James A. Zellner Papers, 1944-1983

Container Title
Mss 1027
Part 1 (Mss 1027): Original Collection, 1944-1979
Physical Description: 4.0 c.f. (4 record center cartons) 
Scope and Content Note

The materials in this collection date roughly from 1944 to 1979, with the bulk of the papers dating between 1961 and 1971, a period of radical change in race relations in the South. The collection is divided into three series: GENERAL SUBJECT FILES, BOB ZELLNER FILES, and WRITINGS.

The major subject documented in the collection is James Zellner's role in the civil rights struggle, both as a liberal, white Southern minister and as the father of a prominent civil rights activist. Although Zellner was involved with various liberal religious efforts beginning in the 1940s, the documentation about this aspect of his career is spotty and incomplete. Through the writings and manuscripts in the papers, the collection offers some insights into the transformation of his religious and social beliefs. Unfortunately, because most of the writings are handwritten, fragmentary, and undated drafts rather than complete manuscripts, this evolution in his beliefs is difficult to trace. There is virtually no expression here of his early fundamentalist beliefs. There is also very little documentation concerning his career after the mid-1970s.

The GENERAL SUBJECT FILES series provides documentation of Zellner's roles as minister, civil rights advocate, concerned patriot, smear campaign victim, and father. Numerous files pertain to the Methodist Church, particularly the Alabama-West Florida Conference and the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Other documented religious organizations include the Methodist Rural Fellowship and the 1947 National Methodist Rural Life Conference. Information on the internal politics of the Methodist Church and its response to the civil rights movement is scattered throughout the series. There is correspondence with individual religious leaders such as Bishop Paul Hardin, Jr., of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Charles F. Golden, and Edgar A. Love and with fellow ministers such as Thomas L. Butts, C C. Garner, and Andrew S. Turnipseed. Butts and Garner were among the members of the group referred to by Zellner as the “Briar Patch,” and several sermons written by Butts on race relations for an unpublished book are included. Among the other documented religious organizations is the Alabama Council of Churches. There are also files on several congregations that Zellner served, particularly the Valparaiso Community Church in Valparaiso, Florida, but none of these files contain substantial quantities of documentation. The Valparaiso folder and one on the Circuit Riders, a conservative Methodist organization, contain information about the smear attacks to which Zellner was subjected.

As donated, the files on the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) comprised one of the largest portions of the collection. However, these files duplicated organizational records in the Anne and Carl Braden Papers also held by the Historical Society, and as the result, they have been extensively weeded. A slim folder of family correspondence contains letters exchanged with members of the family, primarily Bob and Bob's first wife, Dorothy.

The BOB ZELLNER series provides the most detailed and organized documentation in the collection. This series consists of correspondence, print materials, notes, and legal documents dating from 1961 to 1965, and it concerns the legal issues that arose from Bob's participation in several demonstrations and Reverend Zellner's involvement in Bob's situation. The elder Zellner is documented by extensive correspondence with officials at Huntingdon College, James Forman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the attorneys who represented Bob, and Bob himself. Of special note are the letters to Bob and from Dottie while Bob was in jail.

The collection includes a large body of Reverend Zellner's WRITINGS. Unfortunately, as previously noted, this material is difficult to interpret. Very few manuscripts are dated, titled, or complete, with the majority consisting only of handwritten drafts and fragments. In many cases it is difficult to determine if a piece was intended as a sermon or as secular writing. This is true even for the sometimes satiric letters addressed to God, the Devil, the Apostle Paul, other Biblical figures, and to the space alien Zobeneau. Some pieces in this section of the collection were probably not meant as writings of any kind, but rather as personal reminders or as a way of getting ideas on paper for later use. Further complicating interpretation of the writings is the fact that Zellner repeated many themes and topics. There are, for example, numerous draft fragments of the beginning of a proposed book tentatively entitled My Story, which concerned his personal religious study and reflections. To the extent that was possible, the writings have been sorted by subject, genre, or final product. The major work filed here is a copy of Making Methodism Methodist, written by Zellner and five of his liberal colleagues and “Briar Patch” associates.

