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Collection Number: 04554

Collection Title: Robert E. Seymour Papers, 1941-1997

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.


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Size 17.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 8200 items)
Abstract Correspondence, sermons, writings, scrapbooks, digitized photographs, subject files, and printed items comprise the papers of Robert E. Seymour (b. 1925), progressive, white pastor of Warrenton Baptist Church in Warrenton, N.C., Mars Hill Baptist Church in Mars Hill, N.C., and Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C. The papers document his ministerial career and to some extent the Southern Baptist churches where he served from the 1940s to the early 2000s. Seymour's writings, sermons, and subject files reflect his support for racial integration during the 1960s and for other progressive causes and efforts during his long career, including Binkley Memorial Baptist Church's welcoming of homosexuals and his opposition to capital punishment.
Creator Seymour, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1925-
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
This collection contains additional materials that are not processed and are currently not available to researchers. For information about access to these materials, contact Research and Instructional Services staff. Please be advised that preparing unprocessed materials for access can be a lengthy process.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Robert E. Seymour papers #4554, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Robert E. Seymour of Chapel Hill, N.C., in March 1990, October 1991 (Acc. 91134), April 1992 (Acc. 92049), July 1999 (Acc. 98401), and July 2017 (Acc. 103118).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Robert E. Seymour was born on 13 July 1925 in Greenwood, S.C. In deference to his father's wishes, he started his studies at the Citadel, but quickly switched to the Navy's pre-chaplaincy program. He attended Newberry College for two years and then studied at Duke University, from which he was graduated with a B.A. degree in 1945. He received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Yale Divinity School in 1948 and a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1955.

In 1959, Seymour became the first minister of the Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C. Before coming to Binkley, he was pastor of the Mars Hill Baptist Church in Mars Hill, N.C.; pastor of the Warrenton Baptist Church in Warrenton, N.C.; and assistant pastor of the Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

The Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church started out with about 40 parishioners; services were held in Gerrard Hall on the University of North Carolina campus. The establishment of the Church coincided with the arrival of some of the first black students at the University. From the beginning, Binkley had an open membership policy that sought to include not only all races, but all Christians, including those who had not been baptized through immersion in water in orthodox Baptist churches. This and other stances earned the Binkley Baptist Church and its pastor reputations in the Southern Baptist Convention for being "uncooperative." Seymour himself was frequently labeled a maverick for opposing the Baptist Church's move towards conformity and for advocating racial integration.

Under Seymour's leadership, the Binkley Baptist Church became involved in day care and preschool programs, classes and services to older adults, and other community activities. He also kept the Church active in both the Southern Baptist Convention and the more liberal American Baptist Convention. At the time of his retirement in 1988, the Church had about 500 members.

After his retirement, Seymour published two books: Whites Only: A Pastor's Restrospective on Life in the New South in 1991 and Aging Without Apology in 1995. He is one of the writers of the "Village Voices" column in the Chapel Hill News.

Seymour participated in many community undertakings, including serving as the first president of the Inter-Faith Council, a social services association of churches and synagogues in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. He is married to Pearl Seymour and has a daughter named Frances and a son named Robert III.

(Compiled from various newspaper and journal sources.)

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Original deposit and additions received between 1991 and 1999:

Chiefly correspondence, 1941-1988, largely consisting of incoming letters from friends, family, and colleagues. Most letters are post-1959, when Seymour moved to the Binkley Baptist Church. There are many letters from parishioners and others thanking Seymour for services rendered. There are also letters containing invitations to conferences or requests for services. There appear to be few letters dealing directly with church business or with the many organizations and causes with which Seymour was affiliated.

There is a series of typed copies and photocopies of outgoing letters, 1981-1988, some of which appear to be related to incoming letters in the collection. Also included are photocopies of selected pages from scrapbooks documenting Seymour's career from 1947 to his retirement in 1988.

Writings by Robert E. Seymour:

John Gill, Baptist Theologian, 1697-1771, typescript. Doctoral thesis at University of Edinburgh.

"You Can't Hold Back the Spring" (1990), typescript. Published in 1991 as Whites Only: A Pastor's Restrospective on Life in the New South. The typescript includes material that does not appear in the printed version.

Celebrating Christmas as Christians (1990), printed.

Copy of Whites Only: A Pastor's Retrospective on Signs of the South (1991) by Seymour and a 1992 review of the book from Baptists Today.

Addition of 2017:

Correspondence, writings, and printed items, particularly church bulletins, comprise the bulk of the addition. Also included are digitized photographs of the Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., and its congregants; scrapbooks compiled by Robert Seymour's spouse Pearl Seymour; and subject files. The scrapbooks are composed chiefly of clippings of Seymour's published articles and editorials. Subject files on race relations, homosexuality, ageism, capital punishment, and other topics reflect Seymour's interests in progressive causes.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Robert E. Seymour Papers, 1941-1997.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017

Acquisitions information: Addition of 2017 (Acc. 103118).

Box 9

Correspondence, circa 1950-1954 and circa 1997-1999 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 9

Box 10

Correspondence, circa 2000-2004 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 10

Box 11

Correspondence, circa 2005-2016 and "First Sermons," undated #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 11

Box 12

Sermons, 1946-2003 and undated #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 12

A sermon titled "The Sins That Beset Us: Prejudice" (1948) addresses racism and bigotry. "Whether we like it or not we are living in a New South, and a silent slow revolution is underway. Better housing, better health, better education, are all on the upswing, and at long last many of us have begun to realize that you can't keep a man in the ditch unless you stay in it with him to keep him down."

"Displaced Persons" (1955) addresses homelessness and refugees.

Box 13

Prayers, undated #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 13

"Mine + Others." "Many Originals Many Borrowed."

Box 14

Published writings, 1950-1987 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 14

Includes the following titles: "Interracial Ministry in the South" (1963), "Interracial Ministry in North Carolina" (1963), "The Christian Case Against Poverty" (1965), "Paradox of Poverty in the Midst of Plenty" (1965), "Our Prejudices Against the Poor" (1966), and "Pastor Cooperating" in a booklet titled "Cooperation = Better Race Relations."

Box 15

Published writings, 1988-2014 and undated and Other writings, 1947-2014 and undated #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 15

Published writings include the title "The Sounds of Silence: Deaf Persons in the Church" (1991). Other writings include lectures, commencement addresses, eulogies, open letters, and a 1947 paper he wrote while at Yale Divinity School. Of interest is an undated essay titled "The Future of Silent Sam." Seymour proposes that the Confederate Memorial statute known as "Silent Sam" that is located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill be moved to a museum. Also included are book reviews by Seymour and others.

Oversize Volume SV-4554/1

Scrapbook, 1950-1988 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/1

Oversize Volume SV-4554/2

Scrapbook, 1956-1966 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/2

Oversize Volume SV-4554/3

Scrapbook, 1988-1992 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/3

Oversize Volume SV-4554/4

Scrapbook, 1992-1995 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/4

Oversize Volume SV-4554/5

Scrapbook, 1995-1996 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/5

Oversize Volume SV-4554/6

Scrapbook, 1996-1998 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/6

Oversize Volume SV-4554/7

Scrapbook, 1999-2000 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/7

Oversize Volume SV-4554/8

Scrapbook, 2000-2001 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/8

Oversize Volume SV-4554/9

Scrapbook, 2002-2003 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/9

Oversize Volume SV-4554/10

Scrapbook, 2003-2004 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/10

Oversize Volume SV-4554/11

Scrapbook, 2005-2007 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/11

Oversize Volume SV-4554/12

Scrapbook, 2007-2008 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/12

Oversize Volume SV-4554/13

Scrapbook, 2009-2012 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/13

Oversize Volume SV-4554/14

Scrapbook, 2013-2017 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " SV-4554/14

Box 16

Subject files #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 16

"Ageism."

"Aging + Retirement."

"Baptists."

"Binkley Memorial."

"Capital Punishment."

"Christian Faith."

"Church + State."

Box 17

Subject files #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 17

"Euthanasia."

"Homosexuality."

Lee, Howard.

"Poems."

"Race Relations I."

"Race Relations II."

Smith, Dean.

Box 18

Printed items, 1944-1963 #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 18

Chiefly church bulletins.

Box 19

Printed items, 1964-2005 and undated #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " Box 19

Chiefly church bulletins. Also included is an undated biographical "Time Line" compiled by Seymour.

Digital Folder DF-4554/1

Binkley Memorial Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, N.C., circa 1970s-1980s #04554, Series: "2. Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, and Printed Items, 1947-2017 " DF-4554/1

Digitized photographs.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Roslyn Holdzkom, May 1990 with subsequent additions.

Updated by: Laura Hart, August 2017.

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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