Author Interview with Paul Bass

Today we welcome Paul Bass.

Book ‘Em:  Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.

Paul Bass:  I am a retired minister and educator. I have served nineteen years fulltime in churches in Arkansas, Alabama and Missouri. I served for eighteen years as a director of student activities and adjunct instructor at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I have also served as interim and bi-vocational pastor during the time in Arkansas. Retiring for the third time in 2012, we moved to Willard, Missouri to be close to family. Besides writing, I am also teaching Bible classes at Mercy School of Nursing in Springfield through Southwest Baptist University.

Book ‘Em:  Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?

Paul Bass:  My writing began while at OBU doing research on the history of debate at OBU. I was introduced to an outstanding OBU graduate of 1907, Henry Garland Bennett. He became president of Southeast Oklahoma State and later president of Oklahoma State University. President Truman appointed him to head up what was called the Point Four program to provide technological assistance to international countries recovering from the devastating effects of World War II. He and his wife died in a plane crash in northern Iran in December, 1951. There had been no book written about this remarkable man and his life story. In 2007, my book, No Little Dreams: Henry Garland Bennett, Educator and Statesman, was published. The next year a second book in a series, Fellow Dreamers: Oklahoma, Education and the World, was published. In 2009, the third book in the trilogy, Touching the Dream: Point Four, was published.

Several members of my church encouraged me to write a book on a series of children’s messages and sermons. In 2010, I wrote In Jesus’ Names, an alphabetical study of various titles for Jesus in the Bible. It was followed the next year by Minor Characters of the Bible, an alphabetical study of little known characters in the Bible.

In 2012, a biography, Robert S. Kerr: Pioneer King, was published. It received the Missouri Writer’s Guild 2013 First Place Walter Williams Major Work Award. In 2013, another religious-themed book, Grace through Tolerance was published. It was followed the next year by an autobiographical book, Me and Church.

In 2015, The History of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri was published. This three-year project earned the Missouri Writer’s Guild 2016 First Place Walter Williams Major Work Award. That same year, Legacy, Leadership and Learning: History of Oklahoma’s State University’s School of International Studies, was published. It had been a five-year project commissioned by Oklahoma State University. In 2017, Pioneer Churches of Springfield, Missouri was published.

Book ‘Em:  Do you have a work in progress?

Paul Bass:  I enjoy research and writing historical non-fiction books about significant people and events that have had no literary recognition. My current project, the twelfth book, is Missouri Innovators: Show Me A Better Way. It is a study of seventy Missourians with significant impact on our country and the world. It is to be published in 2018

Book ‘Em:  What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?

Paul Bass:  The most difficult writing has been about the early churches of Springfield, Missouri. There were so many name, location and leadership changes that it was a challenge to come up with an authentic timeline.

Book ‘Em:  What sort of research do you do for your work?

Paul Bass:  Research has involved extensive travel in libraries, military archives, personal interviews and a growing credible internet resources. My interest in photography was useful in providing many of the photos used in my books.

Book ‘Em:  Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?

Paul Bass: I enjoy reading biographies by popular authors such as David McCallum and Doris Kearns Goodwin. I also like to read good, current fiction writers such Dan Brown, Ken Follett and John Grisham.

Book ‘Em:  Was there a person who encouraged you to write?

Paul Bass:  I don’t recall anyone encouraging my initial attempts at writing. I have been fortunate to have had publishers being very encouraging and agreeing to publish projects mentioned, but not even started.

Book ‘Em:  What would you say are your strengths as an author?

Paul Bass:  I would like to think that my strength as a writer is confident research material and readability.

Book ‘Em:  How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?

Paul Bass:  I try to do my writing in the early, mid-mornings while the research in often late morning and afternoons.

Book ‘Em:  Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?

Paul Bass:  Five years from now, I hope to have completed and published at least three more books, possibly in a series of other state innovators.

Book ‘Em:  If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Paul Bass:  My advice to would-be writers is the following: Don’t be afraid to write a lousy first draft! Just get your ideas down and paper. Proofreaders, editors and publishers will help you clean up your work so that it looks like you are a great writer.

Book ‘Em:  What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?

