Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922

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John C. Kilgo served as President of Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) from 1894 to 1910.

From the description of John C. Kilgo records and papers, 1888-1970 (bulk 1894-1920). (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 55635806

Educator and Methodist bishop.

From the description of Papers, 1891-1944. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 122413276

College president, Methodist clergyman and bishop, born Laurens, South Carolina, July 22, 1861. A.M., Wofford College, 1892; D.D., Randolph-Macon, Wofford, 1895; L.L.D., Tulane, 1910, Trinity, 1916. President, Trinity College, Durham, NC, 1894-1910; Bishop, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1910-1922. As an educator, Kilgo was an advocate of a strong public school system, but thought that higher education belonged in co-ed colleges conducted under Christian auspices.

Kilgo's father, James Tillman Kilgo, was a circuit riding Methodist preacher, and his mother Catherine Mason, of Fairfield County, S.C., was related to the prominent Mason family of Virginia. There were five children, three boys and two girls. John's early education took place in those communities where his father preached. He attended McArthur Academy in Limestone, and Gaffney Seminary, and in 1880 enrolled at Wofford College. Eye problems caused his withdrawal at the end of his sophomore year. While at McArthur, a school organized along the lines of a strict English academy, he absorbed the code of strict rules and discipline that characterized his own career as an educator. After withdrawing from Wofford, Kilgo taught school in Clio, S.C., and was licensed to preach in May of 1882. From then until 1888, he rode a circuit in South Carolina, becoming known as an outstanding preacher. In December of 1882, he married Fannie Natt Turner, of Gaffney, S.C.; they had five children.

In 1888 he was made financial agent of Wofford College, and was able to continue his education. He received the M.A. from Wofford in 1892, and was appointed Professor of Philosophy and Political Economy. It was during his time at Wofford that he developed the educational philosophy he was later to put into practice at Trinity. Kilgo thought that true higher education could be secured only in institutions conducted under Christian auspices; such schools should be coeducational, as separate women's colleges at that time tended to be inferior to men's.

In 1894, at the age of thirty-three, Kilgo was elected a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, becoming one of the youngest men ever sent. His reputation led an editor to to call him "one of the most useful and popular members of the South Carolina Conference." In July of that year, Kilgo was elected President of Trinity College in Durham. He took up his post the next month, establishing a reputation as a gifted preacher and educator. Methodists around North Carolina were ready to support their college and see it grow, and it was during Kilgo's tenure that Washington Duke took a great interest in the college's affairs. As President, Kilgo spoke out on many controversial topics, including the role of the state in education, academic freedom, and the education of women.

In 1910, he was elected a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, and resigned as President of Trinity. He continued, however, to take an active role in the affairs of the school, becoming first a member, then the chairman, of the Board of Trustees. He lived in Durham until 1915, when he moved to Charlotte in order to more easily carry out his responsibilities as a bishop. In 1917, following a controversy over student behavior, Kilgo severed his connection with the College. Kilgo was a member of the Education Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which founded and incorporated Emory University.

His health began to fail late in the decade, and in 1920 he was relieved of his episcopal duties. On August 22, 1922, he died in Charlotte, and was buried there.

[Portions of this text are taken from Elizabeth H. Copeland's sketch of Kilgo's life, ca. 1984]

From the guide to the John C. Kilgo Records and Papers, 1888 - 1970, (bulk 1894-1920), (University Archives, Duke University)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Kilgo, John C. (John Carlisle), 1861-1922. Papers, 1891-1944. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Kilgo, John C. (John Carlisle), 1861-1922. John C. Kilgo records and papers, 1888-1970 (bulk 1894-1920). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf John C. Kilgo Records and Papers, 1888 - 1970, (bulk 1894-1920) University Archives, Duke University.
referencedIn Tyree, William Cornelius. Papers, 1884-1939. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Candler, Warren A. (Warren Akin), 1857-1941. Warren A. Candler papers, 1846-1977. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
referencedIn Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Educational Commission. Methodist Episcopal Church, South Educational Commission records, 1914-1918. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
referencedIn News Service Biographical Files, ., circa 1930s - 2004 University Archives, Duke University.
creatorOf Newsom, D. W. (Dallas Walton), 1873-1949. D. W. Newsom papers, 1894-1972 (bulk 1896-1922). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Adams, Wade Hill. Papers, 1901-1922. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Durham, Robert Lee, 1870-1948. Robert Lee Durham papers, 1888-1946. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Wade Hill. person
associatedWith Bassett, John Spencer, 1867-1928. person
associatedWith Benjamin Duke person
associatedWith Candler, Warren A. (Warren Akin), 1857-1941. person
associatedWith Charles Brantley Aycock person
associatedWith Duke, Benjamin Newton, 1855-1929. person
associatedWith Duke University corporateBody
associatedWith Duke University. News Service. corporateBody
associatedWith Duke University. President. corporateBody
associatedWith Duke, Washington, 1820-1905. person
associatedWith Durham, Robert Lee, 1870-1948. person
associatedWith Gattis, Thomas Jefferson. person
associatedWith James Henry McCoy person
associatedWith James H. Southgate person
associatedWith John B. Robins person
associatedWith Joseph Francis Bivins person
associatedWith Methodist Episcopal Church, South. corporateBody
associatedWith Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Educational Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Newsom, D. W. (Dallas Walton), 1873-1949. person
associatedWith Odell, W. R. person
associatedWith Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Tyree, William Cornelius. person
associatedWith Vanderbilt University. corporateBody
associatedWith Washington Duke person
associatedWith William Wallace Duncan person
associatedWith Wofford College (Spartanburg, S.C.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
North Carolina--Durham
Southern States
North Carolina
Subject
Women--Education (Higher)
Academic freedom
Universities and colleges
Coeducation
Railroads--Freight--Rates
Educational fund raising
Education
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1861-07-22

Death 1922-08-11

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