History of New Orleans Seminary

Founded for Mission

Established in 1917, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was actually the fulfillment of a century-old dream of Baptists to reach the city of New Orleans (then one of the largest cities in America, with a well-deserved reputation as a “sin city”) and to establish a missionary training school at the gateway to Latin America. NOBTS was voted into being by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 as messengers met in New Orleans for their annual meeting. New Orleans Seminary was the first theological institution to be created by direct action of the Southern Baptist Convention. Originally named Baptist Bible Institute, the name was changed to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1946.

Growth and Expansion

Following unanimous SBC approval in 1917, the Institute opened its first session in October 1918 under the leadership of Byron H. DeMent, who served as president of the Baptist Bible Institute from 1917 to 1928.

Others who have served as president of the school are William W. Hamilton Sr. (1928-42); Duke K. McCall (1943-46); Roland Q. Leavell (1946-58); H. Leo Eddleman (1959- 70); Grady C. Cothen (1970-74); and Landrum P. Leavell II, nephew of Roland Leavell (1974-95); and Charles S. “Chuck” Kelley Jr. (1996-2019).

On June 5, 2019, the NOBTS trustees unanimously elected James K. “Jamie” Dew Jr. to serve as the school’s ninth president. Dew brings a wealth of academic, administrative, and ministerial experience to the task. He holds two Ph.D. degrees, one from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and another from the University of Birmingham (UK). Dew most recently served as vice president of undergraduate studies and distance learning at Southeastern Seminary.

From its beginning until 1953, the school was located at 1220 Washington Avenue, in the heart of the Garden District of residential New Orleans. During the presidency of Roland Q. Leavell, the current campus at 3939 Gentilly Boulevard was purchased in 1947. The landmark entrance gates and fence from the Garden District mansion now are located on the front block of the Gentilly campus. The current property, once a 75-acre pecan orchard, has been transformed into a beautiful campus with 12 additional acres and more than 70 buildings.

New Orleans Seminary is accredited to offer degrees on both the undergraduate and graduate levels: associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral. The Seminary is committed to making quality theological education as accessible and affordable as possible to as many as possible. NOBTS currently serves more than 3,600 students. More than 20,000 men and women have studied and prepared themselves for ministry at NOBTS. In 2017 and 2018, the seminary celebrated its 100th year of ministry in New Orleans.

A Vision for the Future

The future is bright at New Orleans Seminary and the school remains committed to the task of training men and women for Gospel ministry in this most unique setting. In addition to a continued focus on graduate programs, NOBTS leaders plan to expand and enhance the work of Leavell College. Dr. Dew also brings a new emphasis on raising up a generation of Gospel ministers marked by servanthood and total devotion to Christ and His kingdom. Servanthood and the basin and towel will characterize the NOBTS community as they proclaim the Gospel and grow in spiritual fervor.