Southern Methodist University

William Talbot Handy, Jr., papers


Creator: Handy, William Talbot, Jr.
Title: William Talbot Handy, Jr., papers
Dates: 1934-20001934-2000
Dates (Bulk): 1950-1992
Abstract: This collection documents the career of Bishop William Talbot Handy, Jr. (1924-1998). A graduate of Dillard University, Gammon Theological Seminary, and Boston University School of Theology, Handy served as a Methodist pastor and district superintendent in Louisiana. He also held administrative positions at the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee. From 1980 until his retirement in 1992 Handy served as the bishop of the Missouri Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. The William Talbot Handy, Jr. papers detail Handy’s work as an African American pastor, denominational leader, civil rights activist, and race relations counselor.
Accession No: Collection BridArch 3.006
Extent: 8 boxes (5 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

William Talbot Handy, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 26, 1924 to the Rev. Dr. William Talbot Handy (1894-1983) and Dorothy Pauline Pleasant Handy (1896-1989). He studied at Tuskegee University from 1940 until 1943 then served in the U. S. Army until 1946. Handy continued his education at Dillard University, New Orleans, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. He also studied at Gammon Theological Seminary, Atlanta (M.Div, 1951) and at Boston University School of Theology (S.T.M., 1952).

Handy was ordained Deacon (1950) and Elder (1951) in the Central Jurisdiction Louisiana Conference. He served as the pastor of People’s Methodist Church, New Orleans (1951); Newman Methodist Church, Alexandria, Louisiana (1952-1959); and St. Mark Methodist Church, Baton Rouge (1959-1968). From 1968 to 1978 he worked for the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) in Nashville, the first African American executive of that agency. Handy returned to Louisiana in 1978 to serve as superintendent of the Baton Rouge District.

In 1980 Handy was elected to the office of bishop and assigned to lead the Missouri Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. His denominational leadership included serving on the Hymnal Revision Committee and helping to draft the Council of Bishops’ 1986 pastoral letter, “In Defense of Creation,” which called for nuclear disarmament. Bishop Handy retired in 1992.

Handy’s public ministry included leadership roles in the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the Louisiana Council of Churches, the Advisory Council of the American Friends Service Committee, the Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations, and the Baton Rouge chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. Additionally he served as president of the board of trustees for the Interdenominational Theological Center and Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, chair of the board of trustees at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, and secretary of the board of trustees of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

William Talbot Handy, Jr. married Ruth Odessa Robinson in 1948. They had four children. Bishop Handy died in Nashville on Easter Sunday, April 12, 1998 at the age of 74.


“Handy, William Talbot, Jr.” Who's Who in Religion, 1992-1993. Wilmette, Illinois: Marquis Who's Who, 1992.

Reed, W. A., Jr. “Louisiana Minister Gets Publishing House Post.” The Nashville Tennessean. June 14, 1968.

“Talbot, William Talbot, Jr.” Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993.

United Methodist News Service. “United Methodist Bishop W. T. Handy Jr. Dead at 74.” NewsDesk. April 13, 1998.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Talbot Handy, Jr., papers comprise five linear feet of correspondence, newspaper clippings, event programs, scrapbooks, appointment calendars, publications, video recordings, General Conference medals, and other artifacts collected by Handy during more than forty years of ministry. These items document the life of a twentieth-century African American church leader, civil rights activist, and race relations expert.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection comprises four series:
Series 1: Ministry papers, 1956-2000
Series 2: Personal papers, 1934-2000
Series 3: Video recordings, 1984-1992
Series 4: Artifacts, 1967-1996


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

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.
Subjects (Persons)
Handy, William Talbot, Jr.
Methodist Church -- Louisiana -- Clergy.
Methodist Church -- Missouri -- Clergy.
African American Methodists -- Louisiana.
Document types
Video recordings.

Related Materials

Geneva H. Southall papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William T. Handy, Jr. papers, [Box number]. Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information


Processing Information

Arranged and described by Timothy S. G. Binkley, 2016.

