UNCW HomeUNCW HomeBreaking News! Click here for details.
William Madison Randall Library
Transcript of Oral History of Harrelson, Walter
Interviewee:
Harrelson, Walter

Interviewer:
Hayes, Sherman / Zarbock, Paul

Date of Interview:
8/27/2003

Series:
Southeast North Carolina (SENC)

Length
1:47:35

Abstract

In this interview, Dr. Walter Harrelson discusses his North Carolina upbringing and his academic history and career. He includes his time spent studying at Chapel Hill, Union Seminary, and at Berle in Switzerland, where he studied with Karl Barth. Dr. Harrelson served as Dean at the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt Divinity School, where he was also a professor, and is the author of several books as well as the chair of the translation committee for the New Revised Standard version of the Bible. Dr. Harrelson also relates some of his own, personal philosophy and perspectives on religion, and shares his interests in pseudoapocrypha and the relations between Judaism and Christianity.

Q:   Greetings. Uh... we're here today for an oral interview with Dr. Walter Harrelson and we're in uh.. Brunswick County in South Port. I guess we are in South Port or are we outside of town, now?

Interviewer 1:   No, this is South.

Q:   This is South Port. And the interviewers today are Sherman Hayes, university librarian at UNCW Library and today is August 27th, Wednesday, 2003 and the other interviewer is Paul Zarback of Oak Island, emeritus professor from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and special assistant at UNCW. And today's uh... charge is to try to get some reminiscence and stories and uh.. dare I say truth from you, doctor, uh... about your life past and, in the process, of course, hoping to uh... understand uh... the territory that you went through and lived through in, in the field that you've been in.

So let's start with uh... early days in Brunswick County. So what-- where did it all begin? What were-- who, who, who is the uh... who were the parents and, and how did you end up in Brunswick County to start with?

Harrelson:   My grandfather moved from Taber City to the community called Funster[ph?]. It still has that name. It's about halfway between Winnabow and the U.S., no, the state highway 133 that runs along the Cape Fear River. So five miles from Cape Fear River uh... in the direction of Winnabow. Uh... there, on a farm of some size, with uh... a big old house that was built by my father uh... in his prosperous days, I was born. He, he had been a part owner of the Pleasant Oaks Plantation, as it's called today uh... in the days when rice was grown there. And also when uh... the turpentine was drawn from the pine trees and when tar was made from the uh... the cores of those pine trees after they had fallen. And he and his uhm... brother-in-law made a fair fortune before the rice plantations had to be abandoned and also sold.

Q:   And who is the brother-in-law? What was...

Harrelson:   This was a man named Tolman[ph?] Robbins who moved from uh... the plantation to Bolivia and set up a general store there and my brother-- my father, rather, set up a general store in Funston and uh.. thought he would become a gentleman farmer.

Interviewer 1:   For the sake of the record, why were the rice fields abandoned?

Harrelson:   Uh... they got too salty.

Interviewer 1:   How did that happen?

Harrelson:   At least that's the way I recall it. The tide kept coming up and- pouring the deposits of salt over the years just ruined them finally.

Q:   Oh, that's interesting.

Harrelson:   Uh... and, of course, they had probably been used for 100 years or more uh... before my father...

Interviewer 1:   And it was a quality product.

Harrelson:   Yes.

Interviewer 1:   The rice was really sought after by uh... connoisseurs.

Harrelson:   That's right. It was a, it was apparently a very good rice.

Q:   And you were born in what year then?

Harrelson:   In 1919.

Q:   1919. And he was off the farm by this point?

Harrelson:   He was uh... living on the farm but working in uh... Wilmington.

Q:   Wilmington, oh.

Harrelson:   When the uh... Prohibition Act was passed, uh... in the course of time, he became a prohibition officer uh... and one of my earliest memories is going with him in the car to uh... to check on uh... information about stills here and there. And he would take me if the uh... if the, the thought was that it was not a dangerous uh... run, then he would take me with him. I saw some abandoned stills where my father and his workers, you know, simply tore the things up and battered the uh... cookers, you know, made of uh... copper.

Q:   That's great.

Harrelson:   And hauled away the worm[ph?] and he had the eight counties or nine, I believe eight, uh... in this area and liked to have somebody to talk to. So, as a young boy, especially during the summer period when I was not in school, I would ride with him. I heard all his stories and also, of course, came to idolize him.

Q:   Now was this through the whole '20s he had that position?

Harrelson:   Yes. He had it for quite awhile uh... and when he saw that Roosevelt was gonna sweep the country, he began to consider options. Oh, by the way, the-- he, he had become a deputy U.S. Marshall just before Roosevelt but he knew, as a republican, that he would not continue and so did not-- ran for sheriff of the county and, for two terms, was sheriff of the county.

