Nolan Bailey Harmon

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Nolan Bailey Harmon (July 14, 1892 – June 8, 1993)[1] was a bishop of The Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church, elected in 1956.

Birth and family[edit]

Nolan Bailey Harmon was born July 14, 1892, in Meridian, Mississippi, and died on June 8, 1993, living to be over 100 years old. His funeral was held on June 12, 1993, at Druid Hills United Methodist Church, and he was buried in the Evergreen Burial Park in Roanoke, Virginia. He was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Methodist Preachers. Nolan's wife Rebecca Lamar died at age 84 in 1980. His children were Nolan B. Harmon III and G. Lamar Harmon. He himself was the bishop of The Methodist Church and United Methodist Church elected in 1956.


Nolan graduated from Millsaps College in Mississippi. He was a member of the first class of the Candler School of Theology, Emory University in 1914. He also earned a Master of Arts degree from Princeton University in 1920. He received honorary degrees from Millsaps, Hamline University, Western Maryland College, Mount Union College and Wofford College. In 1958 he received an honorary D.D. degree from Emory.


In 1940 Harmon was elected book editor of the newly reunited Methodist Church. He edited publications of Abingdon Press and the journal Religion in Life. He also was general editor of the twelve volume Interpreters Bible. Between 1960 and 1964 Bishop Harmon was a member of The Hymnal Committee of his denomination, serving as chairman of the Subcommittee on Texts.

He was elected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference of The Methodist Church. As a bishop, he presided over the work of various Annual Conferences in the Southeastern United States. He retired from the active episcopacy in 1964. In retirement he edited the Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Also in retirement, Bishop Harmon served on the faculty of Emory University as a visiting professor, continuing there into his 96th year. Further into his retirement, Nolan taught classes on government and history of Methodists. A friend of his drove him to and from classes, and he lived by the university at the time.

Civil Rights Involvement[edit]

In April 1963 Bishop Harmon made civil rights history when he, along with seven other white clergymen (including fellow-Methodist Bishop Paul Hardin Jr.), released a statement calling on African Americans to stop taking part in demonstrations initiated by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. The statement called the demonstrations "unwise and untimely", and argued that change should be pursued through negotiation and judicial action. This statement caused Dr. King to write his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail". In his 1983 autobiography, Bishop Harmon referred to the letter as a "propaganda move".

Bishop Harmon died June 1993, the first U.M. Bishop to live to be 100 (or more) since Bishop Herbert George Welch. He was also the oldest out of the eight white clergymen.


  • Harmon, Nolan Bailey, Ninety Years and Counting (autobiography)

Selected writings[edit]

  • Ministerial Ethics and Etiquette
  • The Famous Case of Myra Clark Gaines
  • General Editor, Encyclopedia of World Methodism, Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1974.
  • General Editor, Interpreters Bible
  • Understanding the Methodist Church
  • Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Church, 1948
  • The Pastors Ideal Funeral Manual
  • The Encyclopedia of World Methodism, volume 1
  • The Encyclopedia of World Methodism, volume 2
  • The Organization of the Methodist Church: Historic Development and Present Working Structure

See also[edit]


  • Nolan B. Harmon Papers, MSS 134, Archives and Manuscripts Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University [1]
  • The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church [2]
  • InfoServ, the official information service of The United Methodist Church. [3]
  1. ^ "Harmon, Nolan B. (Nolan Bailey), 1892-1993.". Pitts Theology Library. Emory University. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2008-09-13.