Encoded by Ada Negraru, 2017.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Ministry papers, 1956-2000
24 folders

The first series, ministry papers, contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, event programs, notes, and other documents generated by or about William Talbot Handy, Jr. during his work as a minister, publishing executive, district superintendent, and bishop.
Box Folder
1818A 01-10 Chronological ministry papers, 1956-1987
Box Folder
1818B 01-02 Chronological ministry papers, 1988-1989
03-04 Chronological ministry papers, 1991-1992
05 Chronological ministry papers, 1997-1998
06 Undated materials, circa 1960-1998
07-08 Appointment calendars, 1988-2000
09 Ethiopia trip, 1984
10 Council of Bishops pastoral letter “In Defense of Creation,” 1984-1986
Box Folder
1819A 01-03 Strengthening the ethnic majority church, 1990-1994
04 United Methodist Hymnal Revision Committee, 1977-1999

Series 2: Personal papers, 1934-2000
32 folders

The second series, personal papers, contains biographical information about Handy, his father, Rev. Dr. William T. Handy, his wife, Ruth R. Handy, and two churches in New Orleans. This series includes numerous photographs and newspaper clippings housed in scrapbooks.
Box Folder
1819A 05 Mount Zion Methodist Church, New Orleans, 1935, 1958
06 First Street Methodist Church, New Orleans, 1942
07 Rev. Dr. William T. Handy, 1950-1983
08 Ruth R. Handy, 1949-1981
09 Gammon Theological Seminary, 1951
10 Freemasonry, 1965-1979
11 Tuskegee University class of 1943 reunion, 1993
12 William Talbot Handy, Jr. biographical data, 1992-2000
Box Folder
1822B 13 King James Version Bible presented to W. T. Handy, Jr. by his parents on March 26, 1934. Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, circa 1934
Box Folder
1819B 01 Undated photographs, circa 1950-1998
02-03 South Central Jurisdiction bishops, 1980-1987
04-06 Events, 1980-1998
07-08 Philippines and Singapore World Methodist Conference, 1991
Box Folder
1820 01-08 Missouri Area, 1980-1987
Box Folder
1822A 01-02 Missouri Area, 1988-1992
03 Renewal leave, 1983
04-05 Cabinet and spouses activities, 1985-1986
06-07 Council of Bishops and General Conference, 1988

Series 3: Video recordings, 1984-1992
12 VHS tapes

The third series, video recordings, comprises twelve VHS tapes. These recordings from the 1980s and early 1990s highlight Handy’s life and his work in the episcopacy of the United Methodist Church.
Box Folder
1822B 01 KMOX interviews, St. Louis, Missouri, 1984
02 M.O.E Annual Conference presentation and Marriage in Ministry speeches, 1988
03 General Conference reception, 1988
04-05 South Africa: an episcopal visit, 1988 December
06 The United Methodist Hymnal Service of Thanksgiving and Consecration, 1989 May 5
07 Conference: Mates in Ministry, Memorial Service, College Campus, Sessions, 1989
08 Missouri Area cabinet Christmas party, Columbia, Missouri, and family Christmas,Chesterfield, Missouri, 1991 December
09 A Handy Kaleidoscope, 1992 May
10 An Episcopacy in Words and Images, including “The Ballad of WT,” 1992 May 26
11 Consecration of Bishops, South Central Jurisdiction, First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, 1992
12 Preparing for God’s Mission (6:22) and Mission Resource Center: An Overview (10:57), not dated

Series 4: Artifacts, 1967-1996
1 box

The final series, artifacts, contains conference medals, delegate badges, name tags, an event button, a miniature key to the City of New Orleans, and a Central Methodist College bishop’s endowment plaque. These items represent Handy’s many church and civic leadership roles.
1821A 25 conference metals, delegate badges, name tags, and an event button, 1967-1996
Key to the City of New Orleans, circa 1980
Central Methodist College bishop’s endowment campaign plaque, 1992