Search the Internet or book indexes writes about the history of the Southern Baptist Convention and you will find some references to August “Augie” Boto.
This week, Boto’s name is all over the internet, however, due to his lead role in covering up alleged known sexual abuse in SBC churches. But before that, Boto had been one of the most powerful men in the SBC that few people knew existed.
A lifelong Southern Baptist, he had historic ties to two of Texas’ most prominent SBC conservative churches long before he became executive vice president and general counsel for the SBC executive committee in Nashville, Tennessee.
Boto became a believer at age 7 and was baptized at Magnolia Baptist Church in Riverside, California, where his grandfather had served as pastor. His family later moved to Dallas, where they became longtime members of the First Baptist Church under the pastorate of WA Criswell.
Boto moved from Dallas to Waco, where he earned two degrees from Baylor University: a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a law degree.
As a young lawyer, Boto was present in 1980 at First Baptist Dallas for one of the first meetings of fundamentalists plotting to take control of the SBC by electing a series of presidents beginning in 1979. At that time, Paige Patterson was president from Criswell College. and associate pastor at First Baptist Dallas. Patterson and Paul Pressler were the co-architects of the so-called “conservative resurgence”.
A report in the Baptist standard identifies Boto as one of those who signed up to help secure the vote in North Texas for the conservative SBC movement.
While helping the conservative cause through his church, Boto became a partner in a Dallas law firm, an independent trader with the Chicago Board of Trade, and also a county attorney. For six years, he served as the Cooke County District Attorney in Gainesville, Texas, located near the Texas-Oklahoma border.
In 1985 Boto moved to Austin, where he became an administrative advisor to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. In Austin, he became active at Hyde Park Baptist Church, where Ralph Smith was pastor. Hyde Park was one of the largest conservative churches in the SBC, though not as well known outside of Texas as First Baptist Dallas.
It was there, however, that Boto rode Harold Riley, a wealthy businessman who later established a private foundation to benefit Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Baylor University. This connection would become central to Boto’s life story 30 years later.
To the Executive Committee
In 1995, Boto was elected a director of the executive committee of SBC.
Three years later, while still a trustee, Boto was elected vice president of convention policy and staff attorney. He filled an opening created by the retirement of Ernest Mosley, longtime number 2 on the Executive Committee. A story at the time read, “Among Boto’s responsibilities will be managing the process of reviewing and changing SBC policy documents, its executive committee, boards of directors, commission and of its seminars, including the SBC Constitution, Bylaws, Business and Financial Plan and SBC Entity Constitutions, Bylaws and Charters. »
Boto came to work with then Executive Committee Chairman Morris Chapman, who said of him at the time, “As a lawyer, Boto will bring a wealth of knowledge to the position of Vice President for Policy agreements / staff lawyer. His legal expertise and in-depth knowledge of convention policy will be extremely helpful to the Executive Committee and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Over time, Boto’s role was expanded to Executive Vice President and General Counsel, and for a 13-month period in 2018 and 2019, he served as Acting Chairman of the Executive Committee after the abrupt departure of Chapman’s successor.
Boto announced his retirement three months after Ronnie Floyd was elected chairman of the executive committee in April 2019 and stepped down on September 30, 2019.
Just a year earlier, Paige Patterson had been fired from her position as president of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was fired, in part, for mishandling known cases of sexual abuse and for telling an abuse survivor he wanted to “break her up.”
Patterson’s bitter departure from Southwestern—he and his wife had planned to live in a seminary-owned residence with special lifetime privileges—set in motion a curious sequence of events in which Boto also played a leading role.
Boto, Patterson and others allegedly tried to take over the Harold Riley Foundation – which now had $15 million in assets – and redirect its charitable giving from Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University to the Sandy Creek Foundation, a private foundation benefiting from the Patterson’s work and providing them with a large estate in rural North Texas.
Boto’s work on this program happened while he was still employed by SBC’s executive committee, in fact, while serving as interim president.
Ultimately, Boto and others found themselves in court for this — and a related bid to secure lucrative board seats at the $300 million publicly traded company Citizens Inc., from which the Riley Foundation derived its income. Days before Patterson was forced to testify in court, a settlement was reached.
Court documents describe Boto and another defendant, Charles Hott, as “longtime close allies of Patterson in Baptist circles.”
An attorney for Southwestern’s current administration said in now-public correspondence that Boto “worked directly with Dr. Paige Patterson in 2017 to implement a plan with the (SBC) Nominating Committee to bring Charles Hott on the board. Southwestern Seminary Trustee,” and that “within a month of her election to the seminary trustee, Dorothy Patterson recommended that Mr. Hott become a trustee of the Harold E. Riley Foundation.”
The terms of a settlement that prevented Patterson from being compelled to testify in court stated that Hott, Boto and another man should resign from the Riley Foundation board and be barred from employment and from the board. administration of any Texas charitable organization or Southern Baptist Convention entity. This settlement was reached in February 2021.
So the former SBC Executive Committee Chief No. 2 – the man who has now been identified as blocking most SBC calls for sexual abuse reform and who has worked to silence abuse survivors – by court order may never again serve as an employee or member of the board of directors of any SBC entity.
The bizarre Riley Foundation lawsuit saga now forces SBC to determine who has the right to remove a seminary trustee
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