‘The Real Issue’: A Reconsideration of the Turbulent Desegregation of Sewanee’s School of Theology, 1952-1953, Part I

The faculty of Sewanee’s School of Theology in 1950; those who left in response to the university Trustees’ rejection of desegregation in 1952 are marked with an asterisk. First row: Robert McNair*, F. Craighill Brown*, James Allen Reddick*, Bayard Hale Jones. Second row: Robert M. Grant*, R. Lansing Hicks*, and Howard A. Johnson. Three other faculty – Claude E. Guthrie, Frederick Q. Shafer, and Richard H. Wilmer – also resigned and are not pictured here.

By Hannah Pommersheim, T’19
Research Assistant for the Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, Summer 2018


This summer I had the privilege of serving as a researcher for the Sewanee Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation. As I am a student at the School of Theology training for Episcopal priesthood, this internship was perhaps not the most obvious way to spend a summer. Yet it was my position as a seminarian that interested me most in this work. From this research, I have written two posts. Part One, below, is a historical account of what occurred in 1952-1953 and led to the desegregation of the School of Theology at Sewanee. My approach differs from more familiar accounts because it focuses on the faculty who protested Sewanee’s racial segregation, how they framed their dissent, and how Sewanee leaders’ veneration of the university’s antebellum founders was used to oppose desegregation. Part Two, which will be published later, is a more personal post, in which I grapple with my position as a seminarian relating to this history. What unites these posts is my desire to reframe our memory of this period by recovering the perspective of the professors whose protests led them to leave the university. What I seek to uncover in my two posts are the underlying principles at stake for the seminary faculty. What were the protesting faculty fighting for? How did students’ and university leaders’ understanding of Sewanee’s history and its founders’ vision shape their defense of segregation? How important were questions of Christian ethics and witness to the protests and conflicts?

In their own words, the protesting faculty were motivated by their sense of Christian discipleship, by their vocation as clergy in the Episcopal Church, and by their desire to see the institution that they worked for stand up for Christian principles. In refocusing our memories on these professors, I believe we can see this episode in light of Christian ethics and what they mean for our communal ideals and obligations. For those who view Sewanee’s connection with the Episcopal Church as an impediment to social progress on campus, I hope this episode demonstrates the ways in which our Episcopal identity has been a force for justice in our history. There is much work to be done to recover the voices of those first African American men who enrolled and broke the color line at Sewanee – Episcopal priests themselves, I might add – and the Project at large is pursuing that history. This post is a starting place to shift away from the passive construction (Sewanee was desegregated) and toward a more accurate historical account of how the seminary’s faculty and a handful of courageous and determined young African American priests forced the University of the South to end its whites-only educational practices. From my position as a student training for priesthood, the events of 1952-1953 also present an opportunity to celebrate the moral imagination and Christian witness of those professors whose actions forced Sewanee to desegregate.

Questioning the Crisis

During those two decades of racial strife [in Mississippi], I watched opponents of integration resort over and over again to criticism of the “methods” and “motivations” of those advocating change rather than dealing with the issue itself—just as so many of the trustees and regents, and the administration itself, had done in my senior year [at the School of Theology]. And, certainly, over and over again, the real issue was evaded by attacking the character and personal behavior of those on the side of integration—just as happened on ‘the Mountain’ in 1952-1953.

The Right Rev. Duncan M. Gray, Jr. (1926-2016), Bishop of Mississippi and Chancellor of the University of the South [i]

The years 1952 and 1953 were some of the most turbulent in the history of the University of the South. At the end of the Easter (spring) term in 1953, all but one of the faculty of the School of Theology, the university’s chaplain, and the head of the Religion Department at the College resigned and left the Mountain because Sewanee’s Board of Trustees, fully supported by its administration, had voted not to admit African American men to its School of Theology. Shortly after the resignations, the Trustees reversed themselves, officially desegregating the School of Theology (although not the undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences). The Trustees’ resolution from June 1953 stated that all applicants for the School of Theology would be considered “regardless of race.” That summer, John M. Moncrief, Jr., a priest in Orangeburg, S.C., became the first African American student at the University of the South when he enrolled in a summer program for clergy at the Graduate School of Theology.