Q:   Oh, how long did that last?

Harrelson:   That lasted until '34.

Q:   '34.

Harrelson:   '34. And, at that point, he opened up a little grocery store uh... at a place called Dark Branch, which is where the road from Funston hits highway 133. There's a community largely of African-Americans still today, though there's some white families living there.

Q:   Now, is Funston still existing?

Harrelson:   Yeah, Funston's still there.

Q:   Still going.

Harrelson:   It has-- there's the Lebanon Church is there where we went.

Interviewer 1:   Is the structure still there?

Harrelson:   The, the house was burned about 1933 or four, '34, and my father rented a home then for awhile until uh... Mr. Sprunt encouraged him to open up that little store and then built a house for him to live in uh... on the Sprunt properties five miles this way from Dark Branch. So it's right near the Brunswick Town locale.

Q:   Okay.

Harrelson:   That my father's store once was on the old road that now leads up and dead ends at Sunny Pointe.

Interviewer 1:   How many brothers and sisters have you had?

Harrelson:   The family was a large one. My father was married twice. There were five children that survived the first family for awhile but my uh... sister uh.. Louise was killed in a family accident at age 5. But the four other children, two boys and two girls, lived on and one of them is still alive, older than I. And then my father remarried my mother and there were four of us children who survived. A-again, two boys and two girls. Very symmetrical family. (laughter) And uh... of those, none is alive except me. The uh... one sister lived into her 70s but my next older sister and my younger brother both died before they were 50, both of lung cancer.

Interviewer 1:   Interesting.

Harrelson:   So they-- the smoking.

Interviewer 1:   Smoking.

Harrelson:   Yes.

Q:   Before they even knew though, probably.

Harrelson:   Yes, before they knew.

Q:   Yeah. Yeah. 'Cause for such a long period, I mean, that's a fairly recent uh... discovery in the sense of...

Harrelson:   Yes. Yes, it surely is. Yes, we knew that it was not necessarily good for our health (laughter) but we didn't think that it was so bad for our health. (laughter)

Interviewer 1:   But your father was the father of nine, is that correct?

Harrelson:   He was the father of nine.

Interviewer 1:   And your mother was the mother of four?

Harrelson:   She was a mother of four. Uh... she was from uh... South Carolina, Bucksport, South Carolina, but had become a teacher and uh... care-- and sort of uh... I guess a handy person in a little private school at the foot of the hill in Funston. Uh... we had no public school there and my father and others had helped to get this school started...

Q:   Well, now, tell us wouldn't you have a public school there if there's...

Harrelson:   Well, there, there just wasn't any need for one that close, they thought. People came to South Port or Shallotte if they, you know, felt they had to get an education. (laughs) But a lot of the, the children in the area were really getting little or no schooling, apart from that uh... kind of arrangement. Now, this is before my birth, I'm talking.

Q:   Right.

Harrelson:   And that school then existed around the turn of the century, I guess. My mother came there with her mother to care for the school, to provide meals, to oversee life for the ones who had to come and stay in the building and it was a little academy. And that same building then was refurbished, in my lifetime, and I went to the first three grades there. Uh... the school had three uh... rooms but only one was needed for the dozen students who were in the first and second and third grades and we sat in those. I started at age five in that school and was there for two years and, when then Bolivia's consolidated school opened, and that would have been about 1925, I guess, uh... I was moved there and placed in the fourth grade 'cause I couldn't help but learn what was being said in that one room. (laughs)

Q:   Was your mother your teacher at the school?

Harrelson:   No, my mother was not my teacher. At this time uh... she had married my father and was, of course, in the home but she had not-- she had not been a regular teacher. She had been more a custodian, I guess one could say, of the...

Q:   Did the school have a name? Did you guys call it something? What did you...?

Harrelson:   I think it was called Funston Academy.

Q:   Funston Academy. Well, that's great. I wonder if anybody knows there was a Funston Academy.

Interviewer 1:   I wonder.

Q:   That's great. And it must have lasted for 20 years?

Harrelson:   They said must have lasted at least 20. While I was there in uh... longer than-- if it were uh... established, as I think it was, around 1900, then uh... it was still going in the 20-- in 1922, '23, when I was there. '24 I guess would have been my first year.

Q:   Would you categorize, really, a rural existence then? I mean, it was small town but would you say it was rural?

Harrelson:   Oh, yes. We had uh... we had uh... 50 acres under cultivation and another 175 of timber uh... and the-- of the 50 acres, my father set out to make the farm something real but then, since he was working off the farm, we just had shiftless people like his children and others who simply didn't take care of the equipment and didn't care of the farm. He tried one thing and then another.

