Congress of Racial Equality. Homer Chapter (La.): Records, 1965-1966

Biography/History

Joseph Lafayette Murphy, a Lutheran minister in the Midwest, was born February 16, 1867(?), near Bristol, Tennessee, the son of Dr. John A. Murphy and the former Eleanor Teeter. He was an honor student and attended King College, Bristol; Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia; and Mt. Airy Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was ordained May 25, 1891, and began his services in several churches in the Bristol area. In October, 1893, he resigned this mission work to accept a call to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, associated with Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. Later, he moved to Grace English Lutheran Church, Muscatine, Iowa, 1900-1905, and to St. John's English Lutheran Church, Duluth, Minnesota, 1905-1909.

Joseph Murphy met his future wife, Clara Josephine Falk, in the summer of 1890. He was sent to the Stoughton, Wisconsin, area by the English Home Mission Committee of the General Council. His duties were to organize English Lutheran Sunday schools in connection with established Norwegian congregations for the purposes (1) of encouraging the shift to the English language and (2) of preventing the growth of adherence to other sects during the shift. When he returned to school in August, he and Clara began their correspondence which would lead to their marriage on June 27, 1894.

Clara Falk was born in Stoughton, December 11, 1866. Her father, Ole N. Falk, a banker and later a druggist, had five other children, Frederikka, Adele, Rolf, Elmer, and Nelson. The entire family was interested in music and Clara studied at Chicago Musical College at various times in the late 1880s. In June, 1890, she graduated and won the diamond medal for excellence. She gave private lessons in voice before, during, and after her marriage, and in 1911, she went to Paris to study with Jean de Retzke and Oscar Seagal.

The Murphys had two children, Brynhilde J., born February 9, 1897, and John Falk (nicknamed Tertius and Turk because he was the third John Murphy), born August 13, 1903.

In 1909, Joseph Murphy was forced by ill health to resign his parish. He did not improve and on March 23, 1910, he died in Deland, Florida. He was buried in Stoughton and his family returned to that city to live. In 1917, they moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where Clara Falk Murphy died on October 19, 1948.