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Willis J. King Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: Apr 1966

Biographical History

Willis Jefferson King (1886-1976) was an African-American Methodist bishop, college professor and author.

Born in Rose Hill, Texas, on October 1, 1886, King was educated at Wiley College, Boston University School of Theology, and Harvard University. He earned his PhD in sociology from Boston University, which later awarded him an honorary doctorate, as did the University of Liberia. Wiley College eventually named its administration building for him, and his exemplary scholarship led to his selection as the black students' representative at the World's Student and Christian Federation in Peking, China, and as a Fellow of the Julius Rosenwald Fund for Research at Oxford University. He served as Professor of Old Testament Literature at Gammon Theological Seminary (1918-1930), president of Samuel Houston College (1930-1932), and president of Gammon Theological Seminary (1932-1944).

King's career in the Methodist Church began as a deacon in the Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1908). He became an elder in 1913 and held pastorates in Texas (Greenville, St. Paul, Galveston, and Houston) and in Boston, Massachusetts. The next three decades were spent largely in academia, as described above, until the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church elected him bishop in 1944. Bishop King presided over the Liberia Conference (1944-1956) and the New Orleans Area (1956-1960, including two conferences in Texas, two in Mississippi, and one in Louisiana. He retired in 1960 to New Orleans, where he spent his time in writing and speaking.

His awards and recognitions included the Order Star of African Redemption and the Knight Commander Order of Pioneers (Liberia), and in 1975 he was honored as the oldest living United Methodist bishop.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Willis J. King Papers consists of correspondence, subject files, manuscripts, and published material.

Correspondence contains both incoming and outgoing.

Subject files contains lectures, Methodist conferences and program material, and photographs.

Manuscripts consists of addresses for special occasions, articles on the the Bible (general articles, New Testament articles, Old Testament articles), and articles for the Upper Room disciplines, Negro Methodism, the dedication of the Methodist Mission (Gbarnga, Liberia), and reports.

Published material includes articles by and about Bishop King, and books by Bishop King and by others.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Subject files are arranged alphabetically by topic. Manuscripts are subdivided by topic as listed above; within that, special occasion articles are arranged alphabetically by title and Bible articles are arranged chronologically. Published material is subdivided into material by King, about King, and by or about others.


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

Special Collections Research Center has a number of collections relating to the church and clergy in America; please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


King, Willis J.

Corporate Bodies

Methodist Church -- Clergy.
Methodist Church -- Missions -- Liberia.


African American Methodists.
African American clergy.
African Americans -- Biography.
Clergy as authors.
Methodists -- United States.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Willis J. King Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Willis J. King, 1966.

Table of Contents


Subject files


Published mater1al