Edwin Mims

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Edwin Mims
Born 1872
Died 1959
Resting place Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery
Nationality American
Education Vanderbilt University
Occupation University professor

Edwin Mims (1872-1959) was an American university Professor of English literature. He served as the Chair of the English Department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee for thirty years from 1912 to 1942, and he taught many members of the Fugitives and the Southern Agrarians, two literary movements in the South. He was a staunch opponent of lynching, and a practicing Methodist.


Early life[edit]

Edwin Mims was born in 1872.[1] He graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1892 and a Master of Arts degree in 1893.[1][2] He was also the editor of The Vanderbilt Hustler, the main campus newspaper.[2]


He served as a Professor of English at Duke University (then known as Trinity College) in Durham, North Carolina and later at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.[2]

The second Chancellor of Vanderbilt University, James Hampton Kirkland (1859–1939), then convinced him to return to his alma mater to teach.[2] He went on to serve as the Chair of the English Department at Vanderbilt University from 1912 to 1942.[1][2][3][4] One of his requirements was to ask his students to learn a thousand verses if poetry by heart.[2] He also asked students to write an autobiographical essay each year.[5] He wrote a history of Vanderbilt University as well as pf Chancellor Kirkland.[2] Some of his students included Donald Davidson (1893-1968), Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994), Andrew Nelson Lytle (1902-1995), Allen Tate (1899–1979), Merrill Moore (1903-1957) and Jesse Stuart (1907-1984).[3][5][6] Stuart's Beyond Dark Hills, was the direct result of one of Mims's assignments (writing an autobiographical essay); it was published in 1938.[5] During his tenure as Chair, he wrote to Chancellor Kirkland to discourage him to match the offer that Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio made to his colleague John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974), so that Ransom would leave for Ohio instead.[3][7] However, Allen Tate tried to expose his hypocrisy as Mims assured Ransom he would be welcome to stay in his department at Vanderbilt.[7] Another colleague, Lyle H. Lanier (1903–1988), agreed that this demonstrated Mims's hypocrisy.[7]

A progressive, he became vocal in his opposition to lynching.[2] He established the Law and Order League, an anti-lynching organization.[2] He also addressed the New York Southern Society in New York City, where he reiterated his opposition to lynching.[2] His 1926 book entitled The Advancing South was a call to action for progressives in the South.[1][2] It was reviewed favourably by Alain Leroy Locke (1885–1954) in Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life.[1]

Additionally, he served as President of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools for Southern States, later known as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, in 1902.[3] He then served on its Executive Committee.[3] He was also a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and served on the joint hymn book commission between the Methodist Episcopal Church, North and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1902-1903.[3]

Personal life[edit]

In June 1898, he married Clara Puryear, the daughter of a tobacco broker from Paducah, Kentucky.[3] They had four children: Edwin, Catherine, Thomas and Ella.[3]


He died in 1959.[1] His funeral took place at the West End United Methodist Church on the edge of the Vanderbilt University campus, and he was buried at the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.[3]


  • A pair of statues representing Dismas and Lazarus in the foyer of the Benton Chapel on the campus of Vanderbilt University are dedicated in his honor.[8]
  • The Edwin Mims Professorship at Vanderbilt University is named in his honor.[1] It was the result of a fundraising campaign by alumnus Lucius E. Burch, Jr. (1912–1996).[1]


  • Advancing South: Stories of Progress and Reaction (New York, New York: Doubleday, 1926).
  • Adventurous America: A Study of Contemporary Life and Thought (New York, New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1929).[9]
  • Chancellor Kirkland of Vanderbilt (Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 1939).
  • History of Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 1946).[10]
  • The Christ of the poets (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1948).
  • A Biography of Sidney Lanier
  • Great Writers As Interpreters of Religion


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lois Brown, The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Literary Renaissance, New York, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006, p. 348 [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kara Furlong, Edwin Mims, Looking Back, 01/01/2011
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i William Stevens Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1991, p. 281 [2]
  4. ^ Herschel Brickell, The Vanderbilt Literary Movement, Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 1944
  5. ^ a b c Mary Weaks-Baxter, Reclaiming the American Farmer: The Reinvention of a Regional Mythology in Twentieth-century Southern Writing, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2006, pp. 81-82 [3]
  6. ^ Alphonse Vinh, Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate: Collected Letters, 1933-1976, Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1998, p. 75 [4]
  7. ^ a b c Thomas A. Underwood, Allen Tate: Orphan of the South, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 274 [5]
  8. ^ Vanderbilt University: Benson Chapel
  9. ^ Google Books
  10. ^ Google Books

External links[edit]