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Nolan B. Harmon papers, 1933-1993

Emory University

Pitts Theology Library

1531 Dickey Drive, Suite 560

Atlanta, GA 30322


Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/g07dv

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Harmon, Nolan B. (Nolan Bailey), 1892-.
Title: Nolan B. Harmon papers, 1933-1993
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 134
Extent: 10.3 cubic feet (27 boxes)
Abstract:Contains biographical material, sermons, and addresses from Nolan Harmon, as well as reports and committee files from the Methodist Church.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

The copyright to the Harmon papers is maintained by the Estate of Bishop Nolan B. Harmon.


[after identification of item(s)], Nolan B. Harmon Papers, Archives and Manuscript Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University.


Processed by M. Nan Hagan, 1994; updated in 2009.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

The Bishop Nolan Harmon was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on July 14, 1892. He was the son, grandson, and great grandson of Methodist Ministers. Harmon attended Milsaps College in Mississippi and was a member of the first class of the Candler School of Theology in 1914. He then received his Master of Arts at Princeton University in 1920. Harmon received honorary degrees from Milsaps college, Hamline University, Western Maryland, Mt. Union and Wofford Colleges. He also received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Emory University in 1958.

In 1940 Harmon was elected book editor of the re-united Methodist Churches, editing documents of the Abington Press, and the journal Religion in Life. He was also general editor of the twelve volume Interpreters Bible. In his retirement, he edited the Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Bishop Harmon was elected to the Episcopacy in 1956. From 1956 to 1964, Harmon was bishop of churches in many of the states in the Southeast. Between 1960 and 1964, Harmon was a member of Methodist committees that revised Methodist Hymn books. He retired from the ministry in 1964.

Bishop Harmon wrote many books including Ministerial Ethics and Etiquette, his autobiography Ninety Years and Counting, and The Famous Case of Myra Clark Gaines. Bishop Harmon made civil rights history in April 1963 when he along with eight other ministers released a statement calling on African Americans to stop taking part in demonstrations initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The statement called the Atlanta-born King's actions "unwise and untimely" and stated that only "slow, slow, slow" change should bring about equal rights. It was this statement that inflamed Dr. King and caused him to write the famous "Letter From the Birmingham Jail." Bishop Harmon in his 1983 biography referred to the letter as a "propaganda move."

After his retirement, Bishop Harmon joined the Emory University faculty as a visiting professor but he continued there into his 96th year. He taught two classes, government, and the history of Methodism. Harmon died in June 1993.

Scope and Content Note

The first series of this collection is composed of biographical material concerning Bishop Harmon.

The second series, and by far the largest series, is composed of Literary Works Bishop Harmon. This series is comprised of three sub-series: Sermons: this material is maintained in its original order and can be accessed by using the "Index to Sermons" prepared by the Bishop himself. The sermons cover the years 1933 through 1968; Addresses: which is divided into dated and undated addresses; articles: which is likewise divided into dated and undated materials; a small file which Bishop Harmon had entitled lectures; some book reviews; four poems by the bishop; and a collection of manuscripts.

Series Three is composed of material dealing with the Methodist Church and contains reports, material on race relations from the early 1960's, and committee files.

Series Four contains teaching material used by Bishop Harmon and is comprised almost entirely of copies of exams for the various courses he taught at Candler School of Theology.

Series Five contains correspondence relating to professional issues and controversies which concerned Harmon. Especially interesting is the material related to Harmon's disapproval of Martin Luther King's use of civil disobedience and rejection of the Board of Social Concern's position's support of King.

Series Six contains assorted "scrapbook" material originally arranged by Harmon. This material contains clippings, photographic prints, and pamphlets.

Series Seven contains ephemera including General conference medals and commemorative coins, a Communion set for Methodist Chaplains from around 1918, and assorted commemorative gavels.

Box 27, which is split across several series, was added to the collection in early 2009 and contains correspondence, sermons, public addresses, articles, opinion pieces, Methodist conference reports, and miscellaneous writings from the period 1957-1963. The correspondence and other writings cover an interesting period in Harmon's life, during which he expressed opinions about the Civil Rights movement and social change. Box 27 also includes a booklet of poetry by Juliet Howe Harmon, as well as a card of miniature portraits of Southern Methodist bishops from the immediate post-Civil War period, sent to Bishop Harmon in 1948.

Arrangement Note

Organized into 7 series: (1) Biographical Information, (2) Literary Works, (3) Methodist Church Materials, (4) Candler School of Theology, (5) Correspondence, (6) Scrapbooks, and (7) Ephemera.

Description of Series