Moncrief’s matriculation capped a year of fierce and destructive debate about the identity, vision, and purpose of the University of the South and its Episcopal seminary. But damage already had been done. Over sixty percent of its student body had transferred. [ii] In academic terms, the School of Theology had lost a roster of distinguished and accomplished theologians and now had to rebuild the faculty from the ground up. Off the mountain, newspapers and church publications nationwide had portrayed the university as an institution of the Episcopal church determined to resist challenges to the segregated social order of the South.

Most often writers who focus on this time in Sewanee’s history have described these events as a “crisis” for the university, which it was fortunate to survive. (For examples see former Vice-Chancellor Sam Williamson’s Sesquicentennial History chapter on “The McCrady Years,” or former School of Theology Church History Professor Don Armentrout’s article, “A Documentary History of the Integration Crisis at the School of Theology 1951-53” in the Sewanee Theological Review. [iii])

But my research has shown me that framing the story as a “crisis” tends to privilege the perspectives and priorities of the university’s leaders. It tends to fixate on the administrative “ins and outs” of managing the conflict and protecting institutional interests.

Something important gets lost in such accounts — what Duncan Gray, himself a seminarian at that time, called “the real issue.” He had learned the hard but valuable lesson during his last year in seminary that in defense of racial supremacy, even the most enlightened and educated of southern whites would attack “the character and personal behavior of those on the side of integration” instead of confronting “the real issue” of how racial hierarchies stood in light of Christian principles and ethics. For Duncan Gray, the real issue was how a Christian ought to think and act in the face of racial injustice.

From my perspective, what needs recovering from these turbulent years and added to the communal memory of the so-called “crisis” is how the Theology professors grounded their arguments and actions in Christian ethics — how they insisted that the Trustees and administrators not speak of segregation or desegregation as merely a business or practical matter, but to name “any Christian principle involved” in the preservation of the status quo. Expanding our understanding in this way enables us to see these events not just as a crisis averted or survived. We also can see them as leading to a triumph over racial injustice — a triumph made possible by the actions and sacrifices of the protesting faculty members who resigned.

The Beginning

The “Sewanee Integration Crisis,” as it was later known, had its origins in broader church politics of the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the national level, the Episcopal Church was debating how best to provide for the education of African American clergy in the South after the only all-black seminary, Bishop Payne Divinity School in Virginia, closed in 1949. Rather than opening a new all-black seminary, the Synod of the Fourth Province of the Episcopal Church (Province IV consists of the southern-most Episcopal districts, or “dioceses,” which own the university; sometimes it is called the “Sewanee Province”) passed a resolution in the fall of 1951 calling on Sewanee to desegregate to provide for training of black clergy. In June 1952, the Sewanee Trustees were responding to this resolution from Province IV. Before the vote, there was evidence that several prominent bishops from Province IV opposed desegregation, the foremost of whom was Bishop Frank Juhan of Florida. Juhan wrote to all the Trustees before the June 1952 vote to let them know of his opposition to desegregation. [iv]

On June 6, 1952, the Trustees passed a resolution stating “there is nothing in the ordinances of the University to prevent the admission of Negroes…but [we] are of the opinion that the encouragement of the enrollment of such students now is inadvisable.” [v] They cited two reasons for continued segregation. First, Tennessee state law prohibited integrated education. Second, the seminary was part of a wider university and not a standalone institution; to end segregation in the graduate school would effectively end it in the undergraduate college, too. In closing, they said, “we are of the opinion that furtherance of the Church’s work and the happiness and mutual good will of both races will not now be served” by admitting black seminarians. [vi]

"Sewanee Rules Against Negro Theology Class"  The Nashville Tennessean June 7, 1952
“Sewanee Rules Against Negro Theology Class,” Nashville Tennessean, June 7, 1952.

Newspapers in the South and across the nation immediately reported the Trustees’ action. “Sewanee Rules Against Negro Theology Class” read the front-page headline of the Nashville Tennessean on June 7. The School of Theology faculty, having learned of the Trustees’ resolution from such media coverage, drafted their response on the evening of June 9. On June 11, a letter signed by eight faculty members dissenting from the Trustees’ decision not to desegregate was published in the New York Times. [vii] The faculty appealed to Christian ethics in support of desegregation, citing an encyclical from the 1948 Lambeth Conference, a meeting of bishops from across the worldwide Anglican Communion. Additionally, the faculty cited the need to train African American clergy for the church and their own integrity as faculty and priests. They listed their reasons and petitioned the Trustees as follows:

We therefore request a reconsideration of this question by the Trustees. We request that the public be informed that the issue is being considered. We request a statement from the Trustees, not later than their next regular meeting, that they approve in principle the relevant resolutions of the Lambeth Conference and that they are prepared to allow admission of qualified Negro students to the School of Theology … If our request is ignored or if the assurance sought is refused, we are without exception prepared to resign our positions and terminate our connection with the University in June 1953.

