April 21, 2018—The C. Benton Kline, Jr. Special Collections and Archives is pleased to announce the release of the personal papers of Dr. J. Will Ormond, Jr at The John Bulow Campbell Library on the Columbia Theological Seminary campus. A graduate of Columbia Seminary in 1943, Dr. Ormond served Covenant Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa, AL where he spoke in favor of integration. In 1966, he returned to Columbia Seminary joining the faculty as the J. McDowell Richards Professor of Biblical Exposition, a position he held until his retirement in 1987.
Dr. Ormond’s collection consists of items traditionally found in the files of pastors and professors, such as sermons, course notes, and drafts of publications. Rather unexpectedly, though, Dr. Ormond’s papers contain material belonging to his mother, Mary B. Ormond, which includes the correspondence Will Ormond wrote to his mother every Sunday while he was a student at Columbia Seminary.
In Dr. Ormond’s obituary, fellow alumnus J. Phillips Noble wrote, “Ormond’s life was marked by a deep devotion to his mother, his father having died when Will was a young child.”
“It is rare that a collection would have letters written by its creator. How often do we get the chance to re-read the letters we send?” said Caitlin Reeves, Processing Archivist. “These letters give us a candid view of student life at Columbia Seminary. This definitely exhibits the riches now available for use in the Archives.”
Will Ormond was born April 22, 1919 in Beaumont, TX, but grew up in Sumter County, AL. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Alabama, he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, GA in 1943. He then attended Princeton Theological Seminary, where he received a Master of Theology degree in 1948.
Ormond served as pastor of Marion Presbyterian Church, in Marion, AL, and was the organizing minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church, in Tuscaloosa, AL. While there, he authored a letter in 1963 to Gov. George Wallace in opposition to segregation stating, “You, sir, have missed your opportunity for greatness.”
In 1964 Ormond was called by Columbia Theological Seminary as professor of New Testament. In preparation for the teaching position, he studied under the famous Dr. William Barclay at the University of Glasgow, in Glasgow, Scotland, earning his Ph.D. degree in 1973. Dr. Ormond returned to Scotland many times throughout his life.
In 1966 he became the J. McDowell Richards professor of Biblical Exposition at Columbia Theological Seminary, teaching there until he retired in 1987. “Ormond was an effective pulpiteer, and moved his listeners with his keen Biblical insight and wonderful gift of humor,” recalled Noble.
In retirement at Lenbrook Square, Ormond became the popular, unofficial “pastor” for his fellow residents, arranging a weekly Vespers service, where ministers from many denominations were invited to speak. He also wrote two books during his retirement: Good News among the Rubble and Preaching Eyes for Listening Ears.
A more detailed inventory of this collection is available via this finding aid. If you are curious about these letters, or any of the other items in the collection, please be in touch with the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-687-4628.
The John Bulow Campbell Library serves as a learning resource center for Columbia Theological Seminary. The C. Benton Kline, Jr. Special Collections and Archives is the repository for the documentation of Columbia Seminary’s activities and programs, and collects and cares for personal and organizational materials and records relating to the history of the “Southern Stream” of Presbyterianism.
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