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William Lloyd Imes Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: SBM
Date: Feb 1971

Biographical History

William Lloyd Imes (1889-1986) was an African-American clergyman, educator, and civil rights activist.

Imes was born December 29, 1889 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Benjamin A. Imes and his wife Elizabeth Wallace Imes. Dr. Imes received his B.A. degree from Fisk University in 1910 and an M.A. in 1912. In 1915 he received a B.D. from Union Theological Seminary and an M.A. from Columbia University. That same year he was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church and afterwards served as a pastor for Bethel Chapel, Plainfield, N.J. (1915-1919), Lombard Central Church, Philadelphia (1919-1925), and St. James' Church, New York City (1925-1943). He was awarded an honorary D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1929.

He entered the education field in 1943 when he became president of Knoxville College in Tennessee. Leaving there in 1947, he became Director of Social and Adult Education for the New York State Council of Churches, a position he held until his retirement in 1955. Following retirement, Dr. Imes traveled extensively as a lecturer and chapel speaker at many colleges and universities, and continued to be active in church affairs.

Dr. Imes was married in 1915 to Grace Virginia Frank, with whom he had three children: Wendell Phillips (deceased), Hope Mathilde, and Jane Elizabeth (deceased).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Lloyd Imes Papers contain Correspondence, Writings, Memorabilia, and Subject files.

Correspondence is made up of both personal and public communiques and covers, with gaps, the years 1917-1980, with concentration in the 1960's. It is largely concerned with arrangements for speaking engagements at colleges and universities or in churches. The largest group of letters on a single subject runs from September 10, 1963 to October 7, 1965 and concerns the efforts of several members of the John Brown Monument and Historical Association to set up a Flame for Freedom at the John Brown farm at North Elba, N.Y. Leaders in this effort were Ernst L. Gayden, Clarence S. Gee, Boyd B. Stutler and Dr. Imes. Of note also is the letter written by Dr. Imes to the Nashville Banner on October 10, 1917, replying to a "scathing editorial" by that newspaper against Dr. Imes.

Writings, 1881-1970, contains addresses, book reviews, books, class and conference notes, lectures and notes, reports, research paper, and sermons. The class and conference notes are those taken by Dr. Imes as a student of various courses or as a participant at conferences. One of the interesting items in this group is a book of notes taken on lectures at Union Theological Seminary by such teachers as John Baillie, Eugene Lyman, and Harry Fosdick. The category of lectures and notes refers to lectures delivered by Dr. Imes, the largest number falling between 1940 and 1943 when he gave homiletics lectures at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The sermons form the bulk of the collection and, spanning the years 1914 to 1976, cover the full range of Dr. Imes's preaching career. Many sermons were delivered more than once, but they have been filed under the earliest date on the manuscript. Though many of the sermons are typescript, the greater part are holograph. Included in this section, at the beginning, is a group of sixteen sermons written by Dr. Imes's father Benjamin A. Imes. The writings reveal traditional religious and ethical themes but also a deep social interest on Dr. Imes's part. Civil rights for blacks and migrant workers is the topic of several addresses and sermons.

Memorabilia includes awards, church bulletins, clippings, a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence, and a large number of small daily diaries which Imes used as scrapbooks, filled with clippings and Imes' annotations.

Subject files contains material on a wide range of topics reflecting Imes' day to day work interests as a Presbyterian minister and an avid supporter of civil rights. Topics include John Brown, the NAACP, necrological records compiled by Dr. Imes for the Steuben-Elmira Presbytery, religion and race, and several folders of magazines, pamphlets, and newsletters collected by Dr. Imes and frequently containing annotations in his hand.

Arrangement of the Collection

The 1978 material and a few later additions were integrated with the rest of the collection in 2017. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Writings are subdivided by type (addresses, articles, book reviews, books, etc.) and, within each type, arranged chtonologically. Memorbilia and Subject files are arranged alphabetically by type or topic.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Three items have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging: The Black Pastures (1957) by Mr Imes , The Hills Beyond the Hills with chapters by Imes and others , and The Rev. J.W. Loguen, as a slave and as a freeman : a narrative of real life by Jermaine Loguen . Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these items.

Subject Headings


Imes, Benjamin A.
Imes, William Lloyd, 1889-1986.

Corporate Bodies

Presbyterian Church -- Clergy.
Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.)


African American Presbyterians.
African American clergy.
African Americans -- Biography.
Presbyterians -- United States.
Sermons, American.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Lecture notes.
Manuscripts for publication.
Reviews (documents)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William Lloyd Imes Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Dr. William Lloyd Imes, 1964-1980.

Table of Contents




Subject files