Coffin, William Sloane, Jr., 1924-2006

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Clergyman.

From the description of Reminiscences of William S. Coffin, Jr. : oral history, 1989. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122452011

Epithet: Reverend chaplain Yale University

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000561.0x000080

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. was born June 1, 1924, in New York City. He attended Deerfield Academy and Phillips Academy Andover before beginning his studies at Yale University in 1942. After one year at Yale, Coffin joined the U.S. Army, in which he served until 1947, when he returned to Yale, graduating with a B.A. in 1949. He went on to study for a year at Union Theological Seminary before joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1950. In 1953, Coffin began studies at the Yale Divinity School, which he completed in 1956, when he was ordained into the Presbyterian ministry. Coffin spent successive years as the chaplain of Phillips Academy and Williams College before returning to Yale to serve as chaplain from 1957 to 1975. While chaplain at Yale, Coffin became a public figure active in the civil rights movement and protests of U.S. military actions in Vietnam. Coffin served as senior minister of Riverside Church in New York City from 1977 to 1987, when he became president of SANE/FREEZE. Coffin retired to Vermont in the mid-1990s, but remained active as a teacher, lecturer, and writer. He died on April 12, 2006, in Strafford, Vermont.

From the description of William Sloane Coffin, Jr. papers, 1916-2006 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702122722

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. was born June 1, 1924, in New York City. He attended Deerfield Academy and Phillips Academy Andover before beginning his studies at Yale University in 1942. After one year at Yale, Coffin joined the U.S. Army, in which he served until 1947, when he returned to Yale, graduating with a B.A. in 1949. He went on to study for a year at Union Theological Seminary before joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1950. In 1953, Coffin began studies at the Yale Divinity School, which he completed in 1956, when he was ordained into the Presbyterian ministry. Coffin spent successive years as the chaplain of Phillips Academy and Williams College before returning to Yale to serve as chaplain from 1957 to 1975. While chaplain at Yale, Coffin became a public figure active in the civil rights movement and protests of U.S. military actions in Vietnam. Coffin served as senior minister of Riverside Church in New York City from 1977 to 1987, when he became president of SANE/FREEZE. Coffin retired to Vermont in the mid-1990s, but remained active as a teacher, lecturer, and writer. He died on April 12, 2006, in Strafford, Vermont.

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. was born on June 1, 1924, in New York City to William Sloane Coffin, Sr. and Catherine Butterfield Coffin. After the death of Coffin's father in 1933, the family moved to Carmel, California, where William attended public school until the ninth grade, when he attended Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He spent the following year in Paris with his family, studying to be a concert pianist with Nadia Boulanger. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Coffins returned to the United States, and Coffin completed his high school education at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, graduating in 1942.

Coffin attended Yale University School of Music for one year before enlisting in the United States Army. Coffin served in the army until 1947, rising to the rank of captain while working as a liaison with the French and Soviet armies. He returned to the university upon his discharge and received his B.A. in 1949. Coffin spent the next year studying at Union Theological Seminary, then joined the Central Intelligence Agency for a three year period. Coffin returned to Yale once again in 1953, this time attending the divinity school, from which he received a B.D. in 1956. That same year he was ordained as Presbyterian minister. Coffin then served as chaplain of Phillips Andover Academy and Williams College in successive one year periods, before returning to Yale in 1958 to succeed Sidney Lovett as university chaplain, a position he held until 1975.

While chaplain at Yale, Coffin emerged as a public figure involved in numerous prominent events, activities, and organizations. He became involved in international relief work, beginning with Operation Crossroads Africa. On behalf of that group, he led a group of students to Guinea in the summer of 1960. The following year, Coffin was appointed to the President's Advisory Committee on the Peace Corps and established its training program. He trained the first group of Peace Corps volunteers in Puerto Rico during the summer of 1961.

