John Haynes Holmes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rev. John Haynes Holmes was a founding member of both the NAACP and the ACLU.

John Haynes Holmes (November 29, 1879 – April 3, 1964) was a prominent Unitarian minister, pacifist, and co-founder of the NAACP and the ACLU. He is noted for his anti-war activism.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Philadelphia on November 29, 1879, a descendant of John Holmes of Colchester, Essex, a Messenger of the General Court of Plymouth Colony and the executioner of Thomas Granger. Newland H. Holmes, President of the Massachusetts Senate, was his cousin. He studied at Harvard, graduating in 1902, then attended Harvard Divinity School, from which he graduated in 1904 and was immediately called to his first church in Dorchester, Massachusetts. That same year, he married Madeleine Baker. They had two children, Roger and Frances.

Career[edit]

In 1907 he was called to the Church of the Messiah (Unitarian) in New York City and served as its Senior Minister until 1918, when he left the American Unitarian Association (AUA) because of differences over its policy towards World War I, but continued to preach there. Shortly after that, his church became non-denominational and renamed itself the "Community Church of New York". Members of the church, however, insisted that the church retain its AUA membership. Despite that, he became the Senior Minister there again and served until his retirement in 1949, when he became Minister Emeritus. He rejoined the AUA in 1960, just before the Unitarian and Universalist churches merged and he was featured in the last AUA yearbook published before the merger.

On May 25, 1919, Holmes was one of the speakers at a rally held in Madison Square Gardens, which demanded the end of US government support for the enemies of the Bolshevik regime in Russia.[1]

He engaged in interfaith efforts; working closely with Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise of New York. The book Rabbi and Minister details this friendship and their working relationship on social, religious and political causes. It was written by Carl Hermann Voss (1911-1995), a Congregationalist minister and staunch supporter of Zionism. He also publicized the work of Gandhi, from his pulpit, and describes his meetings and interactions with the Mahatma in his book My Gandhi. Later, He was a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award.

Although primarily a minister, he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1909, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920, serving as its chairman from 1940 to 1950, after the resignation of Harry F. Ward.[2] He was succeeded as ACLU Chairman by Ernest Angell.[2]

His varied pursuits included being the author of several books, hymns, and a play, If This Be Treason, which had a brief run on Broadway. He was also a popular lecturer and debater; which included a well known Clarence Darrow concerning Prohibition (Darrow was against it).

He died on April 3, 1964, aged eighty-four.

Opposition from Dr. Seuss[edit]

There was an outcry after a cartoon [1] by Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) mocking Holmes was published in the New York newspaper PM on January 13, 1942. Geisel responded January 21, 1942 (ellipses in original):

In response to the letters defending John Haynes Holmes ... sure, I believe in love, brotherhood and a cooing white pigeon on every man's roof. I even think it's nice to have pacifists and strawberry festivals ... in between wars.

But right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seem like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: 'Brothers!' It is a rather flabby battlecry.

If we want to win, we've got to kill Japs, whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.[3]

Holmes' stand as a pacifist in both world wars was neither popular nor easy. He faced expulsion from his denomination during World War I if he did not disavow his pacifist views; he resigned his membership in the American Unitarian Association as a result, and the split was not healed for decades. Geisel's criticism is an example of the scorn and ridicule Holmes faced as a result of his strong views, which he vigorously defended.[citation needed]

Works[edit]

  • Is Death the End? (1915)
  • New Wars for Old (1916)
  • Palestine To-Day and To-Morrow: A Gentile's Survey of Zionism. (1929)
  • A Sensible Man's View of Religion. (1932)
  • Is Suicide Justifiable?, John Day (1934)
  • The Affirmation of Immortality. (1947)
  • My Gandhi. (1953)
  • I Speak for Myself. (1959)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bolshevists Win Cheers In Garden" - The Sun (New York newspaper). May 26, 1919, p.20. viewable thru fultonhistory.com
  2. ^ a b "40th Anniversary Issue" (PDF). ACLU San Diego.
  3. ^ Richard H. Minear, "Dr. Seuss Goes to War."

External links[edit]