In 1952 Gene returned to Southwestern Seminary. Again, all his elective courses he took in church history.
At the age of twenty-one Gene married Helen on national television! They were married in Studio B at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. In those days, there was a TV program on NBC called “Bride and Groom.” On this program couples with interesting love stories were invited to tell their love story. After that they were married there on NBC before 6,000,000 television viewers.
The minister who married Gene and Helen was Frank Laubach, who, at that time was probably one of the three or four best-known people in the world. Dr. Laubach had traveled to almost every nation on earth, at government invitations, to help those nations set up programs to teach their illiterates how to read and write. For instance, in India, Laubach was considered a hero as well as a legend.
The previous summer Gene had taken a course in “How to write for semi-literates” at Scarritt College in Nashville. He was not aware that the class he took that summer would affect his writing style for the rest of his life. “I write books on about a fourth grade level . . . the same level I do mathematics!”
In 1954 he graduated from Southwestern. (He holds a language B.S. and M.Div.) “In retrospect, I never really fit into the typical ministerial mold. I had grown up an east Texas oilfield roughneck. I never understood why ministers changed their voices when they prayed, the way they held their hands, or why they prayed in a ‘stained glass window’ English, and a gothic voice when they preached. And why do we pray in King James English? I simply did not fit this image. As a pastor, this was the consternation of my congregation. I also seemed to make other ministers nervous.
During summers I had worked my way through college roughnecking. The oil fields “birthed” me. That makes for a lousy ministerial role model. Nothing about the pretentiousness of the ministry ever stuck. This was to do me much harm as a pastor. Think of the problems it created with the people in the church. This non-pretentiousness was to dog—even plague—my life right on up to the age of 30 when I stepped out of the traditional church. It still shocks some who think I should be wearing a halo.”