John Owen Smith papers, 1921-1996

Emory University

Pitts Theology Library

1531 Dickey Drive, Suite 560

Atlanta, GA 30322


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Collection Stored Off-Site

All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of up to two business days for retrieval.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Smith, John Owen, 1902-.
Title: John Owen Smith papers, 1921-1996
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 242
Extent: 22.1 cubic ft. (23 boxes)
Abstract:Contains correspondence, subject files, sermons, and notebooks from the career of John Owen Smith.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Pitts Theology Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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

Custodial History

Formerly MSS562, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Library, Emory University.


[after identification of item(s)], John Owen Smith Papers, Archives and Manuscript Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University.


Processed by Joan Clemens and Aimee Morgan, 2004-2006.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

John Owen Smith, Methodist clergyman, bishop, and educator, was born 21 September 1902, in Johnston, South Carolina, and died 3 December 1978, in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned his divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, served in parishes in South Carolina (1954-1960), and was appointed bishop to the Atlanta Area of the United Methodist Church in 1960. During his tenure in Atlanta (1960-1972), racial integration of the North and South Georgia Conferences of the Methodist Church was accomplished. After his retirement in 1972, he taught part-time (1972-1976) in Emory University's Candler School of Theology.

John Owen Smith was married to Mildred Brown. They had two daughters.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of John Owen Smith document his years as a B.D. student at Yale Divinity School, his pastoral appointments in South Carolina, and his time as Bishop of the Atlanta area of the Methodist Church (later the United Methodist Church). The collection includes correspondence, subject files, sermons, and notebooks from all phases of Smith’s career.

Smith presided over the Atlanta area during one of the most tumultuous phases of his church’s history. In 1968 the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The terms of the merger required that the Central Jurisdiction (which consisted entirely of black churches) be abolished, and that all annual conferences be integrated. Smith’s files, particularly his correspondence, illustrate the strong leadership he provided during the merger of the black Georgia Conference with the historically white North and South Georgia Conferences.

Arrangement Note

Organized into 4 series: (1) Ministry in South Carolina, (2) Ministry in Georgia, (3) Writings, and (4) Family Papers.

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