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Robert E. Penn collection

Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0143

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers and collected materials of the Reverend Robert E. Penn, a Baptist minister and educator. The collection dates span the years from 1930-1976. The bulk of the collection dates from 1965 to 1976, and document Penn’s life and work as a pastor and educator. The collection includes materials related to the American Baptist Churches, USA, and Penn’s church, the First Baptist Church of Gary, Indiana, which he led for almost twenty years. Of note relating to his time at the First Baptist Church are materials relating to the forming of the Fellowship Garden Apartments, a low income and senior citizen housing community that was formed by First Baptist. Other materials document his time as pastor and minister in multiple congregations, and his time as educator at Western Baptist Theological Seminary and the Interdenominational Theological Center.

The collection consists of his personal papers including biographical information, programs featuring Penn, and instructional materials, along with correspondence and memorabilia. The bulk of the materials are related to his time as a minister in the Baptist church, and educator, which includes academic records, reports, church bulletins and programs of the Baptist Church, along with class syllabi, assignments, and course work from his time at the Interdenominational Theological Center. Sermons, speeches, his personal school work, and articles he authored are also included. The collection also contains collected writings by others, clipped articles most likely used in his sermons, printed materials, and photographs.


  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1930-1976

Rights Statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact:

Biographical / Historical

Robert Earl Penn was an American Baptist minister. Born March 7, 1916 in Keystone, West Virginia, a small rural coal mining town in the southwest part of the state to parents George and Phobe Penn. Baptized as a teenager at the Saint James Baptist Church in Welch, West Virginia, he participated in youth work at the local church. In early life he was a construction worker and coal miner.

Penn attended Kimball High School in McDowell County, West Virginia from 1931-1934. He then received a football scholarship and attended Morristown Junior College in Tennessee from 1934-1936, earning an AA in sociology. He then went on to earn the following degrees: AB in social science from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1936 (scholarship); BD from Gammon Theological Seminary in 1941; and two degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas, a Th. M in Pastoral Theology in 1948, and a Th. D in missions and evangelism in 1952. He was ordained in 1941 at Liberty Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. After his pastoral work in Kansas City, Kansas, and Gary, Indiana, Penn returned to Atlanta to become Director of Field Education at the Interdenominationall Theological Center in 1973.

In 1945 he married Lois Henrietta Neale. They had two children, Barbara J. Penn (Stembridge), and Robert E. Penn Jr. He became active in missionary efforts in Africa and traveled to Nigeria in 1966. His pastoral specialties were teaching, counseling, administration, evangelism, social ministry, and public speaking. He died in 1976.

Beyond his work as a minister, Penn also volunteered as a camp counsellor, and served as the Instruction Head at the Century Club Boy Scout Association. He was also involved with the Indiana Council of Churches, Fellowship of Gary Ministers, and was on the Board of Trustees with the Gary Public Schools in Gary, Indiana. Additionally, he was Vice President of the Indiana Pastors Conference in Greencastle, Indiana, was on the Board of Managers of the Indiana Baptists in Indianapolis, Indiana, and served as moderator of the Northwestern Association of the American Baptist Churches, USA.

References: Biographical file in the Robert E. Penn collection.

Employment chronology:

Employment chronology

Principal at a public school in Oxford, Georgia
Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Covington, Georgia
Pastor of First Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia
Army Chaplain for the United States, being sent to India, Burma, the South Pacific, and Japan
Pastor of the Pleasant Green Baptist church in Kansas City, Kansas
Part time instructor at the Western Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana. During his time as Pastor, the congregation built a new building and the church grew. He also served as president of the Board of Directors for the Fellowship Gardens, a low income family housing complex sponsored by his First Baptist Church in cooperation with the Federal Housing Authority
Moved to Atlanta and joined the Interdenominational Theological Seminary faculty as a director of Field Education


9.13 Linear feet (collection containing 9.13 linear feet of manuscripts (15 manuscript boxes and 2 oversized boxes), and 3 audio recordings.)

Language of Materials



Collection is arranged in seven series: Personal papers, First Baptist Church of Gary Indiana, American Baptist Churches USA, Interdenominational Theological Center materials, Legal records, Printed and published, and Photographs.

Related Materials

Robert E. and Lois H. Penn papers, Emory University:

Separated Materials

Oversized materials have been separated to appropriate housing.

Processing Information

The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library acknowledges the generous support of the National Endowment for Humanities - Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Implementation Project Grant in supporting the processing and digitization of a number of its major archival collections as part of the project: Spreading the Word: Expanding Access to African American Religious Archival Collections at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

Robert E. Penn collection
Finding aid prepared by Jessica Leming, June, 2017
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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)