Scope and Contents
Documenting the life and work of a 1952 graduate of the Yale Divinity School, the George A. Chauncey Papers illuminate many aspects of the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War movement at the local level, and they provide rich documentation of the bureaucratic, activist, and theological aspects of the progressive interreligious church lobby that developed in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s and 1990s.
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of George A. Chauncey, Jr., 2015
- I. Writings, Sermons, and Addresses
- II. Documentation of Activities
- III. Subject Files
- IV. Related to Yale Divinity School
- V. Personal Items and Memorabilia
- VI. Audio-visual Material
12 Linear Feet (31 boxes)
Correspondence, writings, sermons, and collected material document the life and work of George A. Chauncey, who graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1952 and served as a Presbyterian parish minister in the South, activist for civil rights and peace, and founding director of the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church.
Biographical / Historical
George A. Chauncey (1927-) is a retired Presbyterian minister who worked for racial justice while serving as pastor of local churches in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky at the height of the civil rights era from 1952-1965 and worked on civil rights, peace, and global hunger issues after joining the national staff of the Presbyterian Church (US) in 1965.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1927, Chauncey served with the US Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in post-war Japan before earning his BA degree with honors from Rhodes College in 1949, his M.Div. degree cum laude from Yale Divinity School in 1952, and his D. Min. degree from Union Theological Seminary of Virginia in 1972. In 1952 he married Barbara Leigh Davis, the daughter of Congressman Clifford Davis of Memphis, and was also ordained a Presbyterian minister and called to serve the First Presbyterian Church in Brownsville, Tennessee.
From 1954-58, he served as pastor of a church in Monticello, Arkansas. His papers illustrate the struggles over civil rights in deeply divided southern white churches. In 1954, he was asked to leave his Brownsville pulpit after preaching in support of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. In 1956, he received both critical and supportive letters from across the South after withdrawing from the University of Mississippi’s Religious Emphasis Week after it, under pressure from the state legislature, rescinded the invitation of another speaker discovered to be a (white) member of the NAACP, and, in 1957, he was one of the white ministers who escorted the black students integrating Little Rock’s Central High School through hostile mobs. After serving for two years in the Church’s Office of Evangelism, he served from 1960-65 as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Danville, Kentucky, where he founded the town’s Human Relations Council.
In 1965, he joined the denomination’s Office of Church and Society in Richmond, Virginia, where he worked primarily in support of civil rights and spent much of his first year travelling the South to advise and support clergy whose support for civil rights had alienated their parishioners. He also chaired the Richmond Mobilization Committee Against the War in Vietnam (1969-70) and the local George McGovern presidential campaign committee (1972).
In 1973 Chauncey founded and became the first Director of the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (US). After the two major Presbyterian Churches merged in 1983 to become the Presbyterian Church (USA), Chauncey continued to serve in the new denomination’s Washington Office until his retirement in 1989. A monthly columnist for fifteen years for The Presbyterian Survey, the denomination’s official magazine, he also wrote numerous articles for other denominations and ecumenical groups. His book, Decisions! Decisions!, an introduction to Christian ethics, was published by John Knox Press in 1972.
In 1974 Chauncey organized and for eight years served as the chairman of the Interreligious Taskforce on US Food Policy, a highly respected ecumenical lobby of 30 Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish organizations working on US policies affecting global hunger and poverty. Beginning a decade later, he worked for five years as a member of the Washington Interreligious Staff Group on Central America, which opposed US policy in Central America; in the course of this work, he led three Presbyterian fact-finding delegations to Nicaragua and El Salvador. Health problems led him to retire in 1989.
- Guide to the George A. Chauncey Papers
- Martha Hershey Brundage and Martha Lund Smalley
- 2015, 2017
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository
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