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Collection Number: 04554

Collection Title: Robert E. Seymour Papers, 1941-1997

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 12.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 7000 items)
Abstract Correspondence, sermons, writings, and other papers of Robert E. Seymour, pastor of the Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., 1959-1988. Seymour, considered somewhat of a maverick in Southern Baptist circles, was deeply involved in racial integration efforts in the 1960s and remained active thereafter in a great number of community organizations and causes.
Creator Seymour, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1925-
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
To be used only with special staff assistance.
This collection contains additional materials that are not processed and are currently not available to researchers. For information about access to these materials, contact Research and Instructional Services staff. Please be advised that preparing unprocessed materials for access can be a lengthy process.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Robert E. Seymour papers #4554, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Robert E. Seymour of Chapel Hill, N.C., in March 1990, October 1991 (Acc. 91134), April 1992 (Acc. 92049), and July 1999 (Acc. 98401).
Received from Robert E. Seymour in October 1991.
Received from Robert E. Seymour in April 1992.
Received from Robert E. Seymour in July 1999.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Robert E. Seymour was born on 13 July 1925 in Greenwood, S.C. In deference to his father's wishes, he started his studies at the Citadel, but quickly switched to the Navy's pre-chaplaincy program. He attended Newberry College for two years and then studied at Duke University, from which he was graduated with a B.A. degree in 1945. He received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Yale Divinity School in 1948 and a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1955.

In 1959, Seymour became the first minister of the Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C. Before coming to Binkley, he was pastor of the Mars Hill Baptist Church in Mars Hill, N.C.; pastor of the Warrenton Baptist Church in Warrenton, N.C.; and assistant pastor of the Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

The Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church started out with about 40 parishioners; services were held in Gerrard Hall on the University of North Carolina campus. The establishment of the Church coincided with the arrival of some of the first black students at the University. From the beginning, Binkley had an open membership policy that sought to include not only all races, but all Christians, including those who had not been baptized through immersion in water in orthodox Baptist churches. This and other stances earned the Binkley Baptist Church and its pastor reputations in the Southern Baptist Convention for being "uncooperative." Seymour himself was frequently labeled a maverick for opposing the Baptist Church's move towards conformity and for advocating racial integration.

Under Seymour's leadership, the Binkley Baptist Church became involved in day care and preschool programs, classes and services to older adults, and other community activities. He also kept the Church active in both the Southern Baptist Convention and the more liberal American Baptist Convention. At the time of his retirement in 1988, the Church had about 500 members.

After his retirement, Seymour published two books: Whites Only: A Pastor's Restrospective on Life in the New South in 1991 and Aging Without Apology in 1995. He is one of the writers of the "Village Voices" column in the Chapel Hill News.

Seymour participated in many community undertakings, including serving as the first president of the Inter-Faith Council, a social services association of churches and synagogues in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. He is married to Pearl Seymour and has a daughter named Frances and a son named Robert III.

(Compiled from various newspaper and journal sources.)

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Chiefly correspondence, 1941-1988, largely consisting of incoming letters from friends, family, and colleagues. Most letters are post-1959, when Seymour moved to the Binkley Baptist Church. There are many letters from parishioners and others thanking Seymour for services rendered. There are also letters containing invitations to conferences or requests for services. There appear to be few letters dealing directly with church business or with the many organizations and causes with which Seymour was affiliated.

There is a series of typed copies and photocopies of outgoing letters, 1981-1988, some of which appear to be related to incoming letters in the collection. Also included are photocopies of selected pages from scrapbooks documenting Seymour's career from 1947 to his retirement in 1988.

Writings by Robert E. Seymour:

John Gill, Baptist Theologian, 1697-1771, typescript. Doctoral thesis at University of Edinburgh.

"You Can't Hold Back the Spring" (1990), typescript. Published in 1991 as Whites Only: A Pastor's Restrospective on Life in the New South. The typescript includes material that does not appear in the printed version.

Celebrating Christmas as Christians (1990), printed.

Copy of Whites Only: A Pastor's Retrospective on Signs of the South (1991) by Seymour and a 1992 review of the book from Baptists Today.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Robert E. Seymour Papers, 1941-1997.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of October 1991 (Acc. 91134).

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of April 1992 (Acc. 92049).

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of July 1999 (Acc. 98401).

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Processing Information

Processed by: Roslyn Holdzkom, May 1990 with subsequent additions

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Full processing of this collection has been deferred pending expected additions.

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