Julian C. Bridges passed on to heaven peacefully on Monday March 20, 2023.
There will be a celebration of his life on Friday March 31, 2023, at 11:00 AM at First Baptist Church, Abilene.
Throughout his life, Julian believed that his life and achievements were the work of God, and so he requested that the following be the written dedication of his life and work: “To God be the glory, great things HE has done,” which was one of his favorite hymns.
On April 3, 1931, Julian was born in Miami, FL. At the age of 10, he and his mother became Christian believers on the same day, through the ministry and friendship of his after school sitter, who began taking him to church. After he graduated from Miami High School, he went to the University of Florida and became a “Fighting Gator” and was an active member of the Baptist Student Union. One Summer, he signed up to serve as a “student missionary” to Mexico. It was from that initial experience that Julian dedicated his life and career to Christian service and ministry.
After receiving his bachelors’ degree, Bridges went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. There he met a “Georgia Peach”, Charlotte Martin, who quickly became a great partner in ministry and “the delight of his life”. During that time, Julian preached, and she played the piano for a small Spanish-language church in Dallas. Their courtship blossomed into marriage in 1954, and the strong bond of partnership and love in ministry continued through the next 68 years together. Upon graduation from seminary and prayers answered, Julian and Charlotte were appointed as missionaries. The couple went to language school in Costa Rica, and the family grew quickly with three daughters born.
In 1961, the Bridges family of five moved to Mexico City where Julian became the Minister to Students overseeing the work in two student centers and a university student Baptist residential home. There he and Charlotte also served at the First Baptist Church of Mexico City and then created a small church, ministering to hundreds of poor children, students, and families, until leaving in 1973.
Leaving Mexico, the family decided to pursue a new ministry in the United States. Julian had previously attained a ThD from the Seminary in 1958, and while on furlough, in 1968, he returned to his “Gator” alma mater and obtained his PhD in Sociology from the University of Florida. Hardin-Simmons University invited him to become a member of the faculty in 1973, and he began teaching sociology. He was Dean of the department of sociology and social work for several years. Hundreds of students of all different majors learned about marriage and the family, human rights of all types, urban affairs, the sociology of religion in society, and much more.
After 31 years, Dr. Bridges retired in 2004 and was awarded Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Besides the regular rigor of university teaching, counseling with students, and being a sponsor of Alpha Phi Omega and United Mexican American Students on campus, Bridges was passionate about public service through church and in the Abilene community. He loved attending Rotary over the years and was honored with the Lowell W. Queen Award of Excellence in 2011. He served in various capacities in Rotary and thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship of other Rotarians. He was elected to the Abilene City Council in 1982 and served as mayor pro tempore in 1984-1985 and chaired the human relations committee. Over the years Bridges was honored with various awards for civic service.
As a dedicated member of First Baptist Church, Bridges was a strong advocate for City Light Ministries, an organization serving primarily the Abilene homeless and the poor. Through the decades, Bridges preached at City Light and many area churches in neighboring communities and served as the interim pastor at Southside Baptist Church. As a committed deacon, Julian and Charlotte enjoyed visiting and praying with people in the hospital each week. One of his most enjoyable tasks was driving the FBC van to pick up kids for Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. And, of course, many of his closest friends through life were found in the Fellowship Sunday School class where they took turns teaching, studying, and fellowshipping together. Dr. Bridges was a perennial learner and lover of people through Christian ministry. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, he worked as a professional counselor through First Baptist Church, Abilene.
He strongly valued many contacts and colleagues and offered mentorship to HSU students and international students. He was a bilingual spokesperson and has been honored for his work for his advocacy and ongoing care for the Hispanic community. As a lover of challenges, Bridges authored six books, three of which are in Spanish. One of his last and largest projects in later retirement years was creating the largest pronunciation guide (both in print and audio) of Spanish names for English Speakers ever produced at the time and marketed it online. In the most recent years, he has served as a bilingual translator for non-English speaking defendants and inmates in the Abilene District and Federal court system. However, missions were always Julian and Charlotte’s first calling. Even after leaving the mission field, they traveled and taught on sabbaticals in Costa Rica, Spain, Hong Kong, and Tanzania.
Julian C. Bridges is survived by his loving wife Charlotte, his three daughters Rebecca A. Bridges (Renee Sailors), Deborah L. Gil (Henry), and Marelyn Shedd (Glen), and three granddaughters Suzanne Shedd, Callie Rayshell (Steven), and Teagan Whitney (Philip). In addition, the Bridges wish to recognize the Castellano family considered “familia” of the Bridges since the early years of ministry in Mexico City. The Castellanos currently reside in Guadalajara, Mexico and Houston, TX.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorials be made to City Light Ministry, Abilene Baptist Social Ministries, or the Julian and Charlotte Endowed Memorial Scholarship at Hardin-Simmons University.
Pallbearers will be Delbert Allred, Billy Enriquez, Ben Gray, Ken Leggett, and Ron Smith.