He had cows, had, you know, the milk cows but the delivery of the milk and meeting the sanitary standards were so complicated, that didn't really work out. He planted tobacco and, in the first year, made $1,000 clear on just a few acres. The next year, he planted five or six more acres and lost everything. (laughter) Because, of course, there were no tobacco subsidies. It was simply at the whim of the tobacco buyers. And if the market were flooded, then you got virtually nothing. But he also planted strawberries and sweet potatoes and uh... sometimes those crops would come through all right.

He loved the farm. He would love to go out and check things out but, since he was away and was dependent on paid help or family help, the-- it just-- things just did not get done well and, for me, that was one of the bitter things of my life, not that I did anything about it but I just hated that neglect and the, you know, the, the equipment rusting and nothing looking right and nothing cared for. It was just a slovenly kind of existence.

Q:   And you still remember that?

Harrelson:   Oh, my lord, it was, it's been so grim for me to keep it, you know, it-- fam-- farm life was so nice in many ways but that aspect of it was just repellent and I was so glad to get away from that.

Interviewer 1:   What was the nice part of family farm life?

Harrelson:   Well, the hunting, the food, it was great to have vegetables and a grandmother and a mother who canned everything and who had, you know, fresh vegetables much of the year and canned vegetables for the rest of the year. And, during the Depression years, we were always a little better dressed than our neighbors and a little more secure. We would have a proper Christmas, you know, but uh... most of our neighbors were really just living on the margins and uh... it was, you know, we always felt that-- how fortunate we were and that was a pleasant thing, to be sort of the, the leading family in our community and in the church there. And I also enjoyed the freedom of the place. That is, the sense that I was able to go to school, come back, read. My older brother's and sister's had laid in, in the prosperous days, a huge collection of books, classics and the like, so there I was as a pre-teen reading Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain and, you know, things like that.

Q:   Wow.

Harrelson:   Not knowing what I was reading much of the time but fascinated by it. And I would-- you know, there were many, many days when I could leave and go and sit under the pine trees with a book and a watermelon and simply enjoy the, you know, hours until I heard screams for me, you know, too insistent and I had to get back.

Interviewer 1:   Did you have electricity in those days?

Harrelson:   We had a gas arrangement, which is another feature of what I mean. It was a carbide gas system that gave us good, bright light. We did have for heating only fireplaces but, in this big old house, there was a fireplace in virtually every room.

Q:   And the wealth came really from the time before when he was in the rice?

Harrelson:   That's right.

Q:   Because I'm seeing, you know, a revenue agent or a prohibition agent wasn't going to make money to sustain a big house like that.

Harrelson:   Certainly not.

Q:   So it was really from the previous...

Harrelson:   That's right. The only thing to be said about it was that it was a steady income.

Q:   That's right.

Harrelson:   And, in the Depression years, a dollar went a long way.

Q:   Yeah. Did you have a sense, even as a child, that the economy was bad even in the late '20s? I mean, I've heard that the rural areas felt it even before the cities.

Harrelson:   Oh, my, yes. In uh... well before the '30s, most of the farms were mortgaged uh... and the B. L. Gore, if I remember the name right, had his name on virtually all the farms in our area of the county. He bought them all. Uh... and-- because, you know, they were all mortgaged and they were up for taxes and uh.. and he got a number of them through foreclosure, I'm sure. Uh... and that name was there, posted, B. L. Gore, all over the county and we talked about that as children and my father and mother were, of course, very conscious of the, the situation of these younger children of theirs-- the older children had gone to the Boys Creek Academy uh... now Campbell College, as my father had, uh... but uh.. there was no thought of college or private academy for us younger children. You know, we were-- we simply had to scrounge for whatever education we could get.

Uh... my eldest sister, from my-- born from my mother, uh... was able to get in-- uh... into a nursing program in Charlotte and she soon was well employed. Uh... the, the next older-- younger sister uh... became a specialist of uh... her owned learning in the flora and fauna of this area, worked with Churchill Burgaw[ph?] at Orton Plantation and was taught by him a great lot. She knew snakes and loved them, she knew how to handle the camellias and the azaleas there and was a paid employee at Orton for much of her teen and early 20s life. She later became a florist after the Second World War and uh... was-- that was her vocation until her death.

Uh... and-- but uh... for my youngest brother and me, the idea of college never entered the picture. At Bolivia School, I remember once uh... in my senior year being called in by the principal, who said to me, "Walter, you ought to be thinking about college. I'll be glad to write recommendations for you," and I laughed because, by then, there simply was no money. By then, my father was-- had-- was the proprietor of this little grocery store on the Orton Farm and he had-- he barely was able to pay Mr. Brooks for the groceries bought the previous week. It was a very, very lean and tight life.

Q:   But he never had to mortgage the house?

Harrelson:   Oh, the house was mortgaged.