As Bishop Gray recalled, the response at Sewanee focused on the “methods” and “motivations” of the dissenting faculty instead of the larger issue of desegregation in light of Christian ethics and the church’s own resolutions. Critics made much of the fact that the protestors released their letter to the press instead of first sending it to the Trustees. In fact, they had sent the letter to the Chancellor, the Bishop of Arkansas Bland Mitchell, and Vice-Chancellor Edward McCrady, but the press received it at virtually the same time. Although the administration claimed they had been blindsided, the position of the theological faculty was well-known to the bishop Trustees.  The Theological faculty had met with the bishops to discuss the “negro question” on June 7. Matters had apparently gotten so heated that Chancellor Mitchell told a faculty member, “Well, if you don’t like things the way they are, you can leave!” The faculty members interpreted Mitchell’s statement as a threat. [viii]

Another point of contention was whether the closing statement of the faculty letter constituted an ultimatum or a strike-threat. Vice-Chancellor McCrady and Chancellor Mitchell interpreted it as both and went on the defensive. They criticized the faculty members in the Sewanee community for their methods and tactics, which were equated with communist strategies. Important donor and segregationist Jessie Ball duPont wrote that the faculty’s ultimatum constituted a “communistic act” and compared the professors to Stalin. [ix] Red-baiting or labeling integrationists as communists was a common tactic in the 1950s for silencing progressive views. “In the South,” writes historian Michael K. Honey, “the accelerating anticommunist rhetoric had the effect of cloaking segregationist and anti-union appeals with a new degree of patriotic responsibility.” [x]

In a letter to the Dean of the School of Theology, Craighill Brown, Bishop Juhan said, “I honestly don’t believe any group of freshmen could have done anything more inconsiderate, unethical, and stupid…”[xi]Vice-Chancellor McCrady commented, “Trial by press, deliberate cultivation of ill will by name calling, and high pressure techniques in general may serve the purpose of a Hitler or a Stalin but do not, I think, extend the Kingdom of God on earth.”[xii]In response to these hostile reactions on the Mountain, the dissenting faculty issued a “Statement of Clarification” on June 21, rebutting the claim that their original letter constituted an ultimatum.

"DEAN BROWN OF SEWANEE: An ultimatum on the subject of Negro seminarians" The Living Church June 22, 1952
Headline in The Living Church: “Dean Brown of Sewanee: An ultimatum on the subject of Negro seminarians,” June 22, 1952.

By contrast, outside of Sewanee, the press was widely supportive of the faculty. Hodding Carter, the well-known editor of the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Mississippi, wrote an editorial titled “Eight Courageous Men of God,” which was then reprinted in The Living Church. [xiii] Newspapers around the country, from The Atlanta Constitution and The Nashville Tennessean to The New York Times, published accounts of the faculty’s letter. Pressure from the Episcopal Church at large was an important factor in the entire episode. The church press all vocally supported the protesters. The deans of Episcopal seminaries wrote a supportive letter as did several Episcopal dioceses and local church vestries and organizations. Other letters from around the country poured in to Vice-Chancellor McCrady’s office, offering opinions, advice, support, and admonishment.

A Tumultuous Time

At the end of July 1952, Chancellor Mitchell called a special session of the Board of Regents, during which he appointed a special committee to investigate admitting black students to the School of Theology. Bishop Edwin Penick of North Carolina, a known supporter of desegregation, chaired the committee. The Penick Committee, as it would be known, began their work immediately, but they did not submit a report until the following May of 1953. During this meeting, at the suggestion of Bishop Edmund Dandridge of Tennessee, the Regents met with the faculty and prayed together as a show of unity during a very tumultuous time. A statement released by the Regents after this meeting added a note of optimism: “both groups [Regents and faculty] feel assured of the cooperation and harmonious operation of the School of Theology during the coming academic year.” [xiv] A truce of sorts had been agreed upon, but it did not hold for long.

