John C. Kilgo records and papers, 1888 - 1970 (bulk 1894-1920)
Using These Materials
- Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. The collection is open for research. The clippings files (Folders 137-144) contain brittle newsprint...
- Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922
- John C. Kilgo served as President of Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) from 1894 to 1910. The John C. Kilgo Records and Papers contain correspondence, sermons, lectures, articles, newspaper clippings, memorabilia, printed matter, and scrapbooks pertaining to Kilgo's career as an educator, as President of Trinity College, and as a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Subjects include Kilgo's educational philosophy, family affairs, Duke family philanthropy and the financial state of Trinity College, union of Methodist churches, Kilgo's election as bishop, and controversies in which he and the College were involved, including the Gattis vs. Kilgo controversy and the John Spencer Bassett Affair concerning academic freedom. English.
12.5 Linear Feet
- Collection ID:
- University Archives Record Group:
03 — Presidents
54 — John C. Kilgo
- Scope and Content:
The John C. Kilgo Records and Papers contain correspondence, sermons, lectures, and articles, both manuscript and printed, along with newspaper clippings, memorabilia, and scrapbooks pertaining to Kilgo's career as an educator, as President of Trinity College, Durham, N.C., and as a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Subjects include Kilgo's educational philosophy, family affairs, Duke family philanthropy and the financial state of Trinity College, union of Methodist churches, Kilgo's election as bishop, and controversies in which he and the College were involved, including the Gattis vs. Kilgo controversy and the John Spencer Bassett Affair concerning academic freedom.
The records and papers are organized into ten series. The first series, Correspondence, contains Kilgo's correspondence regarding Trinity College, Wofford College, the Methodist Church, the Bassett Affair, and the Duke family. The Sermons and notes series features handwritten and typed sermon manuscripts and other notes, mostly undated. The third series, Lectures, addresses, and writings, includes manuscripts and published material relating to Trinity College, eulogies, citizenship, the South, education, the Methodist Church, and religion. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South series contains Board of Missions Financial Statements, resolutions, addresses, and related materials. Personal and biographical materials include clippings, biographies, genealogical information, printed matter, and financial documents. This series also features modern materials, such as family correspondence of Kilgo's descendants, that were added to the collection.
The Trinity College records series features building specifications, Kilgo's inaugural address, printed matter, and materials relating to the Clark vs. Kilgo case (1898). The next series, Gattis vs. Kilgo, Duke, and Odell contains documents relating to the 1905 slander suit brought by Thomas J. Gattis against Kilgo, Benjamin N. Duke, and W. R. Odell. The seven Scrapbooks contain clippings of Kilgo's articles and sermons, pages cut from the Bible and hymnals, book reviews, and other items. The Additional materials include a catalog of Kilgo's library, a card inventory of his records and papers, and reference notes detailing press attacks on Kilgo, Trinity College, and the Duke family from 1891 to 1906. The Oversize materials series contains documents from the preceding series in the collection stored in oversize containers.
- Biographical / Historical:
College president, Methodist clergyman and bishop, born Laurens, South Carolina, July 22, 1861. A.M., Wofford College, 1892; D.D., Randolph-Macon, Wofford, 1895; L.L.D., Tulane, 1910, Trinity, 1916. President, Trinity College, Durham, NC, 1894-1910; Bishop, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1910-1922. As an educator, Kilgo was an advocate of a strong public school system, but thought that higher education belonged in co-ed colleges conducted under Christian auspices.
Kilgo's father, James Tillman Kilgo, was a circuit riding Methodist preacher, and his mother Catherine Mason, of Fairfield County, S.C., was related to the prominent Mason family of Virginia. There were five children, three boys and two girls. John's early education took place in those communities where his father preached. He attended McArthur Academy in Limestone, and Gaffney Seminary, and in 1880 enrolled at Wofford College. Eye problems caused his withdrawal at the end of his sophomore year. While at McArthur, a school organized along the lines of a strict English academy, he absorbed the code of strict rules and discipline that characterized his own career as an educator. After withdrawing from Wofford, Kilgo taught school in Clio, S.C., and was licensed to preach in May of 1882. From then until 1888, he rode a circuit in South Carolina, becoming known as an outstanding preacher. In December of 1882, he married Fannie Natt Turner, of Gaffney, S.C.; they had five children.
In 1888 he was made financial agent of Wofford College, and was able to continue his education. He received the M.A. from Wofford in 1892, and was appointed Professor of Philosophy and Political Economy. It was during his time at Wofford that he developed the educational philosophy he was later to put into practice at Trinity. Kilgo thought that true higher education could be secured only in institutions conducted under Christian auspices; such schools should be coeducational, as separate women's colleges at that time tended to be inferior to men's.
In 1894, at the age of thirty-three, Kilgo was elected a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, becoming one of the youngest men ever sent. His reputation led an editor to to call him "one of the most useful and popular members of the South Carolina Conference." In July of that year, Kilgo was elected President of Trinity College in Durham. He took up his post the next month, establishing a reputation as a gifted preacher and educator. Methodists around North Carolina were ready to support their college and see it grow, and it was during Kilgo's tenure that Washington Duke took a great interest in the college's affairs. As President, Kilgo spoke out on many controversial topics, including the role of the state in education, academic freedom, and the education of women.
In 1910, he was elected a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, and resigned as President of Trinity. He continued, however, to take an active role in the affairs of the school, becoming first a member, then the chairman, of the Board of Trustees. He lived in Durham until 1915, when he moved to Charlotte in order to more easily carry out his responsibilities as a bishop. In 1917, following a controversy over student behavior, Kilgo severed his connection with the College. Kilgo was a member of the Education Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which founded and incorporated Emory University.
His health began to fail late in the decade, and in 1920 he was relieved of his episcopal duties. On August 22, 1922, he died in Charlotte, and was buried there.
[Portions of this text are taken from Elizabeth H. Copeland's sketch of Kilgo's life, ca. 1984]
- Acquisition Information:
- The John C. Kilgo Records and Papers were acquired by the University Archives, date unknown.
- Processing information:
Processed by University Archives staff and Jill Katte
Completed January 2004
Encoded by Jill Katte, January 2004
- Physical Location:
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult University Archives, Duke University.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Related Material:
- [Forms part of:] Duke University President records. — University Archives, Duke University.
- John Spencer Bassett Collection. — University Archives, Duke University.
- Bassett Affair Collection. — University Archives, Duke University.
- Benjamin Newton Duke Papers. — David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
Women -- Education (Higher) -- North Carolina -- Durham
Clippings (information artifacts)
Duke University -- Presidents
Duke University -- History
Duke University. Presidents
Educational fund raising -- North Carolina
Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) -- History
Methodist Episcopal Church, South -- Education
Methodist Episcopal Church, South
Methodist Episcopal Church, South -- Clergy
Duke, Washington, 1820-1905
Gattis, Thomas Jefferson
Bassett, John Spencer, 1867-1928
Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922
Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922
Odell, W. R.
Duke, Benjamin N. (Benjamin Newton)
Using These Materials
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
The collection is open for research.
The clippings files (Folders 137-144) contain brittle newsprint and may require reformatting before use. Please contact University Archives staff before visiting to use this portion of the collection.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
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- PREFERRED CITATION:
[Identification of item], John C. Kilgo Records and Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.