Baptists and the American Civil War: May 13, 1865

J. L. M. Curry

J. L. M. Curry

In Evansville, Indiana’s Baptist Lecture Room on Fifth Street and Chestnut Street, twenty-five Baptists gather this day to create a new black Baptist church, one of many formed this month in the wake of the end of the war.

Most prominent of those present is Andrew L. Robinson, an antislavery attorney and Baptist layman. The Baptists gathered form the Liberty Baptist Church, elect Robinson as church clerk and anoint Green McFarland as their future pastor. A white minister serves as temporary pastor until McFarland is ordained in 1866.

Robinson and local business Asa Igleheart assist the newly-formed church in ministering to freedmen across the river in Kentucky. New converts on both sides are baptized in the Ohio River.

Further southward in Alabama, Lieutenant Colonel Jabez Lafayette Monroe Curry (1825-1903) of the 5th Alabama Cavalry is paroled this day. A U.S. Congressman and Baptist prior the war, during the conflict Currey served as a Confederate politician and civil servant.

With the war over, Curry initially directs his energies primarily within Baptist life, quickly success and prominence. In 1865 he is elected president of both the Alabama Baptist Convention and Howard University (later Samford University). The following year Curry is ordained as a Baptist minister. In 1867 he marries Mary Wortham Thomas of Richmond, Virginia.

In 1868 Curry resigns the presidency of Howard University and moves with Mary to Richmond, where he joins the faculty of Richmond College (later the University of Richmond) and becomes active in state Baptist life. In the 1870s he serves for five years as the president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He also serves as president of the National Baptist Sunday School Convention and as president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board from 1871-72 and 1874-75.

Resigning from Richmond College in 1881, Curry thereafter puts his energies into the world of education and politics, playing a leading role in expanding public education in the South as well as helping fund education for freedmen as one of the South’s leading white advocates for black public education. In 1885 U.S. President Grover Cleveland appoints Curry as American Minister to Spain, where he serves for three years. In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt names Curry the American special envoy “for ceremonies marking King Alfonso XIII’s coming of age as the Spanish monarch.”

In addition, Curry is a prolific writer. Among his more notable works are Constitutional Government in Spain (1889), William Ewart Gladstone (1891), The Southern States of the American Union Considered in Their Relations to the Constitution of the United States and to the Resulting Union (1894), and Civil History of the Government of the Confederate States with Some Personal Reminiscences (1901).

Sources: Darrel E. Bigham, On Jordan’s Banks: Emancipation and Its Aftermath in the Ohio, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2006, p. 248 (link); “J. L. M Curry, 1825-1903,” Encyclopedia Virginia (link)