A long-time Wake Forest
University religion professor active in the Civil Rights Movement died Sept.
29. McLeod Bryan, 90, is being remembered not only for his own work for peace
and justice, but also for influencing countless others through the years.
“I’m always running into
people who told me, ‘Your dad changed my life in class,’“ Bryan’s son, George, told
the Winston-Salem Journal.
The North Carolina native
received a B.A. (1941) and M.A. (1944) from the school — then known as Wake
Forest College — and a B.D. (1947) and Ph.D. (1951) from Yale University. He
was pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in New Haven, Conn., from 1945 until 1948.
He taught at Mars Hill College and Mercer University before joining the
religion department at Wake Forest in 1956.
Bryan stayed at Wake Forest
37 years, championing racial justice and human rights while teaching his
students about religion and ethics. Often controversial and an agent of change,
Bryan and others mounted a campaign to integrate
Wake Forest in 1963.
He also taught in South
Africa — where he was an early opponent of the country’s segregationist
apartheid regime — and at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in
Like other outspoken whites
active in the Civil Rights Movement, Bryan was often vilified. His son said job
opportunities were withheld, and crosses were burned on his father’s lawn.
In a preface to Bryan’s 1999
in the Wilderness, author and fellow white Baptist civil-rights advocate
Will Campbell said Bryan “fits unquestionably within the line of prophets.”
Despite his academic achievements, Campbell said, Bryan always preferred to be
Published by Mercer
University Press, Voices in the Wilderness — subtitled Twentieth Century
Prophets Speak to the New Millennium — included Bryan’s autobiographical
reflections of his experiences with five influential people he knew, including
Martin Luther King Jr. and Clarence Jordan.
He wrote a total of 13
books, including These
Few Also Paid a Price, a compilation of testimonies of 30 Southern
whites who participated in the Civil Rights Movement juxtaposed with the white
majority’s intense opposition to any change in the racial status quo.
Bryan is survived by his
wife of 65 years, Edna, four children, eight grandchildren and two
A graveside service will be
held at Bryan’s boyhood church, New Bethel Baptist Church in Garner, at
2:30 p.m. today (Oct. 1).
A memorial service is scheduled at 3 p.m. Oct. 3 at
Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, where he was a member, in Wait
Chapel on the Wake Forest campus.
Memorials may be made to the
G. McLeod Bryan Caring Award at Mars Hill College or Wake Forest University
Public Engagement for Religion.