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Baylor University to Receive Bishop College Historical Archives

March 13, 2020

WACO, Texas (Mar. 13, 2020) — Alumni from Bishop College, a historic university established in 1881 in Marshall, Texas, for African American Baptist students, have graciously agreed to donate the college’s archives to Baylor University. These archives will be held in The Texas Collection, adding to its holdings that encompass the rich history of Baptist institutions established in our state as well as African American historical archives.

Founded by Nathan Bishop and the Baptist Home Mission Society, Bishop College was established to serve as an educational beacon for African American Baptists in East Texas. By the 1920s, the college had expanded and began offering more courses; in 1931, an in-service training institute for ministers and lay church workers was established, which was named the Lacy Kirk Williams Institute in 1943.

In 1961, the campus moved from Marshall to Dallas, where enrollment remained healthy until the late 1970s. The university endured financial troubles and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1988. Paul Quinn College, which was originally founded in Austin and affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, took over the grounds and facilities of Bishop College in 1990.

The relationship between Baylor University and Bishop College can be traced back to 1871, when then Baylor president Rufus C. Burleson contacted Nathan Bishop to request a contribution of $25,000. Although Bishop agreed to this contribution, he died before making it. His wife, Carolina Caldwell Bishop, initiated construction of the school, however, by later contributing $10,000 to the Baptist Home Mission Society.

“Baylor University and her seminary are delighted to join hearts and hands with Bishop College alumni and friends to preserve and promote the memory and legacy of that storied institution through the preservation and dissemination of invaluable archival materials,” said Todd D. Still, Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures at Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. “That Bishop and Baylor could once again link arms for such a noble end is a tremendous testament, and a sign of solidarity. This agreement marks another significant chapter in and hopeful horizon for our sustained, mutually enriching partnership.”

John S. Wilson, interim dean of University Libraries, emphasized the importance of Baylor obtaining the archives from Bishop College. “These items will greatly contribute to the university’s archives by adding to our African American and Baptist curations,” he said. “We are excited to continue our relationship with Bishop College that was established by President Rufus Burleson some 150 years ago – further enhanced by Presidents William R. White and Judge Abner V. McCall - and to continue celebrating the important religious and educational work that came out of the institution.”

Members of Baylor’s Truett Seminary and University Libraries are looking forward to celebrating and sharing the legacy and memory of Bishop College through the gift of the donated archives. Items in the gifted archives await processing, but the archives may include handwritten sermons, speeches and commencement addresses, letters from significant figures including Martin Luther King, Sr., as well as audio recordings.

As these archives begin to arrive on Baylor’s campus, The Texas Collection will work to process them and will announce when they are available to the public for research. Stay up to date on this exciting acquisition by following Baylor Libraries on social media (@baylorlibraries) and by visiting www.baylor.edu/lib/texas/.