Q:   Oh, really?

Harrelson:   Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes, the house was mortgaged early but he was able to keep payments going so that he didn't lose the house.

Q:   Did he, as a sheriff, was that-- have some potential to make some money or not? I mean, at least with bribes or something or...?

Harrelson:   In the first two years, uh... he was also tax collector which meant a salary of $150 for each of those jobs. But he was the only republican elected in his second term and the uh... county commissioners uh... combined the two jobs and uh... reduced the salary to one salary. So he had to collect the taxes and pay for his gas and all of that. So he didn't run for office after that second term. (laughter)

Q:   That was $150 per what?

Harrelson:   Per month. Per month.

Q:   Yeah, but that was a pretty good salary.

Harrelson:   It was not bad. Uh.. and when he had two of those 150s, see, the first two years, that was fun, you know?

Q:   But he was a republican and they were going to take care of him.

Harrelson:   That's right. (laughter)

Q:   So you graduated from high school in 19..?

Harrelson:   '35.

Q:   '35.

Harrelson:   Uh huh.

Q:   Okay.

Harrelson:   Yes, I was 15 uh... and uh... I started to work with Mr. Isaac Willetts[ph?], who was one of our major saw, sawmill men. He cut a lot of the timber in central Brunswick county. Uh... was a very uh... prosperous sawmill man, had a large family of colleagues and friends of mine who went to the same school and, and Mr. Willetts gave me a job pulling the slabs off of the, you know, the little runway as the saw did its work. And I did that for five or six months and then uh... he asked me to-- or someone asked me to join the trucker who was hauling away the good uh... logs that were suitable for pilings or for telephone poles or electrical poles. So I rode on the truck and helped him load and unload those for about another three months.

My eldest brother in uh... Washington was a printer working at the government printing office. He kept in touch with us boys very closely and my elder brother, Dan, who lives down the street, and he's 93 now, Dan uh... was helped enormously by this older brother, Claude, uh... for his days at the, the Boys Creek when he was in the academy up there and getting what amounted to a high school education. And Dan's talked about this so frequently, how five dollars came to him every month or so, sometimes twice a month.

Interviewer 1:   What were you being paid, by the way, at the sawmill?

Harrelson:   Oh, at the sawmill, it was a dollar a day.

Interviewer 1:   And when did the day start and when did the day stop?

Harrelson:   I think we had to be there about seven and we worked until five. So it was a, about a ten-hour day, uh... with a half hour off for lunch.

Interviewer 1:   And this is brutish, cruel work?

Harrelson:   It's-- yes, it really is tough work in the worst-- and I had-- I'd been a book reader and uh... I had really not worked that hard on the farm and so was not really toughened up for that but I soon got toughened up. But then my brother in Washington wrote and said, "I think you can do something more interesting. Come on up and live with me." He had said that to other of the older children and helped them along.

And I went up and tried to look for work but I was then a little pimply and a little pudgy and very uncomfortable with my look and feeling like such a country clog that I couldn't make myself go in and ask for a job until one day he was shaving and said, "It does look to me as though you could clean the razor when you get through." Uh... and uh... "anyway, I don't believe you're looking for a job." Well, that was it. He offended me so that I went out that very day and found a job in a sanitary grocery, which became Safeway, and that's what I did then for a year.

I worked in the grocery store and was uh... got so solicitous over my uh... vegetables, you know, I remembered vegetables from the farm, that I didn't want people picking over them but those miserable customers were pick over them. (laughter) This was '36 and they were, you know, they wouldn't pick up a, a single thing and just then put it in their container. They wanted to check it out and so they messed up my uh... groceries all the time. (laughter)

But I worked there for awhile but then it turned out that uh... that a civil service exam I had taken at the uh... suggestion of that same brother, Claude, in D.C., had produced a, a job in Washington. Uh... I had taken this exam, which was a clerk-typist kind of exam, uh... and had done apparently very well on it but there were so many people who were taking it that I didn't hear from it back in the-- '35. I took it right out of high school and I wrote back to Claude and said, "I can't take this thing. It says you have to be 17. I'm only 15." And he wrote back and said, "Put down 17. Nobody cares." And so, you know, with a great sense of, you know, criminality, I put down 17 and then, when I went in to the Department of Justice, which is where the job was offered...

Interviewer 1:   Oh, god. (laughs)

Harrelson:   ...I said to those people immediately, "I'm afraid I'm not eligible for this job. I put down the wrong date of birth when I took the exam." And the man I remember so carefully, John Hill, who was the uh... appointment officer, as they called them then, personnel officer it would be today, said, "Never mind. We keep the records. We'll just change that. No problem." And so he did.

Interviewer 1:   Where were you and your brother living in the district?