Seminarians in 1952
Seminarians in 1952

When school began in the fall, the seminary students returned to a hostile environment left by the controversy over the summer. In response, on September 23, the School of Theology student body passed a series of resolutions in support of their faculty. Notably, one of the staunchest supporters of the faculty was student Duncan Gray Jr., president of School of Theology student body and future bishop. Gray found himself in a difficult position: His father was the Bishop of Mississippi, making him an owning bishop and trustee, while Vice-Chancellor McCrady was his maternal uncle. Yet Gray was set in his allegiances. He supported his professors, whom he later named the most important theological influences in his life. [xv] Looking back later, Gray said the events of his senior year at the School of Theology (1952-53) schooled him well for his ministry and Civil Rights activism as a priest in Mississippi. In conversations “with students, alumni, trustees and regents,” Gray recalled, “I heard every argument possible for preserving segregation in all areas of public life.” This aspect of his education, he said, “prepared [me] for every argument that I ever heard in the next twenty years back in Mississippi. There was nothing new.” [xvi]

The Professors Resign

"Sewanee Urged to Admit Negroes to St. Luke's" and "Dr. Wilmer Urges Cancel Color Line at St. Luke's" The Sewanee Purple October 31, 1951
Headlines in the Sewanee Purple, October 31, 1951: “Sewanee Urged to Admit Negroes to St. Luke’s” and “Dr. Wilmer Urges Cancel Color Line at St. Luke’s.” 

Two important factors worked together to convince the faculty that their resignations needed to be submitted sooner than their original deadline of June 1953. First was the ousting of Professor Bob Grant. As one of the older and most distinguished faculty members, Grant had served as Interim Dean and had won a Guggenheim Fellowship.  In September, Vice-Chancellor McCrady confronted Grant with the charge of public drunkenness. The incident in question had taken place six years earlier, and the segregationist Bishop Juhan was the chief accuser. [xvii] Grant did not dispute the charges and, rather than face his accusers, resigned. In addition to Grant, rumors of misconduct also circulated about Professors Bob McNair and Allen Reddick. The professors apparently believed the administration to be the source of the rumors, leading McNair to write to Chancellor Mitchell asking him to substantiate the charges against him. Chancellor Mitchell responded not by presenting proof, but by asking McNair if he knew in his heart he was guilty: “My understanding of Christian ethics and moral theology is that the guilt or sin in any act or course lies in the doing of it and not in whether the guilt or sin is alleged or proved.”[xviii]The faculty believed they were the targets of a larger scheme by the supporters of segregation to discredit them personally in order to undermine the case they made for desegregation. McCrady, the Vice-Chancellor, later denied any such operation, but a letter from Jessie Ball duPont to Bishop Mitchell in August 1952 suggests otherwise. “The elimination process one by one,” she wrote, “sounds very wise. I trust it has already begun.” [xix]

Robert McNair
Robert Grant

A second matter that disturbed the faculty involved Professor McNair. At the Trustees meeting in June 1952, they had voted to promote McNair to Full Professor, which carried with it tenure. After the faculty published their letter on June 9, the McCrady administration decided to withhold the promotion. When McNair learned of this in September, he filed a complaint with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which investigated. The AAUP also was warned of the firing of Grant, but he did not wish to pursue the matter, so they only investigated the circumstances of McNair’s promotion.  The AAUP report concluded that the only reason the promotion was withheld was that McNair had signed the June 9 letter of protest. Therefore, the AAUP reported, the action was a serious threat to “academic freedom” at Sewanee. Withholding the promotion, they observed, “was a step that could scarcely fail to create, in the protesting group, deep uncertainty as to the intentions and the good will of the University.” [xx]

In response to these pressures, as well as the general atmosphere at Sewanee, the professors tendered their resignations on October 6, 1952. Initially, the Vice-Chancellor did not accept them, but he relented in late October when Dean Brown threatened to make the resignations public if they were not accepted. While all the professors agreed to serve out the rest of the 1952-1953 school year, the School of Theology faced a potentially disastrous situation: It had only one professor returning for the following fall.  The process of seeking a new School of Theology faculty as well as a new University Chaplain began. In February, the university announced it had assembled a new faculty with Bishop Dandridge of Tennessee as Dean. [xxi] With the question of desegregation as yet unresolved, the hiring of a new faculty was met with derision by some. In the Episcopal Churchnews, the Rev. John Krumm, Chaplain at Columbia University, referred to these newly hired faculty members as “scabs,” continuing the theme of labor language. [xxii]

"St. Luke's Faculty Leaves in June: Vice-Chancellor Accepts 8 Voluntary Resignations" The Sewanee Purple November 12, 1952
Headline in the Sewanee Purple, November 12, 1952: “St. Luke’s Faculty Leaves in June: Vice-Chancellor Accepts 8 Voluntary Resignations.”