Paul Bass:  My best compliments come from readers who recall fondly the historical background of my writing subjects and feel a sense of nostalgia.

Book ‘Em:  Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.

Paul Bass:  Excerpt from No Little Dreams: Henry Garland Bennett, Educator and Statesman:

Introduction

The four-engine French Languedoc plane lifted off from Baghdad late. The trip being three days behind schedule, every effort was being made to get to Teheran as quickly as possible.

The late departure would guarantee arrival after dark in a blinding snow- storm on December 22, 1951. The MISR (Egyptian airlines) plane was the same one which the Iranian President, Dr. Mohammed Mossadeq, had used on his return trip from Egypt to Teheran, after completing a trip to America.

Among the passengers on the plane were A. Cyril Crilley, Benjamin H. Hardy, James T. Mitchell, and Dr. and Mrs. Henry G. Bennett. The members of the delegation were leaders of the Technical Cooperation Administration working to improve productivity of underdeveloped countries following World War II.

In spite of the blinding snowstorm, the Mehrabad airport kept in radio contact, sending up repeated flares to light the runway. The circling plane radioed after 8:00 p.m. that the runway had been sighted. After that all contact was lost. The awaiting American Embassy staff kept vigil until midnight trying to get some information. Early December 23, just five miles from the airport in a deep gully among low hills, the wreckage was sighted. All on board had been killed on impact.

Upon hearing of this tragedy, President Harry S. Truman issued the following words:

In the death of Henry Garland Bennett, administrator of the Point Four program, I have lost a friend and the American people have lost a great teacher of the simple ideas of cooperation and brother- hood.

He was a good man, and he believed in the goodness of human nature; he was an educated man, in the best sense, and he believed in the right of all to an education. Finally, he understood how people could make miracles by sharing knowledge to help themselves and each other. That is the essence of the Point Four program, for which Dr. Bennett lived and died.

Then Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, issued these words:

Dr. Bennett, was one of those rare human beings whose faith in his fellowmen inspired them to unselfish action far beyond their duty and their ordinary capabilities.

Dr. Bennett believed in the Point Four program, because he, in his long, rich life, had seen what people working together, could accomplish to help themselves and one another, against great odds. He believed in Point Four, and he gave to the program and the people working together in it the whole wealth of his knowledge, his enthusiasm and his faith.

A young Columbia Broadcasting System Washington correspondent, Eric Sevareid, gave a very moving radio address announcing Dr. Bennett’s death that concluded with these words:

And one believed him implicitly; for he knew exactly how it could all be done. So he roamed, with his words and his pointing finger over the map of this suffering world, and you felt that here was the true voice and meaning of America to the world; this was the special mission of our country in this century; this was the way for America to pursue the cold war. You felt that propaganda and weapons were ephemeral forces compared to this; that this was the thing we could do as no other people could do it, and the Communists would simply be lost in our dust.

That is the way Dr. Bennett made people feel. This, one felt, was applied Christianity; this man in his rumpled suit was a mechanic of Christianity, so to speak, one who reduced it to everyday life and knew how to make it work. His death is a great loss, for he had started something here, something fresh and wonderful, in a government where men and ideas have grown tired and worn. But it seems almost appropriate that he should die at Christmas time, out in the Middle East, in that arid, biblical vale of tears where the idea of brotherhood was first made human. He knew that once there had been cedars of Lebanon; and he knew how to make them grow there again.

Former Oklahoma Senator and long-time friend, Robert S. Kerr, said that Henry Bennett was “a dreamer of no little dreams with the magic of transporting them into reality.” Henry Bennett’s ability to dream “no little dreams” was inherited from his family and would serve as an inspiration for generations to come.

It is most telling that when the bodies of Dr. and Mrs. Bennett were located at the wreckage site, between them was found an open family Bible. That book was central to their lives and their mission at home and abroad. As the lives and contributions of two Arkansas-born individuals are examined, may the challenge be to look at what is central in our lives as we live in a far more global, yet equally needy com- munity.

 

 

Books can viewed on Amazon.com and my personal Facebook page, Paul William Bass. I can be contacted by email at bassp@obu.edu

 

 

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