James T. Laney

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James T. Laney (born December 24, 1927) was dean at the Candler School of Theology, president of Emory University and United States Ambassador to South Korea.

Early life and education[edit]

Laney was born in the American south and grew up in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. After graduating from Central High School in Memphis,[1] Laney earned his B.A. degree in economics at Yale University. His studies were interrupted by service in the United States Army in the late 1940s in Korea, working in intelligence. "He would say later in life that the experience in Korea so changed his thinking about the world, that by the time he returned to Yale to finish his degree, in 1950, he had determined to enter the ministry," his Emory biography states.[2] Laney later attended Yale Divinity School.[2] After years as a minister, he returned to Yale, completing a Ph.D. degree in Christian ethics at Yale Graduate School.


Laney became a Methodist minister and served as chaplain at Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) while completing his seminary degree.[2] After graduating, he was a church minister in Cincinnati, Ohio for five years. "But in 1959, drawn by what he had seen in Korea, Laney returned [there] ... to serve as a Methodist missionary teaching at Yonsei University[3] in Seoul. In 1964, seeing higher education as another facet of his vocation, he entered Yale Graduate School, where he completed his Ph.D. degree in Christian ethics in just two years. In 1969, only three years after becoming an assistant professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Laney was called by Emory to be dean of the Candler School of Theology" from 1969 to 1977.[2]

He served as the 17th president[4] of Emory University from 1977[3] to 1993.[2] The same year be became the university's president, Emory received an identity-changing $105 million gift for the school from Robert W. Woodruff, a former Coca-Cola Company chairman.[5] As a result, Laney was instrumental in helping transform the school, elevating its academic offerings and standing.[5]

Laney was appointed Ambassador to South Korea by United States President Bill Clinton[6] on October 15, 1993,[3] and presented credentials November 2, 1993.[7] He was involved in defusing the 1994 nuclear crisis during his tenure.[8] He left his post on February 5, 1996.[7]

Other involvements[edit]

Laney served on Harvard Board of Overseers committee for the Divinity School and has served on the Executive Committee of the Yale University Council. He is a trustee of the Henry Luce Foundation in New York; co-chair, with Andrew Young, of Faith and the City in Atlanta;[6] and board member of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.[8] He is a past director of The Coca-Cola Company and SunTrust Georgia. From 1997 to 2003, he co-chaired the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Korea.[6] His articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Washington Post and numerous other publications.

Honors and awards[edit]

Laney has received at least 22 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the US, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, and Africa. He has medals for distinguished service from the United States and Korea, the Wilbur L. Cross Medal from Yale, the Emory Medal, and the General James Van Fleet award from the Korea Society.[6] Emory University's graduate school, founded in 1919, was renamed The James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies in 2009.[3][4]


Laney is married to Berta Radford and they have five children and sixteen grandchildren. They live in Atlanta.[6] The youngest two children were born in Seoul, Korea when the family lived there from 1959 to 1964 during Laney's missionary work.[2] Three out of his five children graduated from Emory College and two received advanced degrees. Nine out of the sixteen grandchildren have attended Emory, and five have graduated as of August 2012.[8]


  1. ^ "Religious Notes". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio. June 18, 1955. p. 9. Retrieved November 27, 2017 – via newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Building a Community of Scholars: James T. Laney's Presidency". emoryhistory.emory.edu. Emory University. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  3. ^ a b c d Justice, Elaine (Autumn 2009). "Laney's Legacy: Graduate School named for President Emeritus James Laney". Emory Magazine. Emory University. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Laney Graduate School Facts & Figures". Archived from the original on 2013-03-07. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
  5. ^ a b Stuart, Reginald (December 8, 1981). "Education; Atlanta". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e "James T. Laney". icasinc.org. Institute for Corean-American Studies. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  7. ^ a b "James T. Laney (1927-)". history.state.gov. Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  8. ^ a b c "Rev. Dr. James T. Laney". cfgreateratlanta.org. Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Retrieved 2012-04-19.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Donald Gregg
US Ambassador to Korea
Succeeded by
Stephen Warren Bosworth