James T. Laney papers, 1929-2008

Emory University

Emory University Archives

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

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: Laney, James T. (James Thomas)
Title: James T. Laney papers, 1929-2008
Call Number:Series No. 235
Extent: 58.25 linear ft. (105 boxes, 10 bound volumes (BV), 2 oversized papers (OP))
Abstract:James T. Laney was a Methodist minister, scholar, Dean of Emory University's Candler School of Theology, President of Emory University, and ambassador to the Republic of Korea. His papers include academic files, papers on Korea and international affairs, records of his involvement with the United Methodist Church, writings, and audiovisual materials.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Restrictions apply: researchers must contact MARBL in advance to access audiovisual materials in this collection.

Some material closed in accordance with the Emory University Archives Access Policy for student and financial records.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact MARBL in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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




[after identification of item(s)], James T. Laney papers, Emory University Archives, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Michael Hessel-Mial, August 2014, and Kayla Shipp Kamibayashi, May 2017.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

James Thomas Laney was born in Arkansas in 1929. He graduated from high school in Memphis, Tennessee in 1945 and received a scholarship to study economics at Yale University. His undergraduate career was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve as an intelligence officer in Korea. Laney returned to Yale and completed his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1950. He remained at Yale to receive a second bachelor’s degree in divinity in 1954.

Laney served as minister at the St. Paul United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1955 to 1959. He undertook a religious missionary trip in Seoul, Korea with his family from 1959 to 1964. In Seoul, Laney led the Korean Student Christian Council and became associate professor at Yonsei University.

Upon returning to the United States, Laney completed his doctorate in Christian ethics at Yale, studying under H. Richard Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoffer. After receiving his PhD in 1966, Laney became assistant professor at Vanderbilt University School of Theology. In 1969 he left to become dean at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

In March 1977 the Emory University Board of Trustees appointed Laney president of the University, formally inaugurating him in 1978. During his presidency, Laney gave public addresses advocating a balance between a corporate model of administration and the moral role of higher education. This role in public advocacy resulted in an essay, later expanded into a book, titled "The Education of the Heart," first published in Harvard Magazine in 1985.

In 1993 Bill Clinton nominated Laney to serve as the ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Laney's tenure as ambassador involved him in the 1994 Korean nuclear crisis, the North Korean famine in the following years, and numerous controversies over the behavior of United States servicemen. Laney retired from his ambassadorship in 1997, maintaining an advisory role and serving as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations for his expertise in Korean affairs. Laney continued to write and serve on advisory boards well into the 2000s.

Laney served on the governing boards of organizations such as the Luce Foundation, the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Coca-Cola Company Board of Directors, and the Atlanta Olympic Committee, among others.

Scope and Content Note

Series 1: Academic files contains materials relating to James Laney’s roles as student, instructor, professor, dean, and president at various academic institutions. The series includes class notes and student writings from Yale University, where Laney studied divinity under theologian H. Richard Niebuhr; teaching materials and printed ephemera from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, where Laney served as instructor alongside his missionary work; faculty records from Vanderbilt Divinity School, where Laney was professor; teaching and event materials from the Candler School of Theology, where Laney served as Dean; and correspondence, event and publicity materials from the Emory University Office of the President. The series also includes subject files on research subjects, specifically on Christian ethics and theology.

Series 2: Korea and international affairs contains materials relating to James Laney’s extensive involvement and interest in Korea, from his years there in the U.S. Army to his service as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea and the years following. It includes records of Laney’s work as a diplomat, such as correspondence, briefings, speeches, writings, and subject files. Notable contents include materials relating to the 1994 Korean Nuclear Crisis and the North Korean famine. It also includes files on Korea outside of Laney’s official capacity as Ambassador. Materials include files on organizations for which Laney served in an advisory capacity, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. Notable contents include files on Laney’s mission work in Korea in the early 1960s.

Series 3: United Methodist Church contains material relating to Laney’s involvement in the United Methodist Church as pastor, missionary and active participant in Church governing bodies. The series contains correspondence and printed matter on Church meetings and events; association with governing boards of United Methodism, including the University Senate; Laney’s mission work in Korea; and service as pastor to the St. Paul Community Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Notable contents include notes taken during mission work and University Senate materials on the Southern Methodist University football scandal.

Series 4: Professional and civic organizations contains material relating to institutions and organizations, not Emory-affiliated, with which James T. Laney was associated. Organizations include directing boards of institutions of higher education, corporations, committees, faith-based non-profits and and associations of which Emory University itself was a member university.

Series 5: Writings includes manuscripts, typescripts and correspondence regarding writings spanning Laney’s academic career. Writings primarily consist of public speaking in the form of lectures and sermons, along with essays.

Series 6: Personal papers contains materials of a personal or family interest outside of professional or service affiliations in Laney’s career. The series contains correspondence, planners, family records, awards and other printed ephemera. Notable contents include Laney’s correspondence, spanning mostly from 1986-2003, and records of international travel.

Series 7: Audiovisual materials includes video and audio cassettes, floppy disks and reel-to-reel audiotape. The bulk of the series consists of audiocassette recordings of Laney’s speeches, which may be cross-referenced by date with materials from Series 5.

Series 8: Restricted material contains the restricted material pulled from the other series in accordance with the Emory University Archives Access Policy. See restrictions in the other series for more information.

Arrangement Note

Organized into 8 series: (1) Academic files, (2) Korea and international affairs, (3) United Methodist Church, (4) Professional and civic organizations, (5) Writings, (6) Personal papers, (7) Audiovisual materials, and (8) Restricted material.

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