Coffin also became a prominent figure in the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. He was one of the "Freedom Riders," a group of black and white activists who rode interstate buses in the South to challenge segregation laws. Following one of these rides in May of 1961, he was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, along with six other demonstrators, and charged with disturbing the peace. He was also arrested on several other occasions for direct actions against segregation laws. In addition to his direct participation in civil rights protests in the South, Coffin recruited and coordinated the work of many northern activists, particularly white students, and he was also a member of the Connecticut Advisory Board of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

With the escalation of military actions in Vietnam, Coffin became heavily involved in the protests against the war. His activism began in 1965 with the formation of Americans For Re-appraisal of Far Eastern Policy, a group founded by Coffin and Allard Lowenstein that pushed for United States recognition of the People's Republic of China, the admission of China into the United Nations, and a cease-fire in Vietnam. Later that year, Coffin joined with a group of religious leaders, including John Bennett, Abraham Heschel, and Daniel Berrigan, to form the National Emergency Committee of Clergy Concerned About Vietnam. Coffin was named executive secretary of the organization. Initially, the group adopted a relatively moderate stance, recommending traditional political action and persuasion to affect change in U.S. policy toward Vietnam.

As the war in Vietnam escalated and lay people became interested in the work of the group, it changed its name to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV). CALCAV organized mobilizations, supported conscientious objectors and acts of civil disobedience, and urged members to offer draft resisters sanctuary in churches and synagogues. During this time, Coffin became a frequent speaker at anti-war rallies and a highly public figure. At an October 1967 protest in Boston, over 1000 draft resisters turned in their draft cards at a church service led by Coffin. Later that month, he and a number of other activists who had collected cards throughout the country, presented them to officials at the Department of Justice in Washington. As a result of these actions, Coffin was indicted along with Benjamin Spock, Marcus Raskin, Mitchell Goodman, and Michael Ferber on charges of conspiracy to aid draft resisters. They were convicted in 1968, but the charges were dropped in 1970 after the verdict was overturned on appeal. Coffin continued to protest against the war, and even traveled to North Vietnam in 1972 to accompany three released prisoners on their trip back to the United States. In the war's final stages and after its end, Coffin was an outspoken proponent of the granting of amnesty for draft resisters.

Throughout his tenure at Yale, Coffin's actions met with mixed reviews among Yale students, administrators, and alumni. Many older alumni and other conservative Yale factions called for his resignation or removal. While Kingman Brewster, Yale's president, disagreed with Coffin's methods of protest, particularly his stand on and involvement in civil disobedience, he stood behind Coffin's rights to free speech and held that Coffin's influence on Yale was generally positive. Coffin left Yale in December 1975, citing the need to remove himself from the academy in order to work on a global level for social justice, disarmament, and an end to hunger.

After leaving Yale, Coffin published his memoirs, Once to Every Man, and in November 1977, he became senior minister of Riverside Church in New York City. While at Riverside, Coffin dedicated himself to a variety of human rights causes, including world hunger, disarmament, homelessness, and poverty, among others. In 1979, he made headlines again by traveling to Iran to hold Christmas services for hostages being held in the American Embassy. In 1987, he left Riverside to become president of SANE/FREEZE, which was renamed Peace Action in 1993.

Coffin married Eva Rubinstein, a ballet dancer and the daughter of Arthur Rubinstein, in 1956 and they had three children: Amy, Alexander, and David. They were divorced in 1968. Coffin re-married in 1969, to Harriet Gibney; they divorced shortly after he left Yale. Coffin's third wife is Randy Wilson Coffin. After becoming president emeritus of SANE/FREEZE in the mid-1990s, Coffin moved to Vermont and continued to teach and lecture. He died of congestive heart failure at his home in Strafford, Vermont, on April 12, 2006.

