Guide to the Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker, 1932-2006 (bulk 1954)
Max Wicker was head of Duke University's Baptist Student Union (BSU) in 1953. He was dismissed by the North Carolina Baptists’ General Board in 1954, along with state BSU director Jimmy Ray and UNC-Chapel Hill BSU secretary J.C. Herrin, after events surrounding the invitation of a controversial speaker, Christian theologian Nels Ferre, to the 1953 BSU Convention. Their termination followed a six-hour hearing before the Board. The student leaders’ dismissal made the pages of the April 12, 1954 TIME magazine. Joseph Mitchell graduated from Duke Divinity School in 1953, where he met Max Wicker. After his retirement, Mitchell began to research and write the account of his friend’s dismissal. This collection contains the materials he gathered in the course of his research, including biographical information about individuals involved in the controversy; correspondence related to Wicker’s BSU activities, his hearing and termination; Max Wicker’s public statement about his beliefs; other documents related to the activities of the BSU at Duke and elsewhere in the state; and news clippings that appeared in regional and national publications. The collection also contains appendices and drafts of Mitchell’s account, and his final bound paper, "The 1954 Firing of Max Wicker and Two Other North Carolina Student Directors, Jimmy Ray and J.C. Herrin" (2006).
- Record Group
- Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker
- Mitchell, Joseph, 1927-
- 1 Linear Feet
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Materials are in English.
The Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker include materials collected by Duke Divinity School alumnus Joseph Mitchell related to the 1954 dismissal of Mitchell’s friend Max Wicker from his position as head of Duke University’s Baptist Student Union (BSU) by the N.C. Baptists’ General Board. The collection is arranged into two series. Research Files contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, articles and memorabilia Mitchell collected in the course of researching an account he wrote about the dismissal of Wicker and two other BSU student directors, including biographical information about many of the individuals involved in the dismissal, and other documents related to the activities of the BSU at Duke and elsewhere in the state. The second series, Writings, contains Mitchell’s bound 2006 paper about the incident, as well as drafts, appendices and other items related to its composition.
Materials are largely textual. The collection also includes two black-and-white photographs, a Baptist Student Union pin, and two CDs containing Word Perfect files of Mitchell’s paper about the Baptist student directors’ dismissal.
The collection is arranged into two series: Research Files and Publication Files.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Research Files includes information about individuals involved in the student leaders’ dismissal; correspondence related to Max Wicker’s BSU activities, his hearing and termination, including letters of support to Wicker from Baptist and Methodist students; Max Wicker’s public statement about his beliefs; and other documents related to the activities of the BSU at Duke and elsewhere in the state. The collection also contains clippings covering the three student leaders’ 1954 hearing and dismissal that appeared in regional and national publications. The bulk of the clippings are arranged chronologically at the end of the series.
Contains articles, correspondence, and biographical information gathered by Frank Joseph Mitchell about Baptist leaders and other individuals who were involved in events surrounding the 1954 dismissal of North Carolina Baptist student directors Max Wicker, J.C. Herrin, and Jimmy Ray. The file is arranged alphabetically by last name of the subjects, and incorporates the covers from Mitchell's original research folders. The file includes material about the following individuals: Henry B. Anderson, Douglas Branch, J. Boyce Brooks, James O. Cansler, Warren Carr, Zeb. A. Caudle, Ed Christman, Perry Crouch, John Davis, Samuel T. Habel, Ottis J. Hagler, J.C. Herrin, Ralph Herring, W.C. Holland, M.A. Huggins, Barney Jones, Broadus Jones, J.W. Kincheloe, Roberts C. Lasater, John Lawrence, Mrs. Gordon Maddrey, Mrs. W.K. McGee, Bo Medlin, L.J. Phipps, Bob Phillips, Edwin Neill Poteat, Rowland Pruette, Ted Purcell, Joseph Ray, Robert Seymour, Elbert Wethington, Bruce E. Whitaker, and Guy Woodlief, Jr. In addition, the file contains the covers of Mitchell's empty research folders for Gloria Blanton, Harrie Brewington, Maxine Garner, Pitts Hughes, Francis Nicoll, Arnold Smith, and Ruth Swann.
Writings contains drafts, appendices and other items related to Frank Joseph Mitchell’s 2006 paper, "The 1954 Firing of Max Wicker and Two Other North Carolina Student Directors, Jimmy Ray and J.C. Herrin." The bound paper is included at the end of the series.
Max Wicker was born in Southern Pines, N.C., on August 7, 1924. After his high school graduation in 1943, he entered a U.S. Navy officer training program at Duke University. He served in the Navy in 1945-46, and returned to study at Duke in 1947. He received his A.B. degree from Duke in 1949 and his B.D. degree from Duke Divinity School in 1952. Wicker began working as Baptist Secretary at Duke in 1952, and was president of the Baptist Student Union (BSU) at Duke in 1953. He was ordained a Baptist pastor that year in Aberdeen, N.C.
Baptist leaders in North Carolina began investigating the various state chapters of the BSU after Jimmy Ray, the statewide BSU director, invited Christian theologian Nels Ferre to speak at their November 1953 BSU Convention. Ferre had been accused of questioning the doctrine of the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Following this investigation, and after a six-hour hearing before the N.C. Baptists’ General Board, Wicker, Ray, and J.C. Herrin, the BSU secretary at UNC-Chapel Hill, were dismissed from their jobs in Spring 1954 over questions about their theology and choice of BSU programming. The dismissal made the pages of the April 12, 1954 TIME magazine, which quoted Wicker as saying to the Board, “I do not affirm the Virgin birth, and I do not deny it.” Though the Board had fired Wicker from his position as president of the BSU, Duke continued to employ him as a Baptist chaplain. He officially resigned from Duke in June 1954 and became a Methodist minister. He married Ann Stewart in 1955. They had five children, Mary Ann, Edythe Louise, Stewart Wesley, Susan Eleanor, and Will.
Frank Joseph Mitchell (known as Joseph or Joe) was born February 12, 1927, in Fairfield, Alabama. He spent time in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Hospital Apprentice in 1945-46, and graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1950. Mitchell graduated from Duke Divinity School in 1953, where he met Max Wicker. Mitchell returned to Duke to receive his doctorate in religion in the 1960s. He served as a Methodist minister, and taught at Carleton College in Northfield, MN; Union College in Barbourville, KY; and Central Methodist College in Fayette, MO; before becoming Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Troy State University in Troy, Alabama (1970-1989). Mitchell married Norma Anne Taylor in 1959. They had one daughter, Anne Virginia.
After their retirement, Joseph and Norma Mitchell moved to Durham, N.C., in 2001. They lived near Max and Ann Wicker. Mitchell took up the research into his friend’s case and dismissal, and used this research to produce his 2006 paper, "The 1954 Firing of Max Wicker and Two Other North Carolina Student Directors, Jimmy Ray and J.C. Herrin."
Guide to the Religious Life Reference Collection, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
The Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker were received by the Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, as a gift in 2016.
Processed by Erin Ryan, September 2016.
Accessions described in this collection guide: UA2016-0037.