Ruth Johnston, a Texas Pioneer

Ruth Johnston, a Texas Pioneer
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A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about Ruth Johnston, a Texas Pioneer

Ruth Gilpin Johnston, Unity Minister of Ft. Worth
Rev. Ruth Gilpin Johnston
Unity Minister

Rev. Ruth Johnston became a Texas pioneer for the Unity movement. She had not planned to do so, it just worked out that way.

Born into an aristocratic Southern family, Ruth had assumed she would be "an old maid." She surprised her relatives by getting married later in life to a widower who just happened to own an insurance company. Her family assumed her lifestyle of affluence would cause her to just relax and enjoy life. Instead, after the early death of her husband, she found solace and inspiration in the Unity teachings.

For several years she went regularly to Missouri to study with Charles Fillmore. In due time he said, "Ruth, while I was in meditation, spirit told me you should go to Fort Worth, Texas and found a Unity church there." Her family was aghast, regarding Fort Worth as nothing more than "a Texas cowtown" as depicted in movies about the Old West. Nevertheless, she obediently left her home town and state of Louisville, Kentucky and relocated to Fort Worth.

There she began holding Unity meetings at Hotel Texas. On Sunday mornings a group of Fort Worth businessmen would meet for breakfast and a visit afterwards in the lobby of Hotel Texas. There they would read the Sunday papers and exchange local news of interest to the group. A number of Sunday mornings, Sherman Johnston was among that group. He silently watched as an attractive lady minister worked to set up a ballroom for the 11 a.m. service she was conducting there.

Out of curiosity, he finally offered to help her prepare for those Sunday morning meetings. He not only became fascinated with the Unity teachings, but also with the teacher. They eventually married and he helped her build and pay for a Unity church in Fort Worth.

Soon after I went to Texas to pioneer Unity of Austin, Ruth Johnston was one of our early guest speakers. Upon arrival, she looked over the clothes I was wearing and asked, "Where did you get those pretty clothes?"

She seemed startled when I said, "Neiman-Marcus, Dallas."

The next time she spoke for Unity of Austin, she asked, "How do you like my clothes?"

"They are beautiful, Ruth."

"They should be", she proudly replied. "I followed your example. Sherman bought them for me at Neiman's."

Not only did we guest speak for each other during my years pioneering Unity in both Austin, and later San Antonio, Texas; but she also attended lectures I gave at Hotel Texas for convention groups. In one such group, a Texas businessman saw Ruth and Sherman Johnston in attendance. Afterward, he said, "The fact that you are a friend of the Sherman Johnstons speaks well for you. They are highly respected in the business and cultural communities of Fort Worth." He regarded them as "Texas millionaires."

In one of the last conversations I ever had with Ruth Johnston, she said, "I have spent many years trying to help the people of Fort Worth develop beyond the early 'cowtown' image of their city. Through sharing our Unity teaching, I hope I have been successful."

Indeed she was. Her legacy not only included a thriving church and congregation, but a highly respected reputation that spread near and far. Whether she meant to or not, she became another "Texas pioneer" now accounted for.


(Excerpt from New Thought Magazine - Autumn 2009)

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