Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 17

This Week in Texas Methodist History is on vacation so we will report on our summer reading.

Atticus Greene Haygood: Methodist Bishop, Editor, and Educator, Harold W. Mann, University of Georgia Press, 1965.

This summer’s reading list is headed by a first rate biography of a less than first rate bishop. The subject is Bishop Atticus Green Haygood (1839-1896) whose short, miserable stint as bishop receives only five pages of a 210 page biography.

Mann’s biography interweaves Haygood’s life story into the larger story of MECS history of the middle 19th century. He presents Haygood as an exemplar of the New South movement made famous by Atlanta journalist Henry Grady. New South advocates argued that the southern states should not look backwards to their Confederate past, but should accept emancipation as an opportunity to create an industrial economy which included educated African Americans.

Haygood is presented as a man who bridged the divide between the Old South and the New South. On the one hand, he was a contact man who connected northern philanthropists and southern colleges, both white and African American. He wrote persuasively in the cause of black colleges, but retained the good will of white southerners. His mentor, Bishop George Pierce was the leader of the reactionary faction in the MECS, but Haygood was able deftly to reconcile his friendship with Pierce with his advancement of progressive causes. Haygood lamented over the lack of discipline among MECS members as the balance of power in the MECS changed from villages to cities such as Atlanta. City Methodists embraced activities formerly off limits such as theaters, circuses, and dances. They also adopted northern models of church architecture and installed organs. Haygood also opposed the Holiness Movement which he believed to be undermining church discipline.

Haygood’s career included stints at the publishing house in Nashville and as president of Emory College. Mann provides valuable insights into both of those scenes.

Haygood was elected bishop at the General Conference of 1882. He declined the position because he had just begun work for the Slater Fund which distributed money to African American colleges. He was also elected in 1890 and moved to California where he supervised the two conferences there and also MECS work in Mexico. It was in Mexico City that he contracted dengue fever. His medicinal use of alcohol resulted in pathetic alcoholism. He moved back to Georgia where he lived out a few more miserable years. He died in 1896.

Perhaps Haygood’s greatest impact on Texas Methodist history was his editorship of Sunday School materials. His tenure at the publishing house coincided with the growing Sunday School movement. Haygood provided curricular materials for the children’s Sunday School that were far superior to what had gone before.
Another Texas connection was his friendship with John W. Heidt, his Emory classmate with whom he maintained a life long friendship. Heidt was Regent of Southwestern University. While at Emory Haygood embraced helping halls, dormitories where deserving students could live inexpensively. Soon after Heidt arrived at Southwestern, it began building helping halls. After Heidt returned to Atlanta, he assumed the pulpit of Trinity Methodist where Haygood had served 1865-66.


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