Harrelson:   This was in uh.. Mount Rainier just across the line to the northeast from D.C.

Interviewer 1:   Was he married?

Harrelson:   He was married and his wife became a kind of uh... mother for me. Uh... she was a sister-mother because she wasn't that much older than I uh... but she was such a wonderful woman. She lived on into her 90s on Oak Island, uh... and-- after my brother's retirement, and she had muscular dystrophy but she was such a strong and determined woman that she wasn't going to let muscular dystrophy stop her. And they're, you know, crippled over, she dragged herself around in that kitchen and cooked and cared for people.

Q:   What was her first name?

Harrelson:   Her name was Ida uh... Ida Clair. And she was called, what did we call her? Frances, Ida Frances, that was it. Frances. She went by her middle name.

Q:   Middle name. That's great. So your-- let's go back a little bit to high school. You finished up at 15. It was more common then that you would just, what, do the work faster?

Harrelson:   There were 11 grades only and, since I'd started at age five in the first grade, that was just the normal progress, since I skipped the third grade. So it meant ten years of secondary school.

Q:   I see.

Harrelson:   Uh... and part of it was that I had a quick memory and study came easily for me and so there wasn't uh... there wasn't any problem in that regard. Of course, I was too small to play any sports. I sat on the bench, you know, at basketball time and at baseball time and would occasionally be called in for the last two seconds of a basketball game, just because they wanted Walter to have a chance to play. But, no, I was of no consequence in any of the sports.

Q:   Right. And did you get a high school diploma then at that time?

Harrelson:   Yes. I got a high school diploma.

Q:   So you really had an early start on life, compared to today's students. You have to wait 'til 18.

Harrelson:   That's right. In Washington, once I got the job at the Department of Justice, I began to think about schooling and one could become an FBI agent with training in accountancy and commercial law. That is a CPA uh... or a lawyer, a law degree were, were the normal requirements. So the Strayer[ph?] College of Accountancy uh... had a program at night and I started doing that program and did for two years a night program, four nights a week I guess it was from six to nine. Uh... and uh... that uh... sister-in-law and brother really uh... you know, cared for many of my additional expenses to enable me to do that. And it was after those, you know, two, two years of that, in 1940, when I decided that I wanted to become a minister and then I had to-- felt I had to get a regular college degree so I started college five years after having been graduated from high school.

Q:   Now, tell us about that calling, though. I mean, why ministry? What was behind that? Was it early church time?

Harrelson:   Uh huh. The, the Lebanon church meant a lot to me.

Q:   And what denomination was it?

Harrelson:   It's a Baptist church uh... and-- it was the place where, you know, we sang and I loved singing so much. We-- and the hymnody, all of it was there and I have a memory of all of these things, I, I can't-- it's not quite a photographic memory but it's close to that and so I knew all of the songs and so, you know, as a pre-teen, often led the singing in that church.

And we had a, an aunt, an Aunt Zora[ph?] uh... my father's sister, who lived down the street and was my Sunday school teacher. A remarkable woman, I'm sure I manufactured things that I attribute to her but some of it's got to be true. (laughter) And, and she, she had a kind of critical insight into biblical studies so, in that little Baptist church where most people, you know, simply took the Bible as literally true and never raised a question about any conflict of science and theology, uh... Aunt Zora knew that there was something wrong. The way I put it is that she would say to us, "Children, it's in the Bible but there must be something wrong." (laughter)

Interviewer 1:   Oh, people have been burned at the stake (laughter) for less than that. (laughter)

Harrelson:   She would never tell us what was wrong but she would just remind us that there are texts here that really...

Interviewer 1:   Be a little cautious.

Harrelson:   ...had something wrong with them. That is, it can't-- they don't square with the rest of it. They don't square with the greatest thing. That's, you know, that's been, for me, a, a kind of principle.

Interviewer 1:   Absolutely.

Harrelson:   Help people to understand that this glorious scripture with all its power and its revolutionary strength and insight is also, now and again, peppered with absolute absurdities. (laughter) You have to get rid of those absurdities, you know? They cannot accept it all as though every text weighs equally, you know, and over and again throughout all my life, people have said, "So you pick and choose, do you?" And I have said back to them, "No, I pick and choose with the help of that literature itself and with other kinds of help as well but that literature itself directs you, if you really deal with it, it directs you to what is central and what is not so central. That is, that is, if you really get immersed in that way of looking at life, then you're going to be able, before you know it, to discriminate and to recognize that that insight, that understanding, that text is over there on the periphery but this and this and these and those are close to the center." I don't-- you know, that helps me uh... and I think that it is very important to try to counter that notion that it's all subjective, you just decide which part of the Bible you want to believe and you throw out the rest and uh... I rejected the notion that that's what I do all along. Of course, I haven't gotten away with it with some people but I still insist that that's a fundamentally important distinction to make. (laughter)

Interviewer 1:   What a courageous lady your aunt was.