Series: General Subject Files
Box   1
Folder   1
Biographical information
Box   1
Folder   2
Alabama Council of Churches, 1961-1962
Box   1
Folder   3
Alabama Council on Human Relations, 1959-1962
Box   1
Folder   4
Alabama-West Florida Conference
Box   1
Folder   5
Baldwin County Inter-racial Committee, 1950
Box   1
Folder   6
Birmingham Southern College, 1963
Box   1
Folder   7
“Briar Patch,” 1959-1966
Box   1
Folder   8
Butts, T.L.
Box   1
Folder   9
Calendar, 1964
Box   1
Folder   10
Church appointments, 1960-1966
Box   1
Folder   11
Circuit Riders, 1956-1958
Box   1
Folder   12
Commission on Public Relations and Methodist Information
Box   1
Folder   13
Communist materials, 1960-1962
Box   1
Folder   14
Crab Apple Ridge Hunting Club, 1972-1976
Box   1
Folder   15
Daphne Methodist Church, 1950-1951
Box   1
Folder   16
Dissident pronouncements on the part of churches, 1963-1964
Box   1
Folder   17
Garner, C.C., 1946-1947, 1963
Box   1
Folder   18
General, 1962-1976
Box   1
Folder   19
Golden, Bishop Charles, 1963-1964
Box   1
Folder   20
Government officials correspondence, 1961-1963
Box   1
Folder   21
Government Street Methodist Church, Mobile, History by A.S. Turnipseed, 1976
Box   1
Folder   22
Hardin, Bishop Paul, 1962-1964
Box   1
Folder   23
Harrell, Bishop Costen J. (regarding Turnipseed appointment), 1945
Box   1
Folder   24
Highlander Center, 1957-1963
Box   1
Folder   25
Ledger, Reference and church notes
Box   1
Folder   26
Methodist Church, Miscellaneous materials
Box   1
Folder   27
Methodist Federation for Social Action, Alabama Conference, 1946-1947
Box   1
Folder   28
Methodist Layman's Union, 1954-1961
Box   1
Folder   29
Methodist Rural Life Fellowship, 1944-1949
Box   1
Folder   30
Miscellaneous correspondence
Box   1
Folder   31
National Methodist Rural Life Conference, 1947
Box   1
Folder   32
Operation Support, 1963
Box   1
Folder   33
Pastor article response, 1947
Box   1
Folder   34
Proof of patriotic loyalty, 1961-1967
Box   1
Folder   35
Race relations sermons by others, 1963
Box   1
Folder   36
Religious materials, 1950-1979
Box   1
Folder   37
Right wing research
Box   1
Folder   38
Smear campaign, 1963-1965
Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF)
Box   1
Folder   39
Board materials, 1963-1966
Box   1
Folder   40-41
Correspondence, 1961-1970
Box   1
Folder   42
General materials, 1962-1965
Box   1
Folder   43
[Folder # not used]
Box   1
Folder   44
Valparaiso Community Church, 1960-1966
Box   1
Folder   45
Whitsett, Daniel C.
Box   1
Folder   46
Zellner article correspondence, 1962
Box   1
Folder   47
Zellner family correspondence
Box   1
Folder   48
Zellner, Richard, paper
Box   1
Folder   49
Zellner, Ruby
Series: Bob Zellner Files
Box   2
Folder   1
Appeal materials, 1960-1961
Box   2
Folder   2
Baton Rouge notes
Box   2
Folder   3
Character witness correspondence and materials, 1963
Box   2
Folder   4
Commission on Higher Education correspondence, 1961
Huntingdon College
Box   2
Folder   5
General, 1960-1961
Box   2
Folder   6
Correspondence, 1960-1963
Box   2
Folder   7
Notes, 1961-1963
Box   2
Folder   8
Jail correspondence, 1961-1963
Box   2
Folder   9
Lake Junaluska project, 1962
Box   2
Folder   10
Correspondence with lawyers, 1961-1962
McComb, Mississippi
Box   2
Folder   11
Clippings, 1961
Box   2
Folder   12
Confidential memos, 1961
Box   2
Folder   13
Correspondence
Box   2
Folder   14-15
Notes, 1961
Box   2
Folder   16
Mobile hearing notes, 1960-1961
Series: Writings
Box   2
Folder   17
General writing plans, philosophy
Box   2
Folder   18
Aesop
Box   2
Folder   19
Agitators
Box   2
Folder   20
Biblical passages on segregation notebook
Box   2
Folder   21
Bigotry
Box   2
Folder   22
Book notes, 1966
Box   2
Folder   23
Brimstone Curtain
Box   2
Folder   24
“Christianity and the Crisis of World Revolution”
Box   2
Folder   25
Civil rights drafts
Box   2
Folder   26
“Civil Rights are Moral Rights”
Box   2
Folder   27
Communism, Drafts regarding
Box   2
Folder   28
“Cosmic Humanism”
Box   2
Folder   29
Digest Bible
Box   2
Folder   30
“Fleeing from Lions” sermon
Box   2
Folder   31
Gadfly piece
Box   2
Folder   32
“Gadfly Pulpit”
Box   3
Folder   1
King, Martin Luther
Box   3
Folder   2
“Language of the People”
Box   3
Folder   3
Law and order
Box   3
Folder   4
“Letters from the Dead”
Box   3
Folder   5
Letters to “Dear Fellows”/individuals with Biblical names
Box   3
Folder   6
Letters to the Editor and editorials
Box   3
Folder   7
“Letters to God”
Box   3
Folder   8
“Letters from Hell”
Box   3
Folder   9
Letters to Lucifer
Box   3
Folder   10
Letters to Sam
Box   3
Folder   11
“Liberal Dilemma,” 1969
Box   3
Folder   12
Making Methodism Methodist, 1947
Box   3
Folder   13
“Methodist Minister & his Relationships”
Box   3
Folder   14
Moderates
Box   3
Folder   15
“My Story,” proposed book
Box   3
Folder   16
New Testament scriptures regarding segregation
Box   3
Folder   17
Notebook
Box   3
Folder   18
Operation Sermon
Box   3
Folder   19
Paul
Box   3
Folder   20
“Pen Point Papers”
Box   3
Folder   21
Personal statements, 1965, undated
Box   3
Folder   22
Pulpit book
Box   3
Folder   23
“Reaction to Reform”
Box   3
Folder   24
“Recreation for Rural Church”
Box   3
Folder   25
Releases
Box   3
Folder   26-27
“Satan and God's Meetings,” Proposed book, 1977-1978
Box   3
Folder   28
Scriptural questions
Box   3
Folder   29
Segregation
Box   3
Folder   30
Sermon notes
Box   3
Folder   31
Sermon on the Mount
Box   3
Folder   32
“Six Basic Propositions”
Box   3
Folder   33
“Southern Churchman and his Box”
Box   3
Folder   34
“ A Southerner Lays Out Some Guidelines for Those Who Wish to Think for Themselves on the Race Issue,” undated
Box   3
Folder   35
Study of the Pattern (Jesus notebook)
Box   3
Folder   36
Training proposal
Box   3
Folder   37
Vietnam drafts
Box   3
Folder   38
“Wind and Whirlwind”
Box   3
Folder   39
Young people
Box   4
Folder   1-2
Zeelzebub
Box   4
Folder   3
Zellner, Bob
Box   4
Folder   4-5
Zobeneau
Box   4
Folder   6-19
Miscellaneous draft pages