Robert F. Darden Honored as 2021 Piper Professor for State of Texas

May 12, 2021

Award-winning journalism professor, founder of Black Gospel Music Restoration Project recognized for teaching excellence

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (May 12, 2021) – Robert F. Darden III, B.S.Ed. '76, M.J., professor of journalism, public relations and new media, Master Teacher and founder of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University, has been honored as a Piper Professor of 2021 for the state of Texas by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.

The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation honors 10 professors per academic year across the state for their dedication to the teaching profession and for their outstanding academic, scientific and scholarly achievement. Each Piper Professor receives a certificate of merit, a gold pin and a $5,000 honorarium.

"To be nominated by the Baylor administration for this extraordinary award was, in itself, an incredibly humbling honor. But to be mentioned in the same breath as Baylor's earlier Piper Professors – Rachel Moore, Bob Baird, Ray Cannon and Kent Gilbreath – is just a little this side of overwhelming," Darden said. "I have been incredibly blessed to have had wonderful, life-changing teachers at Baylor. If I have been able to pass along even a little of their compassion and insight to my students through the years, then I have been truly blessed."

Darden is an award-winning teacher, researcher and author, who has been widely cited, quoted and interviewed on a variety of topics in the international and national media. He is the author of more than two dozen books, including "Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City" (Penn State University Press, 2016) and "Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume I: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement" (Penn State Press, 2014).

Darden has received nearly all of the University’s teaching and research awards, including Outstanding Teacher, College of Arts & Sciences; Diversity Award (individually and with the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project); Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year award; Outstanding Researcher, College of Arts & Sciences; and the Master Teacher designation, Baylor’s highest honor for teaching excellence.

In recent years, the former newspaper journalist has been interviewed and featured by the BBC, several NPR programs, the PBS series “The Black Church: This is My Story, This is My Song” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., and in numerous national media outlets. His essays, features, editorials and columns have appeared in The New York Times, The Oxford American, Christianity Today, The Dallas Morning News, Huffington Post and hundreds of others.

Darden was gospel music editor for Billboard Magazine from 1984 to 1998. He also was senior editor of The Wittenburg Door from 1988 to 2008.

He is the founder of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor, the world’s largest initiative to identify, acquire, scan, digitize, catalog and make accessible America’s fast-vanishing legacy of vinyl from gospel music’s “Golden Age.” The BGMRP provides the gospel music for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.

Past Baylor faculty who have been recognized as Piper Professors include Charles G. Smith, 1960; Cornelia M. Smith, 1966; Daniel Sternberg, 1968; Glenn R. Capp, 1972; William J. Boswell, 1975; Robert L. Reid, 1978; Calvin A. Kent, 1988; Robert M. Baird, 1994; Raymond J. Cannon, 1997; Rachel H. Moore, 2003; and Larry Kent Gilbreath, 2007.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.