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4520 Bosque Boulevard
Waco, TX 76710
Phone: 254-772-5272
Fax: 254-772-5695
About An Amazing Life|Help

William R.
Carden, Jr.

August 22, 1937 – December 30, 2018

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William R. Carden, Jr.
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"We are honored to provide this Book of Memories to the family."
— OakCrest Funeral Home

Obituary for William R. Carden, Jr.

William R. Carden, Jr.
August 22, 1937 – December 30, 2018

Bill Carden, 81, of Waco, TX passed away peacefully on Sunday, Dec. 30th after a lengthy illness. Visitation will be from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at OakCrest Funeral Home, 4520 Bosque Boulevard, Waco, Texas on Thursday, January 10. A Memorial Service is scheduled for Friday, January 11, at 11:00 am at Lake Shore Baptist Church, 5801 Bishop Drive, Waco, TX.

Bill was born on August 22, 1937, in Ft. Worth, TX, the older child and only son of William Raymond Carden, Sr. and Minnie Catherine (Atkinson) Carden. He excelled in sports and graduated as the Senior Class President of Carter Riverside H.S. in Ft. Worth, TX. It was at church camp the summer of his senior year that he met the love of his life, Merilyn Brown. To stay near Merilyn during her senior year, he started college playing football for Arlington State before later transferring to Baylor University. He graduated from Baylor with a triple major in religion, philosophy and history. On December 28, 1957, he and Merilyn were married at the First Baptist Church of Arlington, TX. Shortly thereafter, he pastored at Rock Prairie Baptist Church in College Station, TX while completing his degree. Bill went on to earn his M.A. in History under Dr. Ralph Lynn, who Bill later said “had a greater impact on my life than anyone outside of my own immediate family.” It was under the direction of Dr. Lynn that Bill completed his thesis: “Decision for War: The Fear of a German dominated World as the Prime Cause for United States’ Entrance into WW I.”

Bill moved his family to Belton, TX in 1960 as he began his teaching career at Mary Hardin Baylor. He earned his PhD in History at Emory University, Atlanta, GA in 1966, and then accepted a teaching position at Stetson University in Deland, FL. He forewent a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard to return to Texas to be near his aging parents. Back in Texas, he wrote the controversial “Carden Report,” an assessment of the Baptist colleges and universities throughout the state commissioned by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. In an effort to impact the findings of the report, Bill joined the staff of Baylor University, under President Abner McCall, as Vice President for Academic Affairs. It was in this role that he worked closely with the student government, effecting positive changes within the University’s structure.

It was a difficult decision to leave academia when, in 1970, Bill joined Word Incorporated as vice president, at the invitation of founder Jarrell McCracken, who would become a life-long friend. It was at Word that Bill interacted with talented people like musician Kurt Kaiser and artist Dennis Hill, with whom he also enjoyed life-long friendships.
He then moved to Dallas in 1973 to join Baylor friend Sparky Beckham in the real estate business. This was foundational to launching a banking career, which he did, at First National Bank, McAllen, in 1977. Bill was eager to return to Central Texas and subsequently accepted a position as President of the American Bank of Waco, working with the Callan/ Bostick/ Deaver families. In 1982, he returned to academia to start and direct the Center for Banking and Financial Studies in the Baylor Business School, formulating a continuing education curriculum for banks around the country. It was during this period that he at various times served as Chairman of the marketing division of the Texas Bankers Association; as President of the Baylor Alumni Association; and as board member of the Waco Chamber of Commerce, the Baylor Development Council, the Hankamer School of Business and the Baylor College of Arts and Sciences. Bill formed his bank consultancy firm, The Carden Group, in 1985 and spent the remaining years of his career developing relationships with bankers and companies throughout the United States. Those relationships expanded to Board roles at KFC Corporation and Q2 where he devoted a significant portion of his later professional life, creating substantive friendships and unique life experiences.

Bill valued his 40 years in the Waco community and the personal and business relationships he formed there. Many were solidified in the church families at Seventh and James Baptist Church, Lake Shore Baptist Church and most recently St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where he led large Sunday school classes and participated in many governance committees. He had a great appreciation of civic responsibility and enjoyed his service on the Waco City Council, as well as the boards of many non-profits, including Caritas.

While Bill was ready to be with the Lord, he reluctantly left his wife of 61 years, with whom he celebrated an anniversary on December 28, two days before his passing. He is survived by wife Merilyn Carden, daughter Virginia and her husband Joe Ellis, son Michael and his wife Lori Nelson Carden, daughter Amber Lynn Carden, grandchildren Tyler, Eric and Chandler Ellis, Ashlynn and Duncan McGee and Bryn Carden, sister Barbara Carden, and numerous cousins.

Bill’s hope for us this coming year is that we:
May be able to use our abilities fully to solve whatever challenges confront us;
Always act in hope, regardless of the bleakness of the situation;
Pursue positive goals to keep us focused on our dreams;
Remain serenely happy in knowing that we are loved and cherished by family and friends; and
Show the courage to live a life true to our best self, and not the life others expect of us.

Funeral service will be conducted by lifelong friend and Minister Deryl Fleming. Honorary pallbearers are Dr. Robert Baird, Dr. Robert Christian, Mr. Dennis Hill and Dr. Rufus Spain, and in Memoriam: Dr. Ralph Lynn, Dr. James Vardaman, Dr. Kurt Kaiser, Mr. Jarrell McCracken and Dr. A.A. Hyden.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Caritas of Waco or the Family Health Center of Waco. The family invites you to leave a message or share a memory in our Memorial Guestbook at

To send flowers to the family of William R. Carden, Jr., please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.


When Thursday, January 10th, 2019 5:00pm - 7:00pm
OakCrest Funeral Home
4520 Bosque Boulevard
Waco, TX 76710
Location Information
Located directly across the street from the Heart of Texas Fair Grounds

Service Information

Friday, January 11th, 2019 11:00am
Lake Shore Drive Baptist Church
5801 Bishop Dr.
Waco, TX 76710