Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 20

SU Professor John C. Granbery Prepares for European Tour< May 1923

As Southwestern University seniors were preparing for graduation in 1923, one of their professors, John C. Granbery, was preparing for a grand European tour to investigate the possibilities of instituting prohibition in Europe as had recently been accomplished in the United States.  

Granbery, a professor of economics and sociology, was no stranger to Europe.  He had taken a leave of absence in 1917 to run a YMCA home in Saloniki Greece to help war refugees.  His work there brought him much praise from the Greek government, including being named to the rank of Colonel in the Greek Army.  Now he was being called back by the World League Against Alcoholism.

His itinerary included Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripoli, Greece, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, and Latvia.  He returned to Georgetown in time for the Fall Semester.

William B. Jones, author of the definitive history of Southwestern University, calls Granbery “probably the most controversial long term teacher ever employed by Southwestern.”   He was born in Virginia in 1874 to John C. Granbery, Senior, who later was elected Bishop of the MECS.  John Granbery, Jr., received his education at Randolph Macon and Vanderbilt where his father was professor of philosophy and theology.  He served as a minister in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and found time to pursue a doctorate at the University of Chicago which was awarded in 1909.  While at Chicago, he threw himself into the progressive causes of the era, getting to know Jane Addams who was creating settlement houses to tackle problems of the poor.  His embrace of the Social Gospel did little to endear him to the rural churches in Appalachia especially when he tried to bring the settlement house reforms he had learned in Chicago to his rural parishes.  His efforts to improve the lives of coal miners enraged the coal mine owners.  

He came to SU in a temporary capacity, but was offered the head of the department after only one year.   Granbery was brilliant and a provocative speaker.  Naturally he received many speaking invitations.  He spoke on many topics, but became known for his advocacy of women’s rights and his anti-lynching activism.  
Criticism began appearing in the Texas Christian Advocate.  This criticism had the effect of making him well known throughout Texas Methodism.  He did not relent.  He attacked the Megaphone (SU student newspaper) because it ran a tobacco advertisement.  He was delegate to the 1916 State Democratic Party convention and made speeches from the floor against Senator Joe W. Bailey and “Pa” James Ferguson---the leader of the “wets”.  Back at SU, he tried to stem the rise of the fraternities.  

Eventually he resigned so he could accept a position at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University).  Controversy followed him to Lubbock.   J. Frank Norris, found some of his writings sympathetic to evolutional theory, and in 1932 he and several other “liberal and socialist” faculty members were fired.  

Granbery spent two year in Brazil at the college named for his father, and returned to SU in 1934 at the invitation of President Vivion.   After the death of Dean Laura Kuykendall, Mrs. Granbery was named Dean of Women. 

Granbery had enjoyed the confidence of 4 Southwestern presidents and his faculty colleagues.  He served with distinction in the YMCA in World War I.  He was in great demand as a public speaker.  In spite of, or perhaps because of his accomplishments, SU trustees terminated his employment in 1938.  He and Mrs. Granbery stayed in Georgetown and began a monthly newspaper, the Emancipator.  In 1941 the couple moved to San Antonio where they continued to publish the Emancipator until Granbery’s death in 1953.  

He was an internationalist, a proponent of women’s rights, a foe of the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Semitism, and a proponent of racial integration.  No wonder that conservative groups such as the Houston Chapter of the Minute Women of the USA denounced him as subversive.


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