Harrelson:   Wasn't she something?

Q:   Yeah.

Interviewer 1:   Really. In the traditionalist rural area, language like that can be certainly inflammatory.

Harrelson:   That's right.

Interviewer 1:   And could be dangerous.

Harrelson:   It could indeed. People could say, you know, you just can't-- we can't trust you with a classroom or...

Interviewer 1:   That's right.

Harrelson:   But she was so saintly I guess you know that sometimes that's the way you get away with these things.

Interviewer 1:   I'll try and keep that in mind, sir. (laughter) It's a little late for me but... (laughter)

Harrelson:   Yes, saintliness helps somewhat. (laughter)

Interviewer 1:   Good motto. (laughter)

Q:   So as you then said the ministry, what reaction did you get from your own family then?

Harrelson:   The family up there uh... was, of course, delighted. My sister-in-law was a very devout member of that Baptist church and the pastor of that church was a first-rate theologian, well trained and committed to-- if you want to cut that off for a minute...

[ audio off then on ]

Q:   So, anyway, you got support in Washington.

Harrelson:   Yes. Yes. And my family here had, all along, said, "Walter is our preacher boy."

Q:   Is that right?

Harrelson:   So they had...

Q:   So you had, early on, had had that...

Harrelson:   Of course, I had rejected that idea constantly but had, at the same time, not been offended by it because the, the notion of being a minister was a very appealing thing. Most of the ministers I knew had a better education than anyone else in the community uh... and B. R. Page was our Brunswick county pastor in that little church and county superintendent of schools. Our most learned citizen, I suspect, at that time.

Uh... and in the community also were other respected Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists of, of-- who, you know, to speak about was to speak of someone really uh... paid attention to. People of substance. And we had close to us and in the school at Bolivia some of the old families, the Taylor family, for example, Jack Taylor was a uh... member of the graduating class with me, uh... Jackson Johnson Taylor was his name, and he is the uh... I guess, first cousin of Margaret Harper, uh... the owner of the state port pilot[ph?] and herself a Taylor uh... whose father was Ed Taylor, the judge, C. Ed Taylor, one of the big names in law in this community. And all, all of those persons, you know, had a great respect for the ministry. So thinking about ministry was, you know, in that regard, not the kind of thing that it often is for people today. Oh, my god, you can do better than that. (laughter) Many of-- many a, a parent will say.

Q:   You mentioned, made an allusion earlier to the Sprunts. What was that relationship? Is this the Sprunts of Wilmington Sprunts?

Harrelson:   Yes, uh huh. Yes.

Q:   Who had Orton?

Harrelson:   That's right. The brothers uh... the brothers who were most active then were Kenneth and James IV, I guess it was. I think he died just recently. Uh... and I spoke to Kenneth Sprunt just recently about the death of an older sister who also worked there, uh.. that was just uh... four or five months ago. But we were uh... we were acquainted with them only through the work of this younger sister, who was such an important fixture at the plantation. They all knew her, they all respected her. She was a person without formal training who had become quite an expert in growing and caring for the camellias and in seeing to other aspects of the work. And when uh... Bregal[ph?], the manager of the plantation, was drafted into the army, then my sister became even more important for the work during the war years. And Kenneth then worked with my older sister when she decided to take up some employment, that was Annie Lori, the one who died just this past spring. Uh... and she worked at the plantation maybe for a decade. Her husband was the manager of the adjacent plantation, Pleasant Oaks, and she had lived on Pleasant Oaks for a long time and, in that regard, also knew the Sprunts when there would be plantation-type business that brought them together. But we never were, of course, in the social world of the Sprunts.

Interviewer 1:   But you use a word and have used it often and I admire the word and I wonder if you'd reflect upon it, how often you have used the word respect, that there was a respect directed toward and a respect derived from, et cetera, et cetera, but you use the word often.

Harrelson:   Yes. Yes, that's certainly a characteristic thing of our community, I think, and uh... my father certainly had that of, of his neighbors.

Interviewer 1:   Was it of the time, was it of the place, was it the combination, why?

Harrelson:   Well, I think, I think that it was, in part, what that little church community did. It taught people respect for neighbors and taught people respect for persons with knowledge, persons-- respect for persons with age.

Interviewer 1:   So there was a dignity that went along with this?

Harrelson:   There certainly was. There certainly was. Yes. People, people had that uh... you know, it was our understanding that they had that as such, not that we conferred it upon them but then we ought to treat them with the dignity that was, in fact, theirs.

Q:   Now if you-- for high school, you had to come to South Port then or was it, at that point, had they already started...

Harrelson:   They had a high school at Bolivia.

