Mims Thornburgh Workman papers
A Guide to the Collection
Mims Thornburgh ("Thorny") Workman was born in Conway, Arkansas to James Mims and Margaret E. Thornburgh Workman on February 4, 1895. Workman graduated from Henderson-Brown College in 1916. He received his B. A. from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas and his M. A. in New Testament Greek from Emory University. Workman married Lucille Thomas, and they had one son, Richard.
In 1920, Workman moved to Dallas, Texas to attend the School of Theology at Southern Methodist University (SMU). He taught undergraduate classes while in school and remained on the staff of the School of Theology after receiving his divinity degree. In 1922 Workman was criticized for unorthodox teaching. A committee from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South investigated him informally. The committee cleared Workman of charges of heresy.
At a Sunday evening service on April 5, 1925, Workman spoke at Grace Church, Dallas, on the "Larger Evangelism." He later wrote: "My address…did not touch upon Christ or the Bible. It was a genial criticism of the strong-arm revivalistic modes of winning people upon which I was brought up…Some of my hearers said they found nothing objectionable in it." Nonetheless, Dr. Charles C. Selecman, President of SMU, criticized Workman publicly at a denominational meeting. Selecman accused Workman of denying the divinity of Christ. The issue became a public one with charges and countercharges.
Workman was a popular professor with the student body, and the senior class of 1925 chose him as their class professor. When students heard Selecman’s criticisms, they rallied behind Workman by circulating a petition and calling a meeting with the board of trustees. The students hoped the trustees would consider their wishes and keep Workman on staff. When Workman was fired on June 2, 1925, the trustees cited this student involvement as a reason for his dismissal:
Professor Workman spoke to members of his classes about his suffering for his opinions and about his approaching dismissal from the University; this was followed by student protests, and a bitter criticism of the University and the President…It is reprehensible on the part of any teacher to speak to classes of students in criticism of the administration of the University as it concerns his relation to the University…His own friends have followed a course in his defense which closes the door of usefulness to him in this institution.
After leaving Southern Methodist University, Workman joined the faculties of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1926-1928, and Vanderbilt University, 1928-1931, as a specialist in the Old Testament and the Hebrew language. He wrote numerous articles and poems that were published. Rev. Workman also served as pastor of the Pulaski Heights, Dermott, Junction City, Bearden, Gurdon, and England Methodist churches in Arkansas. He retired in 1956 due to illness.
Mims Thornburgh Workman died at the Halls Ferry Memorial Home on December 1, 1973.
"Rev. M.T. Workman, Ex-pastor at LR, Dies." Arkansas Gazette. December 2, 1973.
"Rev. M.T. Workman, former LR pastor." Arkansas Democrat. December 2, 1973.
Vernon, Walter N. Becoming One People. Bossier City, La: Everette Publishing Co., 1987.
Vernon, Walter N. Methodism in Arkansas, 1816-1976. Little Rock: Joint Committee for the History of Arkansas Methodism, 1976.
Vernon, Walter N. Methodism Moves Across North Texas. Dallas: Historical Society of the Methodist Church, 1967.
The Mims Thornburgh Workman papers chronicle the personal and professional life of Methodist minister and educator Mims Thornburgh Workman. The collection details the controversy surrounding Workman’s dismissal from Southern Methodist University in 1925 and the support he received from students and friends. Articles and sermons reflect Workman’s religious beliefs. The Workman papers contain 2 linear feet of correspondence; religious publications; newspaper and magazine articles; photographs; and poetry, prose, sermons, and articles written by Workman. Materials range in date from 1905 to 1993.
Access to Collection:
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[Identification of item], Mims Thornburgh Workman papers, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Bridwell Library’s original Workman holdings were acquired prior to 1994. One folder (Acc. 1993.0180) was given to the SMU Archives in 1993 by Mims T. Workman’s son, Richard Workman, and transferred to Bridwell Library in 2010. The Record of Courses (SMU 2006.0378) was also transferred from the SMU Archives to Bridwell Library, 2010.
This collection was arranged and described in 2010 by Allison Osborn.
Lara Corazalla, 2010.
Detailed Description of the Collection