Joseph Aloysius Durick

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joseph Aloysius Durick
Born Joseph Aloysius Durick
October 13, 1914
Dayton, Tennessee
Died June 26, 1994
Bessemer, Alabama
Cause of death
Nationality American
Other names Bishop Durick
Education Doctor of Divinity
Alma mater St. Mary's Seminary and University
Known for one of the eight Alabama clergymen who wrote "A Call for Unity"
Religion Roman Catholic

Joseph Aloysius Durick (October 13, 1914 – June 26, 1994) was a U.S. Roman Catholic bishop and civil rights advocate. He publicly opposed the Vietnam War and the death penalty, which led to criticism from conservative circles. Durick also directed efforts at ecumenical cooperation with Tennessee state's Protestant and Jewish communities, as well as introducing Project Equality.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Dayton, Tennessee, he was the seventh of twelve children. He grew up in Bessemer, Alabama, during the height of anti-Catholic violence in that state.


After deciding not to pursue a music career, Durick entered priesthood. He studied at St. Bernard College in Cullman, Alabama, as a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile and graduated in 1933. Three years later he completed course work in Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, and later received a Theological degree at Pontifical Urbaniana University, also known as Collegio Urbano di Propaganda Fide sul Gianicolo, the Pontifical Seminary for Missionary Priests in Rome, where he was later ordained.[2]


Ordained on March 23, 1940, Durick became the assistant director of Catholic missions in North Alabama; by 1943 he was the director.

On December 30, 1954, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Mobile-Birmingham, Alabama, and titular bishop of Cerbali. His Episcopal Motto was "The love of Christ impels us" (Caritas Christi urget nos).

At age 40 he was one of the youngest bishops in the U.S. On December 11, 1963, he was promoted to coadjutor bishop of Nashville, Tennessee by Pope Paul VI with right of succession to Bishop William Adrian.

Durick was inspired to lead the Catholic Church in Tennessee into a new era by the reforms initiated by Pope John XXIII in the Second Vatican Council. To help present his reforms, Durick consulted with Catholic laymen, as well as a number of journalists uncluding John Popham, John Seigenthaler, Joe Sweat, and Father Owen Campion.

Originally a conformist cleric, Durick and seven other colleagues wrote the letter "A Call For Unity", calling on Martin Luther King, Jr. and "outsiders" during the Birmingham protests of 1963 to stop and let the courts work toward integration. King responded with his Letter from Birmingham Jail, voicing disappointment in the white clergy, who should be "among our strongest allies". This, and the message he got from Vatican II, led Durick to become a strong voice for civil rights[citation needed] in the segregated South, for which he was called a heretic and a communist by his tradition-bound congregation. In 1968–69 especially, he faced serious opposition in the form of boycotts of his public appearances.

He succeeded as bishop of Nashville on September 10, 1969, and resigned April 2, 1975, devoting himself fully to prison ministry. After six years of ministering to prisoners in various locations he was forced to semi-retire due to a severe heart problem and had to go through surgery.


Joseph Durick died at the age of 79 at his home in Bessemer, Alabama, on a Sunday. According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Durick, died of cancer. At the time of his death Durick was survived by 3 sisters (Mary, Frances and Patty) and 1 brother (William).

Preceded by
William Lawrence Adrian
Bishop of Nashville 1969–1975 Succeeded by
James Daniel Niedergeses


  1. ^ "The Most Reverend Joseph Aloysius Durick, D.D.". Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee. Archived from the original on February 15, 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Johnathan S. Bass (December 25, 2009). "Joseph Aloysius Durick T.E.". The Tennessee Historical Society. Archived from the original on December 25, 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  • S. Jonathan Bass (2001). Blessed are the Peacemakers. Louisiana State University Press. 

External links[edit]