From the guide to the William Sloane Coffin, Jr. papers, 1916-2006, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Porter, Quincy, 1897-1966. The Quincy Porter papers, 1897-1975 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
referencedIn Lovett, Sidney, 1890-1979. Sidney Lovett papers, 1889-1979 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Philpott, Harry M. (Harry Melvin). Presidential Records, 1965-1980. Auburn University.
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. [Letter, 1978 Mar. 9 : to Rev. John McCall]. Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
creatorOf Coffin, William S., 1924-. Reminiscences of William S. Coffin, Jr. : oral history, 1989. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Weiss, Cora, 1934-. Cora Weiss papers, 1960- Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn A. Sidney Lovett papers, 1889-1979 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Foley, Michael S. Michael S. Foley collection, 1965-2001. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial. Archives. 1918-1930. Rockefeller Archive Center, Rockefeller University, Pocantico Hills
referencedIn Mitford, Jessica, 1917-1996. Papers, 1949-1973 (bulk 1961-1973). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Clergy and Laity Concerned (U.S.). Records, 1966-1981. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Porter, Quincy, 1897-1966. The Quincy Porter papers, 1897-1975 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
referencedIn Shackford, Charles. The Charles Shackford papers, 1934-1984 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
creatorOf Coffin, William Sloane. Timothy Dwight College, Yale University, memorabilia, 1990. Yale University Library
referencedIn Queen, Anne, 1911-2005. Anne Queen papers, 1930-1985. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Monterey Public Library. California History Room. Distinguished visitors clippings 1903-2007 Monterey Public Library
referencedIn Additional papers of Betty Friedan, 1941-2006 (inclusive), 1980-2000 (bulk) Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Lee, Maurice du Pont, 1885-1974. Papers, 1900-1973 (bulk 1952-1972). Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf MARGARET GARDINER PAPERS. Vol. III (ff. 129). 'Vietnam: an American View'; 1967.includes:ff. 2, 34 Harrison Evans Salisbury, Associate Editor, 'The New York Times': Letters to Margaret Gardiner of Harrison Evans Salisbury: 1967: Signed.ff. 3, 40 ..., 1967 British Library
referencedIn Royer, William B., Jr. Royer, William B., Jr., collection, 1979-1981. University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries
creatorOf William Sloane Coffin, Jr. papers, 1916-2006 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. [Letter, 1978 Mar. 14 : to Dr. William S. Coffin, Jr.]. Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
referencedIn Royer, William B. Jr. Collection 81-012; 81-027; 81-029; 81-065; 81-084., 1979-1981 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin .
creatorOf Dear, John, 1959-. Papers, 1979- Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925-2008. "Firing Line with William Buckley" transcripts, 1966-1967 (inclusive) [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn The Charles Shackford Papers, 1934-1984 (inclusive) Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
referencedIn Witty, Ken. Thornton Wilder Documentary Project interviews, 2003 [videorecording]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Papers, 1879-1926 (inclusive), 1916-1922 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Records, 1946-2000 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Philpott, Harry M. (Harry Melvin),. Oral History Interviews, 1990-1991. Auburn University.
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers, 1904-1991. Alabama Department of Archives and History
creatorOf Coffin, William Sloane. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. papers, 1916-2006 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam,. Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam records. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Robinson, James Herman. Papers. 1935-1979. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
referencedIn Wall, John E., 1931-2007. John E. Wall Legal Papers : pertaining to the trial of Dr. Benjamin Spock and others, 1943-1972, bulk 1967-1968. Boston College, Thomas P. O'Neill Library
referencedIn Shackford, Charles. The Charles Shackford papers, 1934-1984 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
referencedIn Oliver Tambo, Papers, undated, 1960-1992. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn The, Daily Worker, and, The Daily World, Photographs Collection, Bulk, 1930-1990, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn Branch, Taylor. Taylor Branch papers, 1865-2009 (bulk 1958-2009). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Quincy Porter Papers, 1897-1975 (inclusive) Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