At the School of Theology, the spring of 1953 was one of deep uncertainty. Concerned that there might not be a new faculty in place for the following year, some seminary professors who were leaving taught their senior level classes in the evenings for the current middlers (second year seminarians) so they would be prepared for their ordination exams.[xxiii]In the end, many bishops including Penick of North Carolina pulled their students from Sewanee: Of the 56 rising middlers and seniors, 35 transferred and 21 remained.

Desegregation at Last

In June 1953, the Trustees met again in a special session to consider desegregation. They had before them the Penick Committee Report, a relatively comprehensive document that included data about the number of African American students at other Episcopal seminaries (there were not many), opinions of faculty, staff, and students, legal matters, and discussions with seminaries that had desegregated about their experiences. A letter from Bishop Thomas Carruthers of South Carolina to McCrady expressed the wider church support for the faculty who had resigned: “the General Church will accept but one answer” on the matter of desegregation. [xxiv]

Those who wanted to maintain Sewanee as an all-white institution often justified their positions by citing Sewanee’s founders. The university was founded by Episcopal Bishops in 1856-1860 to defend and advance the interests of the South’s slaveholding civilization. The 1950s critics alluded to preserving the southern way of life envisaged by those founders. Vice-Chancellor McCrady himself said that desegregation would violate “the founders’ spirit and intention.” [xxv] The Selma branch of the Sewanee alumni association argued that desegregation would be to “abolish forever the ideas of Southern culture of Bishops Polk, Otey and Quintard.” [xxvi] The chief opponent of desegregation on the seminary faculty, Professor Bayard Jones, made exactly this point in a letter to McCrady: “the Sewanee envisaged by the Founders could not survive the experiment which is urged.” [xxvii]

Yet in the end, a different vision of Sewanee won out. “In this instance the church influence proved decisive,” writes Vice-Chancellor Samuel R. Williamson, Jr., “overriding the chancellor, the vice-chancellor, the Board of Regents, and the college faculty.” [xxviii] As of June 1953, the School of Theology was officially desegregated, a victory for the faculty who were no longer there to see it. Yet the actual work of desegregation was done by the Rev. John Moncrief and the brave African American priests who followed in his footsteps, breaking down the color line at Sewanee. The School of Theology, the university, the students, and the faculty involved were forever changed. Perhaps, we are only now beginning to learn the lessons we ought from this time, by moving beyond a narrative of institutional crisis and rediscovering the powerful Christian witnesses in our communal history.

About the author: Hannah Pommersheim is a third-year Masters of Divinity student at the School of Theology. She is a Candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Texas. Originally from South Dakota and a graduate of Davidson College, Hannah lives in Sewanee with her husband.

Read Part 2 here. 

Appendix: The full text of the faculty letter of June 9, 1952:

To the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees of the University of the South


We, the Dean and Members of the Faculty of the School of Theology, the Chaplain of the University, and the Department of Religion of the College of Arts and Sciences, of the University of the South, are deeply disturbed by the statement in the public press reporting the negative action taken by the Board of Trustees on the resolution from the Synod of the Province of Sewanee, asking for the admission of Negro students to the School of Theology.

We therefore wish to put on record our convictions on this matter,

First, we deplore the Trustees’ failure to state any Christian principle involved, with the consequent reduction of the whole issue to the level of expediency only.

Second, the position taken seems to us untenable in the light of Christian ethics and of the teaching of the Anglican Communion;

“God has given man responsibility. To exercise it, he must have freedom. The Christian Church therefore demands essential human rights for all, irrespective of race or colour. There are unhappily countries in the world where such rights are denied. We are grateful for the work which is being done by the Commission of the United Nations on Human Rights.We pledge ourselves to work for the removal of the injustice and oppression, and, in particular, to stand by those whose right to religious liberty is threatened.” (The Encyclical Letter, The Lambeth Conference, 1948)

Third, the statement that there are ten other Episcopal seminaries which do accept Negro students, together with the implication in the Chancellor’s remark that the Sewanee Trustees’ refusal to admit Negroes now is in “the furtherance of the Church’s work and the happiness and mutual good will or both races”, can only mean that the ministry to the Negro members of the twenty-two owning Dioceses and the training of clergy or their needs is no concern of the University.

