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Liston Pope Papers

Call Number: RG 49

Scope and Contents

The papers of this record group document in a complete and valuable way Pope's wide-ranging involvements in theological education, in the ecumenical movement, and in denominational religious life. His activities while Dean of the Yale Divinity School and his efforts to relate the church to various social concerns such as labor and race relations are well documented. The papers are primarily related to Pope's professional work although personal insights are readily available, particularly in the correspondence with his wife and with friends such as Albert C. Outler and Alan Paton. The wit and incisive thought that characterized Pope and often aroused controversy are evident throughout the papers. The bulk of the material in the collection falls between the years 1932 and 1962, the latter date being when Pope, for reasons of health, was forced to curtail many of his activities. Material related to the Yale Divinity School is present but not prominent in the collection.

The first series, CORRESPONDENCE, dates from 1931 to 1973. The small amount of family correspondence is not separated from the general correspondence and consists primarily of letters written by Pope to his wife in 1949 and 1956 when he was on extended trips abroad. Pope maintained correspondence with many of the leading figures in American and international life, particularly during the 1950s. Important correspondents include: Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, G. Bromley Oxnam, Alan Paton, Anson Phelps Stokes, Henry P. Van Dusen, W. A. Visser 't Hooft and Luther A. Weigle, as well as various Yale faculty members. Much of the correspondence is organized under the corporate bodies with which Pope was extensively involved. Cross references point out prominent individuals whose correspondence is included under corporate headings. Correspondence organized under the Federal Council of Churches, National Council of Churches, and World Council of Churches provides extensive documentation of the activities of the ecumenical movement although substantive letters dealing with policy decisions are not frequent. Correspondence of the Council for Social Action and Congregational Christian Churches deals in depth with the social action policies of the Congregational denomination and related difficulties. Theological education in America and abroad is documented by the correspondence of the American Association of Theological Schools, National Council on Religion in Higher Education, Fund for Theological Education, etc.

A great many letters arranging the logistics of Pope's extensive travels for speaking engagements and committee meetings are included in the correspondence. Letters interspersed throughout the series record the response of the public to Pope's journal publications and broadcasts. Pope's particular interests in South African race relations and religious radio and television are well represented in the series.

The second series, WRITINGS/SPEECHES, consists of articles, papers, speeches, and sermons written by Pope. The material is in manuscript, typescript, and printed form and dates from 1932 to 1969. Perhaps one-fourth of the writings are sermons from Pope's early years in the Congregational ministry while the remainder relate to the entire range of his later involvements.

The third series, SUBJECT FILE/NOTES, consists primarily of Pope's holograph notes but also includes printed material, student reports and mimeographed material. The notes are related to Pope's student days, his research for publications, his teaching activities, his committee involvements and his travels abroad. The notes used for Pope's classroom presentations could be particularly useful for tracing the development of his thought. A large section of notes and printed material relates to Pope's doctoral dissertation study of Gastonia, North Carolina, which was later published as Millhands and Preachers.

The fourth series, APPOINTMENT RECORDS / DIARIES, provides a fairly complete record of Pope's daily activities from 1929 to 1964. Approximately one-fourth of the material in this series consists of the appointment books of Pope's wife, Bennie. An early diary of Pope (1929) and a diary kept during his trip to Africa in 1949 are narrative in style while the remainder of the records simply report Pope's engagements.

The fifth series, PERSONAL ITEMS AND MEMORABILIA, is arranged into the following sub-series:

  1. A. Biographical material
  2. B. Clippings, bulletins
  3. C. Honors, citations
  4. D. Photographs
  5. E. Scrapbook
  6. F. Slides


  • 1909-1984


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.


  1. I. Correspondence, 1931-1973, undated
  2. II. Writings / Speeches, 1932-1968, undated
  3. III. Subject File / Notes, undated
  4. IV. Appointment Records / Diaries, 1929-1964
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1909-1984, undated


36 Linear Feet (87 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers document Pope's career and thought. They are primarily related to his professional work, but personal insights are also available, particularly in the correspondence with his wife and friends. The collection provides information about theological education in the United States, the activities of the ecumenical movement during the 1950s, the relationship of the church (particularly the Congregational denomination) to social concerns such as labor and race relations during the 1950s. Liston Corlando Pope was born on September 6, 1909 in Thomasville, North Carolina. He was educated at Duke University (A.B., 1929; B.D., 1932) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1940). He served as pastor of churches in North Carolina and New Haven, Connecticut (1932-1938), professor of Social Ethics (1938-1973) and Dean (1949-1962) of Yale Divinity School, author and editor. He was active in the Congregational Christian Churches denomination (1850-1960) and the ecumenical movement, particularly the World Council of Churches, and in organizations involved in theological education. He died in Norway in April, 1974.

Biographical / Historical

1909 September 6
Liston Corlando Pope born in Thomasville, N.C., son of Robie Lester and Dora (Younts) Pope
A.B. Duke University
B.D. Duke University
Associate pastor, Wesley Memorial Church, High Point, N.C.
Married Bennie Howell Purvis
Ordained to Congregational ministry
Pastor, Humphrey Street Congregational Church, New Haven, Connecticut
1936 July 27
Daughter, Mary Anna, born
Lecturer in Social Ethics, Yale
Assistant professor, Yale
Ph.D. Yale; awarded John Addison Porter prize
Millhands and Preachers published
1943 December 26
Son, Liston Jr., born
Editor, Social Action magazine
Associate professor, Yale
Gilbert Stark Professor of Social Ethics, Yale
Editor, Labor's Relation to Church and Community
Research and travel in Africa under the Julius Rosenwald and Phelps-Stokes Funds
Dean of Yale Divinity School. Resigned in 1962 in order to return to teaching and for health reasons. On sabbatical leave in North Carolina and Europe for two years before returning to Yale. Health problems continued to disrupt his teaching activities until his retirement in 1973.
Daughter, Bennie Alison, born
Trip around the world concentrating on study of theological education in Asia
The Kingdom Beyond Caste published
Bennie Purvis Pope died
Married Gerd Synnove Thoresen
1974 April
Died in Norway

Other positions held:

  1. Phelps-Stokes Fund 1946-1954
  2. Vassar College 1954-1960
  3. Nanking Theological Seminary Board of Founders 1956
  4. Franklin and Marshall College 1964-1971
  1. Congregational Council for Social Action 1950-1952
  2. National Advisory Committee of the Student YMCA 1950
  3. Interseminary Committee, National Council of Churches 1955-1957
  4. Executive Committee, American Association of Theological Schools 1957-1962
  1. Board of Directors, Prospect Hill School, New Haven 1953-1955, 1959-1960
  2. Religion and Labor Foundation
  3. Director: Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowships Program 1955-1962
  1. Board of Directors Theological Education Fund 1957-1962
  2. Board of Directors, New Haven Urban League 1963 -Board of Directors, Connecticut Assn.. for Mental Health 1955
  3. Central Committee and Executive Committee, World Council of Churches 1954-1961
  4. Committee of 35 to Study the Statement of Social Ideals of the Congregational Christian Churches 1941
  5. Congregational delegate to the National Council of Churches 1949-1960
  6. Contributor to many journals

Biographical information obtained from Who's Who in America, 1974 and Series V Box 83 Folders 1062-1064.

Guide to the Liston Pope Papers
compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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