Baylors Benjamin Franklin Scholars Bring Light to Complex FigureOctober 22, 20183 min read
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a complex man.
Among his many roles, he was a businessman, entrepreneur, inventor, journalist, author, printer, editor, politician, postmaster, statesman, ambassador and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
And even with a treasure trove of accomplishments, sometimes the Franklin legends are bigger than Franklin the man – and it’s taken an army of historians and scholars throughout the centuries to sort it out.
As July 4 Independence Day approaches, Baylor University's two Franklin scholars share different perspectives of Franklin, his faith and his business acumen:
- Thomas S. Kidd, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History and associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion
- Blaine McCormick, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the management department in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business
Both have penned Franklin books and both have been featured nationally for their research on the Founding Father.
Kidd’s 2017 book, “Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father,” has received high marks for its analysis of Franklin’s beliefs. From his Puritan upbringing to deism, skepticism and more, the book explores the influences and evolution of faith throughout Franklin’s life.
“In today’s polarized political and religious environment, some pundits seek to remake the Founding Fathers in their own image. Benjamin Franklin’s example reveals that the historical truth is often more complicated,” Kidd wrote in a May 2017 column for The Wall Street Journal.
McCormick, who wrote “Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur,” discovered a passion to study the Founding Father after listening to an audiobook of Franklin’s autobiography.
“Franklin could do things as a statesman, and understand things, and achieve things as a statesman, because he had achieved things in the marketplace first,” he said. “I’ve yet to find a better book for businesspeople to learn about how to run a business in the American Experiment. He wrote the autobiography to help train people in the life of business. Many of the principles are still very robust.”
And the way he shared those principles (many of which have been misquoted and made into memes through the decades) is important, McCormick said.
“Franklin used sentences no longer than a Tweet to train generations of colonial businesspeople,” he said. “They were short. They were memorable. They were high-impact.”
ABOUT THOMAS KIDD, PH.D.
Thomas S. Kidd, Ph.D., serves as Distinguished Professor of History and associate director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. His books include “Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Lie of a Founding Father, “American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths,” “Baptists in America: A History,” “George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father,” “Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots,” “God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution,” “American Christians and Islam” and “The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America.” He has written for outlets including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
ABOUT BLAINE MCCORMICK, PH.D.
Blaine McCormick, Ph.D., serves as chair of the management department in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, is a nationally recognized scholar on the business practices of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. McCormick is interviewed frequently across all forms of media including Forbes, The New York Times, CNN, public radio, and ABC World News Tonight. He often travels to developing countries to teach business lessons to undereducated entrepreneurs using only a bottle of Coca-Cola as a teaching aid. A native Texan, McCormick grew up working in the cotton fields of West Texas. Before joining the Baylor faculty, he worked in Dallas and Plano for ARCO Oil & Gas Company as a human resource management professional.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
Blaine McCormick, Ph.D. Chair, Department of Management
Dr. Blaine McCormick is the Chair of the Management Department in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.
Thomas S. Kidd, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor of History
Dr. Kidd is Associate Director of Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and Co-Director of the Program on Historical Studies of Religion.