referencedIn Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson papers, 1925-1985 (inclusive) 1960-1980 (bulk). Houghton Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Americans for Reappraisal of Far Eastern Policy. corporateBody
associatedWith Bennett, John C. (John Coleman), 1902-1995. person
associatedWith Betty Friedan person
associatedWith Branch, Taylor. person
associatedWith Brewster, Kingman, 1919- person
associatedWith Brown, Robert McAfee, 1920- person
associatedWith Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925-2008. person
associatedWith Chafe, William Henry, person
associatedWith Clergy and Laity Concerned (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Coffin, Catherine Butterfield, 1892-1982. person
associatedWith Coffin, Ned person
associatedWith Coffin, Ned. person
associatedWith Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam, corporateBody
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Dear, John, 1959- person
associatedWith Dees, Morris. person
associatedWith Democratic Party (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Dresel, Ellis Loring, 1865-1925 person
associatedWith Durr, Virginia Foster. person
correspondedWith Erikson, Erik H. (Erik Homburger), 1902-1994 person
associatedWith Fernandez, Richard R. (Richard Ritter) person
associatedWith Foley, Michael S. person
associatedWith Griswold, Alfred Whitney, 1906-1963. person
correspondedWith Harvard Law School Forum corporateBody
associatedWith Horton, Charlotte person
associatedWith Horton, Charlotte. person
associatedWith Institute for World Order. corporateBody
associatedWith Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial. corporateBody
associatedWith Lee, Maurice du Pont, 1885-1974. person
associatedWith Lovett, Sidney, 1890-1979. person
associatedWith Lowenstein , Allard K. (Allard Kenneth), 1929-1980. person
associatedWith Magruder, Jeb Stuart, 1934- person
associatedWith McGovern, George S. (George Stanley), 1922- person
associatedWith Miner, Joshua L. person
associatedWith Mitford, Jessica, 1917-1996. person
associatedWith Monterey Public Library. California History Room. corporateBody
associatedWith Moyers, Bill D. person
associatedWith Moyers, Bill D. person
associatedWith NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. corporateBody
associatedWith National Association of College and University Chaplains. corporateBody
associatedWith National Conference for New Politics. corporateBody
associatedWith Neuhaus, Richard John. person
associatedWith Neuhaus, Richard John. person
associatedWith Operation Crossroads Africa. corporateBody
associatedWith Outward Bound, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Peace Corps (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Philpott, Harry M. (Harry Melvin), person
associatedWith Porter, Quincy, 1897-1966. person
associatedWith Queen, Anne, 1911-2005. person
associatedWith Raskin, Marcus G. person
associatedWith Raskin, Marcus G. person
associatedWith Riverside Church (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Robinson, James Herman. person
associatedWith Robinson, James Herman. person
associatedWith Rogers, Fred. person
associatedWith Royer, William B., Jr. person
associatedWith Royer, William B., Jr. person
associatedWith SANE, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Shackford, Charles. person
associatedWith Shriver, Sargent, 1915- person
associatedWith Southern Poverty Law Center. corporateBody
associatedWith Student Christian Movement in New England. corporateBody
associatedWith Tambo, Oliver, 1917- person
associatedWith Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968. person
associatedWith United States Commission on Civil Rights. Connecticut Advisory Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Vietnam Summer (Organization) corporateBody
associatedWith Wall, John E., 1931-2007. person
associatedWith Weiss, Cora, 1934- person
associatedWith Witty, Ken. person
associatedWith Yale-China Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Chaplain's Office. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Chaplains Office. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Southern States
Africa
Subject
Amnesty
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Conscientious objectors
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Draft resisters
Clergy--Interviews
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Amnesty--United States
Student movements
Civil rights movements--History--20th century
Technical assistance, American
Civil rights movements--History--20th century.--Southern States
Civil rights workers
Civil disobedience
Technical assistance, American--Africa
Presidents--Elections--1968
Occupation
Chaplains
Function

Person

Birth 1924-06-01

Death 2006-04-12

Information

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