Fourth, we believe that the statement of the Trustees, as reported, if not re-examined and revised will do irreparable harm to the reputation of Sewanee as a center of Christian education,

Fifth, the action of the Trustees undermines our effectiveness as teachers of the Christian faith and way of life. It compromises us as priests and teachers in this University, which is owned and operated by the Episcopal Church.

We therefore request a reconsideration of this question by the Trustees. We request that the public be informed that the issue is being considered. We request a statement from the Trustees, not later than their next regular meeting, that they approve in principle the relevant resolutions of the Lambeth Conference and that they are prepared to allow admission of qualified Negro students to the School of Theology. Meanwhile, we shall do our best to servethe Church in training men for the Ministry, though under adverse circumstances which we protest.

If our request is ignored or if the assurance sought is refused, we are without exception prepared to resign our positions and terminate our connection with the University in June 1953.

[The following signed the letter: The Very Reverend F. Craighill Brown, D, D., Dean; the Reverend Robert M. Grant, Th.D., Professor of New Testament; the Reverend R. Lansing Hicks, B.D., Associate Professor of Old Testament; the Reverend Robert M. McNair, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology; Allen Reddick, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Church History; the Reverend Claude E. Guthrie, B.D., Instructor in Practical Theology; the Reverend Richard H. Wilmer, Jr., D. Phil., Chaplain of the University and Professor of English Bible; and the Reverend Frederick Q. Shafer, S.T.D., head of the Department of Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Thank you to the University Archives and Special Collections at Sewanee for the images used in this story. The McCrady Papers and the School of Theology Integration Papers are both housed in the University Archives. 

[i] Duncan M. Gray, Jr., “Sewanee: There and Back Again,” Sewanee Theological Review (Easter 2003), 218.

[ii] Donald S. Armentrout, “A Documentary History of the Integration Crisis at the School of Theology 1951-53,” Sewanee Theological Review (Easter 2003), 210. Of the 56 rising middlers and seniors, 35 transferred and 21 remained.

[iii] Samuel R. Williamson, Jr., Sewanee Sesquicentennial History: The Making of the University of the South, 262, and Armentrout, “A Documentary History of the Integration Crisis at the School of Theology 1951-53.”

[iv] Letter from Alfred P. Chambliss, Jr. to Edward McCrady, January 9, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 81. He says, “I was very shocked and distressed over a letter which I received from Bishop Juhan, and I suppose he sent it to all members of the Board of Trustees. In this letter, he expressed his own opinion that the resolution passed by the Provincial Synod, requesting the admission of Negro students to the School of Theology at Sewanee, should be turned down by the Board.”

[v] Resolution passed by the Board of Trustees on June 6, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 100.

[vi] Resolution passed by the Board of Trustees on June 6, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 100.

[vii] Two School of Theology professors were away from the Mountain at the time. Bayard Hale Jones denounced his fellow faculty members and Howard A. Johnson immediately added his name to the letter, bringing the total number of signers to nine.

[viii] All of this is recalled in a letter from Bayard Hale Jones to Edward McCrady, August 19, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[ix] Letter from Jessie Ball duPont to Edward McCrady, July 1, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[x] Michael K. Honey, “Operation Dixie, the Red Scare, and the Defeat of Southern Labor Organizing,” in American Labor and the Cold War, edited by Cherny, Issel, and Taylors, 226.

[xi] Letter from Bishop Juhan to F. Craighill Brown, June 21, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[xii] Letter from Edward McCrady to H. L. Graham, February 25, 1953, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[xiii] The Living Church, June 29, 1952, School of Theology Integration Files, Box 2.

[xiv] Press release from “Sewanee News Room,” August 1, 1952, School of Theology Integration Files, Box 2.

[xv] Gray, 218.

[xvi] Gray, 218.

[xvii] Araminta Stone Johnston, And One Was a Priest: The Life and Times of Duncan M. Gray, Jr., 107.

