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GOD & TEXAS: Mrs. Bairds Bread

“She was a living example for mothers, wives, business executives, Christians, and good people the world over.” This statement is part of the resolution passed in 1961 by the Texas State Senate in memory of Ninnie Baird, founder and namesake of Mrs. Baird’s bread. At her funeral, the Rev. James G. Harris proclaimed that Ninnie Bairds’ business success was “in harmony with the moral universe.” A moral universe promotes the concept that a Higher Power bolsters and inspires our actions. And that was the heartbeat of Ninnie Baird.

Ninia Lilla (Ninnie) Baird was born in Tennessee in 1869, and died in Fort Worth in 1961. She married William Allen Baird in 1886 and they operated a local bakery. In 1901, they moved to Fort Worth where William sold popcorn on a downtown street corner using the first steam-operated popcorn machine. Eventually, they opened a small restaurant, but William died in 1911. All this time, Ninnie was making bread for the restaurant and to sell to neighbors. She found that there was a big market for her bread, so the restaurant was sold and she made bread full time.

As a widow with eight children, she was often seen in her backyard kitchen mixing dough with one hand and holding a baby in the other. And her bread was extra special. Everyone knew that Ninnie was very particular about the high quality ingredients she used. It is often remembered by the family that if she broke an egg and the yolk didn’t stand up, she would throw it away because it was not fresh enough for her baking.

With the help of the Lord and wise business acumen, Ninnie’s bread became known as Mrs. Bairds Bread Bakeries. At her death, the privately held family owned company had sales of over $150 million through 12 bakeries sprinkled around Texas. In the early days when Ninnie decided to push forward with her daring enterprise, women were not known to operate a business. But the legacy she left behind is one that proves that a very strong woman can build a conglomerate with a quality product, unquestioned honesty, and excellent customer care.

At one time, 18 members of the Baird family worked in the business, and carried out the vision and commitment of their dear mother. They learned from her that if it takes getting up at 2:30 a.m. to get the bread ready for distribution that day, so be it. In her later years, as more of the business responsibilities were passed to the next generation, Ninnie was able to spend more time helping others. Much of her time was spent supporting a small Southern Baptist church on College Avenue, and donating resources to church orphanages and seminaries.

At her funeral, Rev. Harris said that Ninnie was “an ideal woman in the eyes of God.” He was referring to the Proverbs 31 woman who was so very special in family and business. Verse 28 states, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her.”

Noted author William Bennett said, “There is nothing more influential in a child's life than the moral power of quiet example. For children to take morality seriously they must see adults take morality seriously.” Ninnie Baird fulfilled that awesome description completely. And this is a challenge to each of us, as well.

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