Southern Methodist University

Mims Thornburgh Workman papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Workman, Mims Thornburgh.
Title: Mims Thornburgh Workman papers
Dates: 1910-1993
Abstract: Mims Thornburgh Workman (1895-1973) was a Methodist minister and educator. Rev. Workman served on the faculty of Southern Methodist University, 1922-1925. The Mims Thornburgh Workman papers consist of articles, sermons, poetry, and prose written by Workman. The collection also includes personal and professional correspondence, programs from church services, photographs, and newspaper and magazine articles.
Accession No: Collection BridArch 1.032
Extent: 3 boxes (2 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

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, Louisiana: 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.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

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.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection held by Bridwell Library was merged with two collections transferred from the SMU Archives. Newspaper articles were photocopied onto acid-free paper and the originals discarded. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order. The contents of each folder are organized chronologically.
The collection has been arranged into four series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1926-1993
Series 2: Publications, 1911-1993
Series 3: Writings, 1905-1965
Series 4: Photographs, 1922-1948


Access to Collection:

The collection is open for research use. Patrons must sign the Acknowledgement of Legal Responsibility and Privacy Rights form before using this collection.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Head of Special Collections of the Bridwell Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

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. 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 for which Bridwell Library assumes no responsibility.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Workman, Mims Thornburgh.
Southern Methodist University -- Faculty.
Perkins School of Theology -- Faculty.
Methodist Church -- Clergy -- Southern states.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Mims Thornburgh Workman papers, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

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.

Processing Information

This collection was arranged and described in 2010 by Allison Osborn.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2010.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1926-1993

The first series, Correspondence, consists of eight folders of letters, telegrams, and cards dating from 1926 to 1993. The majority of the letters concern Workman’s published articles. These personal letters reflect Workman’s ideas and beliefs. The correspondence also reveals Workman’s relationships with his friends.
Box Folder
1732 01 Correspondence from Workman 1937-1954
02 Correspondence to Workman 1926-1962
03 James Allen Chapman 1933-1962
04 Nelson E. Larat 1953-1955
05 Religious Controversy at SMU 1923-1925
06 Russell Lord 1949-1954
07 Third Party Correspondence 1938-1993
08 Walter N. Vernon 1949-1954

Publications, 1910-1993

The second series is ten folders of newspaper and magazine articles, programs, and religious pamphlets and flyers. These publications, dating between 1910 and 1993, portray Workman’s religious beliefs and the controversy surrounding Workman’s dismissal from Southern Methodist University in 1925. Workman’s published book of poetry, Forever Burning and other Poems, is also included in the series.
Box Folder
1732 09 Comparative Religion Articles 1991-1993
10 Dr. Franc L. McClure Inauguration Articles 1947
11 Flyers and Pamphlets 1933-1954
12 Forever Burning and other Poems 1971
13 Magazine and Bulletin Articles 1921-1993
14 Newspaper Articles 1911-1953
15 Nouum Testamentum Graece 1910
16 "Principle or Expediency?" 1925
17 Programs 1925-1955
18 SMU Clippings Religious Controversy 1924-1925
Series 2 Oversize:
1 Graduating Class of SMU 1925

Series 3: Writings, 1905-1965

The third series is comprised of twenty-two folders containing Mims Thornburgh Workman’s articles, prose, poetry, sermons, and speeches written between 1905 and 1963. These items offer insight into Workman’s thoughts and activities throughout much of his life (1895-1973).
Box Folder
1732 19 Church School 1927-1932
20 Notes 1941-1951
21 Other Poetry 1923-1954
22 Other Prose 1905-1944
23 Record of Courses, 1920-1922
24 Workman’s Poetry 1934-1949
25 Workman’s Poetry 1953-Sept. 1962
26 Workman’s Poetry Oct. 1962-Jan. 1963
27 Workman’s Poetry Feb. 1963-1965
28 Workman’s Poetry Undated 1 1905-1963
29 Workman’s Poetry Undated 2 1905-1963
30 Workman’s Prose 1925-1941
31 Workman’s Prose 1942-1963
Box Folder
1733A 01 Workman’s Prose Undated 1905-1963
02 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers 1924-Feb. 1941
03 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers March 1941-1944
04 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers 1945-Aug.1946
05 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers Sept. 1946-1947
Box Folder
1733B 01 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers 1948
02 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers 1949-1953
03 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers Undated 1 1905-1963
04 Sermons, Speeches & Prayers Undated 2 1905-1963

Series 4: Photographs, 1922-1948

Series 4, Photographs, contains one folder of photographs. Included are a portrait of Workman and pictures taken on the SMU campus during graduation. The graduation photographs are not dated but were taken between 1922 and 1925.
Box Folder
1733 05 Photographs 1922-1948