Q:   At Bolivia.

Harrelson:   Uh huh. And we...

Q:   What was their sense of-- I mean, was everybody rural so it didn't matter or were you still considered kind of out in the country coming into Bolivia even?

Harrelson:   Uh... no, I think that everybody came by bus because Bolivia was very small. Uh... the only uh... families I can remember from Bolivia were the uh... two stars in our basketball uh... team who lived right in the village but virtually everyone came from some distance away. Uh... and uh... and Bolivia high school was small, had very little library, but it was such a good community and it had a few stars, as you know almost every school does. There was a Miss Josie, English teacher, uhm... red hair and kind of awkward and not very attractive but who had such a love for the two things I wanted most and that was order, you know, and solidity in life, something that you could really depend upon. Well, by god, grammar you could depend upon and she taught us grammar, you know, and you simply recognized that language has a structure and it ought to be observed and, as you say, respected. (laughter) So we learned good English grammar.

And the second thing she had was a love for literature and these two things don't always go together. Sometimes you get the pen-- the martinet uhm... but this is a person who cared about precision and structure but who also had, you know, a soaring imagination and she taught us American and English literature, not a whole lot of it but enough of it for me to be captured by both of those things. Now, and I've gone on to have to learn a dozen languages uh... and it really started with Miss Josie. She is-- and the other teacher was a mathematics teacher who also was roped into teaching history because he probably volunteered. He didn't know much history and he couldn't pronounce the names that we children knew. He would say Nebushadnazer for Nebuchadnezzar and things like that but, when he talked about the ancient world, it was clear that he was transported. He was there, you know, with the campaigns. He was there with Zinnafen[ph?] on the march and that-- you know, this sense of being so caught up with the power and importance of the ancient worlds, you know, captured my imagination a bit. I didn't learn much mathematics from him but I learned a lot of history from him. And I-- my love of history uh... goes back to him so there are two teachers from that little school...

Q:   Made a difference.

Harrelson:   ...that made a huge difference in my life.

Q:   So you decided to go into the ministry. We're jumping...

Harrelson:   Lots of years.

Q:   And the war came along.

Harrelson:   That's right. I had gotten started, had a year and a half.

Q:   At?

Harrelson:   Uh... at Mars Hill college, a little Baptist school near Asheville, now a four-year school. In those days, it was a junior college. And a good one, a really good one. I started Greek at 7:30 in the morning, had that six days a week during my first year. I went to the school with $50 and I worked to pay for everything and uh... had no problems. Uh... it was a, a very close community religiously and, there, the religious fanatics finally got to me. I became elected to be the Baptist student union president, I think it was, toward the end of my first year, which gave me then some responsibilities in the beginning of the second year. And we, some of these devout folks felt that the football people had to be saved from eternal damnation and so we started prayer sessions in their dormitories, you know, to drive them into guilt and despair and they couldn't do something that they otherwise probably didn't want to do. And that soured me and I began to feel ashamed of myself and disgusted with the idea that we should, you know, use that kind of hammer to try to drive people into guilt and fear, to make them make some kind of change in their lives. So I suddenly backed away from it and, when Pearl Harbor came, much-- by then, I was in love with this woman in the other room and...

Q:   Who was your wife, I want to make sure that's on the record. (laughter)

(cross-talk)

Q:   The woman in the other room sounds-- yeah. (laughter) We're trying to help you.

Interviewer 1:   You made her an honest woman shortly afterward.

Harrelson:   Anyway, uh... when Pearl Harbor came, uhm... my younger brother and I immediately enlisted. He got in right away and uh... my eyesight was uh... by then, a little bit uh... strained and uh.. the navy didn't want people with glasses at that time. You had to pass an eye exam without glasses. And uh... I didn't but the man in Asheville, on December 20-- December 8th, I guess, when I went in, that Monday, said, "You come back. Go home for Christmas vacation and then go to Raleigh and you can get in." And so I did. But anyway, out when I left, that was the point I was making, it was with a kind of relief that I'd gotten out of that kind of religious community where not the faculty but the student body uh... had such a notion of religion that it had become uh... begun to uh... I really just felt whatever commitment I had made to be a minister had to be reassessed. So there were then these four years in the navy...

Q:   And we already...

Harrelson:   You've got all that. (laughter)

Q:   For the record, we have an interview on that which was very interesting but we'll pass on that.

Harrelson:   Pass on that. Yes.

Q:   You came back?

Harrelson:   Came back in '45.

Q:   '45. A long, that was a long time to be gone.

Harrelson:   Yes. And immediately enrolled at the University of Chapel Hill. I got up on the 16th and, by the 25th, I guess, I was in a short quarter that was introduced for persons like me.

Q:   Now how old were you at that time?

