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Willis J. King papers

 Collection — Box: 1-24
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0124

Scope and contents

The Willis J. King Papers are comprised of correspondence, printed materials, photographs and other memorabilia that document Bishop Willis J. King's life as a Bishop in the Methodist Church, his time as a missionary in Africa and Norway, and as an educator.

Also within this collection are personal and family documents of Bishop King's wife Emma P. King, including photographs and family history.


  • Creation: 1904-1976


Biographical note

Bishop Willis J. King was born October 1, 1886 and died June 17, 1976.

Bishop Willis J. King was a Minister, Bishop in the Methodist Church, College Educator and President, Author, and Missionary in Monrovia, Liberia.

King was born in Rose Hill, Texas to Anderson and Emma Blackshear King. He attended Village Public School from ages 6 to 13 and at age 16 King recieved a four-year certificate to teach from the state of Texas and entered into Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1903. He graduated in 1910. Willis King continued his education at Boston University School of Theology where he recieved a degree in 1913 and then his Ph.D in 1921. He researched at Oxford University in England as a Julius Rosenwald Fellow. While continuing his education, King ministered at several churches. King was Professor of the Old Testament at Gammon Teological Seminary (now a part of the Interdenominational Theological Center) in Atlanta, Georgia from 1918-1930. King then became President of Samuel Houston College in Austin, Texas (now Huston-Tillotson University) from 1930-1932. He then returned to Gammon Theological Seminary to become the school's second African-American President from 1932-1944.

King was elected Bishop by the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church and was ordained in June of 1944. He later married his second wife, Emma Pearce Arnold. (The first Mrs. King, Parmella J. Kelly, died in 1943. Three children came from this marriage: Velma, Grace, and Eloise). As a new Bishop, King was assigned to serve in Liberia, Africa, from 1944-1956.

Bishop King led the Liberian Church for 12 years. Upon completion of his time in Africa, Bishop and Mrs. King returned to the states where he was assigned to New Orleans in 1956 until his retirement in 1960.

Bishop King served as Presdient of two colleges (Gammon Seminary, 1932-1934, and Samuel Houston, 1930-1932), and as a Board of Trustee Member of Wiley College and Gammon Seminary. During his time as a Trustee member, King was honored by both schools with buildings named in his honor: Willis J. King Administration Building (Wiley College) and Willis J. King Married Students Apartment Complex (Gammon/ITC).

King authored numerous books and articles durring his life. He was a member of The National Association of Biblical Instructors, The Methodist Church's Council of Bishops, Sigma Pi Phi American Oriental Society, and the American Academy of Political and Social Science.


12 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The papers are arranged into 16 series: Correspondence; Financial records; Gammon Theological Seminary; Interdenominational Theological Center; Memorabilia, Methodist Church; Missionary work in Liberia; Mrs. Emma King; Organizations; Photographs; Printed materials; Sigma Pi Phi; Writings about Bishop King; Writings by Bishop King; and Writings by others.

Related material

Materials related to Bishop Willis J. King can be found in the Willis J. King papers. (Syracuse University Library Special Collections).

Willis J. King Papers, 1912-1976
Tiffany Atwater, 2013
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


404-978-2109 (Fax)