[xviii] Letter from Bland Mitchell to Robert McNair, November 26, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[xix] Williamson, 260. Quotations are from her authorized biography, Richard Greening Hewlett, Jessie Ball duPont.

[xx] AAUP report, undated, School of Theology Integration Files, Box 2.

[xxi] “Bishop E. P. Dandridge Elected Seminary Dean,” Sewanee Alumni News, February 15, 1953, 3.

[xxii] Armentrout, 207. Krumm quotation from Episcopal Churchnews, March 1, 1953.

[xxiii] Thomas H. Carson, “The Way We Were: Life at Sewanee in 1953,” Sewanee Theological Review (Easter 2003), 214.

[xxiv] Letter from Rt. Rev. Thomas N. Carruthers of South Carolina to Edward McCrady, January 14, 1953, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[xxv] Letter from Edward McCrady to Mrs. Allen August 2, 1953, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[xxvi] Houston Roberson, “The Problem of the Twentieth Century: Sewanee, Race, and Race Relations,” in Sewanee Perspectives: On the History of the University of the South,  edited by Gerald L. Smith and Samuel R. Williamson, Jr., 487. Roberson is quoting a letter from the Selma Sewanee Alumni.

[xxvii] Letter from Bayard Hale Jones to Edward McCrady August 19, 1952, McCrady Papers, Box 81.

[xxviii] Williamson, 214.

11 Replies to “‘The Real Issue’: A Reconsideration of the Turbulent Desegregation of Sewanee’s School of Theology, 1952-1953, Part I”

  1. Congratulations to the author on this fine work from one who was on the Mountain in 1952-53 though still in short pants.

  2. “Any Christian principle involved . . .” to justify . . . . . would be Unity. At least as a lay person that is what I hear from pulpits and lecterns when it is talked about today.

  3. Thanks for publishing this. We moved from Sewanee when I was almost 4 but apparently, Dad continued to commute from Chicago once a week (?) to teach some courses for a time since they didn’t have anyone in New Testament.

    Susan Grant Slattery

  4. You wrote, “As one of the older and most distinguished faculty members, Grant…” I was almost 10 when we left Sewanee, and my father, Robert Grant, was almost 35. Distinguished, yes, as his academic career demonstrated, but not really that old. I enjoyed your article, as it brought me back to that turbulent fall of 1952, during which we suddenly found ourselves in a place [Chicago] where everything was different.

  5. Great work Mother Hannah! I served as Associate Dean for Community Life 2006-2011. The 3rd African-American priest to serve on the faculty. Fr. Carleton Hayden (in the early 1990s) was the first, and Fr. Michael Battle was the 2nd (late 1990s). My next-door neighbor on Oak Hill Circle was Mrs. Vivian Mitchell Thweatt (daughter of Bishop Richard Bland Mitchell). She was a lovely lady and she died the evening Barack Obama was elected President. She seemed to like Obama, or at least did not like the 2008 GOP VP Canadidate. Then at the request of her children, I presided at her funeral. She was very kind to our interracial family and especially our dog, who kept her flowers safe from deer. The first time we met was a memorable occasion. I had figured out when her father served as Chancellor, and we gave each other knowing looks. She volunteered the following: “Yes, he was Chancellor during ‘The Bishop Pike Affair’, and he was wrong”. She then briefly tried to explain why her father and his colleagues so deeply feared integration. I will save that for a conversation IRL.

  6. The Reverend Robert Catchings was the first black seminarian in my class in 1970, almost 17 years after the seminary was desegraged. He was unique and I believe felt some challenge to fit in with an all white class, who were still mainly from the South. Black students in both the college and seminary were pioneers in their own way as were black faculty members. Nonetheless Sewanee has progressed even to the point of a black Vice-Chancellor!

  7. Congratulations Ms. Pommersheim on this work: as the daughter of Rev. R. Lansing Hicks, I have a number of documents that could add to this story, including “The Sewanee Story: A Confidential Report” written in March 1953. If you would be interested in seeing some of these primary sources, feel free to email me.
    Thank you for paying attention to this important episode in the history of race in America.
    Katherine Hicks

  8. The person named here as Claude A Guthrie is actually Claude E Guthrie, E for Edward. He’s my father. I have a number of original documents from this time that I would be glad to share if there’s still some interest.

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