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Episcopal Bishops Collection

Identifier: MS-2279

  • Staff Only

The Episcopal Bishops Collection, 1858-1956, contains letters and other materials from bishops of the Episcopal Church. While the majority of the bishops represented in this collection are from the Tennessee Diocese, clergy from North Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia are also included. Most of the envelopes and letters are addressed to a representative of the library at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Mass., where the Right Rev. Dr. Lawrence, Bishop of Massachusetts, maintained a collection of autograph letters from Episcopal bishops throughout the country. This collection represents a portion of that collection.

The material on James Hervey Otey, the first bishop of Tennessee, stands out for its content. On a two-sided, undated manuscript page, Otey states that perhaps one of the most singular & pernicious mistakes which men have ever made is that of supposing that the truths of religion are above the comprehension of a child. A 10-page letter from Otey to a Mr. Wharton, dated April 19, 1858, also sheds light on Otey's religious interpretations. Otey speaks of the religious press ("I find that the Editor of our church papers are governed much in the same manner as the Conductor of the secular or political press, through by a different class of motives & for other objects"). He continues by discussing the laws of the church and the church's powers within the construct of the American political system, saying "the Episcopate whatever may be [have been?] its original functions, has so far restricted itself as to be limited to the express powers of the law."


  • 1858-1956

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


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The Episcopal Bishops Collection, 1858-1956, contains letters, envelopes, printed portraits, and other materials related primarily to bishops of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Tennessee. Included are notes and a lengthy letter from James Hervey Otey, the first Bishop of Tennessee.

Biographical/Historical Note

Brief biographical information on the individual bishops documented in this collection can be found in the container list of the collection. The first convention of the Diocese of Tennessee was held in 1829 in Nashville. One month later, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church accepted the diocese. In 1834, James Hervey Otey was elected the first Bishop of Tennessee.

While the majority of the men documented in this collection were, at one time, the Bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee, a few were either Bishop Coadjutor or Suffragan Bishop. The Diocesan Bishop stood as the primary bishop of the Diocese, meaning that all other bishops in the diocese were responsible to him. The Bishop Coadjutor, however, was the elected and ordained bishop who was to succeed the sitting Diocesan Bishop after his retirement or resignation. The role of the Suffragan Bishop, however, was to assist the Diocesan Bishop and to serve under the Diocesan's direction. Unlike the Bishop Coadjutor, the Suffragan Bishop has no inherent right of succession when the Diocesan Bishop retires or resigns.


Collection consists of a single folder divided into eleven series based on individual:

Acquisition Note

The Special Collections Library purchased this collection in February of 2005.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA