ship docked, thousands of well-wishers came to meet it and to approve a job well-done. As the soldiers debarked, carrying high “Old Glory,” the band began to play the national anthem. With tears in his eyes, Dr. Shaw looked at his students and said, “That, young ladies and gentlemen, was the day that I became an American.”

Dr. Shaw’s teaching ministry began at Fletcher College in Oscaloosa, Iowa, where he instructed for three years. He then moved to Taylor University, in Upland, Indiana, where he taught for eight years. He was at Taylor during the period when that institution witnessed a religious awakening characterized by extreme emotionalism. He participated to an extent in these experiences, but opposed the uncontrolled nature of some of the exhibitions that made it difficult to distinguish between real and counterfeit spirituality. His experience at Taylor later prompted him to counsel his Toccoa Falls students as follows: “Young ladies and gentlemen, it matters not to me how high you jump, just so long as you walk straight when you come back down.”

Following his ministry at Taylor, he taught at Nyack College (New York). During his time at Nyack, he taught a number of the young people from Toccoa Falls who were required to take one year at Nyack to qualify for missionary service in the C&MA. One could imagine God felt one year under the tutelage of this superb teacher was not enough for his choice young people at Toccoa Falls. Accordingly, “the pillar of cloud” became stationary and remained so until God summoned His servant to come up higher.

Dr. Shaw never allowed his mind to grow stale. He kept abreast of world events and sought to find in them some fulfillment of Scripture. He accepted his Bible as the only safe guide for faith and practice and renewed his spiritual vigor by constant study of the Word and daily communication with his Heavenly Father in the privacy of his prayer closet.

These practices, coupled with an innate ability to teach, determined that his classes never became boring or ordinary. So impressive was his ability to teach that his students could easily remember the material he taught and make appropriate application of it to their own lives. He handled controversial material in such a kindly spirit that even his most dogmatic adversaries could not leave a discussion without being impressed by his logic and tolerance.

Dr. Shaw had a regular day to speak in chapel, and his chapel talks were always rich and apropos to the occasion. During the dark days of World War II, he never lost faith in the ability of the Allies, particularly the British, to survive and to win. When Winston Churchill made his famous “blood, sweat, and tears” speech, Dr. Shaw used a chapel period to review the speech and to suggest that God would not desert those who had so determinedly taken a stand for right. He believed God would see the British through the terrible bombing of London, just as He had miraculously delivered so many of them at the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Although Dr. Shaw believed God would sometimes intervene in world affairs to execute His own purpose, he believed just as strongly in parental responsibility to train children in the way they should go. Once, when his own children were small, he felt it necessary to take one of them upstairs to administer some essential parental guidance. While he was thus engaged, the president of the college called on him. When Mrs. Shaw advised him of the presence of so great a person, he replied, “Tell him I cannot come just now; I am training a child.”

On February 16, 1949, Dr. Shaw suffered a mild heart attack. His doctor warned him to make no attempt to go to his classes for at least a week. Being the warrior he was, however, he remarked that nothing was said against his classes coming to him, so he met with his students in his home until the seven-day period was over. He told Dr. Forrest that if he was to go down at this time, he wanted to fall with his flags flying. On February 25, 1949, he left this life just as he wished and made a triumphal entry into his heavenly mansion. His body was returned to British soil to be laid to rest in St. Thomas Cemetery, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

It was my privilege to sit under the teaching of this spiritual giant for five years and to be closely associated with him on the staff at Toccoa Falls for five additional years. He was a man of God so rare that his equal would scarcely be found in a lifetime. It may be that there will not always be an England. But, in the hearts of those who knew him, there will always be a very special Englishman—Dr. George Shaw.

Dr. George Shaw

Dr. George Shaw (far right) is shown here with his wife. The identity of the other lady is unknown.