Harrelson:   Uhm... let's see. 15, 20 I began my college, 21 I went into the navy, 25, I was 25.

Q:   25.

Harrelson:   And thought that I was so old I could never amount to anything because that was so much older than the others.

Q:   Weren't there a lot of veterans in the same position coming back?

Harrelson:   Sure. There were...

Q:   Did you see...

Harrelson:   ...and that ought to have given me more consolation but it didn't. I don't know why but, but I just had this sense that-- of course, I had learned, by then, what education was and I realized that I had had five years out of high school when I could have learned three, four languages and been much better prepared for philosophy or whatever else was in store for me. When I got in line to register at Chapel Hill, there was a, a woman in front of me in the line and she said, "What are you going to major in?" and I told her I didn't know. I'd thought about history and thought about philosophy and she said, "Oh, philosophy. There's Helmut Koontz here, a refugee from Germany. He is great. He's in..." and he had a great interest in classical philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, pre-Socratics and-- so I registered for one of his classes and made a kind of tentative commitment to a major in philosophy. So it was a great idea. It was very good. And, and he wa-- he became a very powerful influence in my life.

Q:   Had you given up at the ministry at this point?

Harrelson:   Yes, I told him that I uh... thought that whatever else I did, I didn't want to do that. During the war years, I'd also had the experience of, of chaplains and it was, on the whole, very bad experience. When my first child was born, uh... Della and I had gotten married in the early months of my naval uh... life, uh... engaged and then married and uh... the first child came in July '43 and I was at San Diego at the destroyer base there and wanted to get home and the chaplain of the destroyer base was a self-indulgent and corrupt individual and he treated me with such contempt when I told him that my child had been born and my wife was partially paralyzed and the child had uh.. been an obstetrics delivery and was scarred and I needed to get home and see him. He said, "That's all an invention. I don't believe a word of it. Get out of my office."

Anyway, my supply officer had gotten me back and I got to see him but that was one experience. And then, when I was uh... for a long time, on the submarine base in uh... Pearl Harbor, uh... (laughs) the experience there was the other way around. We had chaplains who looked to me as though-- they were teenagers who, who didn't have a clue, I thought, as to what the world was like. They were so stupid that they were silly and, and so the presentation of religion uh... just seemed to me, you know, a clear giveaway what, what in the world had I thought of to think of becoming a minister? I mean, that is the, the worst idea I had ever had had. And I had become a, a serious reader of philosophy during all those years that I was in the navy and doing nothing, as the other tape makes clear. (laughter) So I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted to because, in the navy, I was always waiting for the next thing.

Interviewer 1:   So you supported yourself with the GI Bill, probably, $75 a month, as I remember?

Harrelson:   Yes. Was absolutely fantastic. Uh... the, the GI Bill covered my expenses at Chapel Hill. I, I taught there in the last semester-- oh, by the way, I did the two and a half years that remained in a year and a half and I, I took care of the family and then I went to Union Seminary in New York, the three-year program I did in two years.

Q:   But now you said you went to Union Seminary. What triggered that? I mean, you...

Harrelson:   That-- this Professor Koontz [ph?]...

Q:   Oh, he...

Harrelson:   ...said to me on one occasion, when I was talking about what to do, I said, "I, I suppose I won't go on for graduate work in philosophy. I think that's what I want to do." He said, "Well, you know, when people make religious commitments, sometimes they're deeper and more important than they recognize them to be. Why don't you choose one of those theological schools strong in philosophy and see what happens?" And he said-- I said, "Which ones would you think might be the best setting for that kind of an approach?" And he said, "University of Chicago and Union Seminary." And so I wrote to both and, from the University of Chicago, I heard nothing. I told him later, when I became dean of the divinity school there, (laughter) I told him of that experience. (laughter)

Interviewer 1:   Payback. (laughter)

Harrelson:   But, from Union Seminary, the director of studies was a professor of new testament, a distinguished Methodist theologian and an extraordinary human being who wrote in detail and answered every question I put to him and I thought, when I got that letter, I was ready to say, it's Union Seminary and I don't care if I never hear from Chicago. (laughter) So-- and that was a great place for me. There, the Bible then was something I simply backed into because I intended to be a sort of philosophical theologian, following that line of approach but the biblical literature took me back to Miss Josie and also to colleagues, teachers and religion, of course.

Interviewer 1:   And the date was probably 1949 or thereabouts?

Harrelson:   That's right. I finished in '49. I went there in June of '47 uh.. and finished in May of '49. And uh... then stayed on for a graduate year, uh... got a fellowship to study in Switzerland uh... at Basle and, with that one year, and the one graduate year that I'd just finished at Union and Columbia University, I wrote a dissertation, a-again, you know, convinced that I had to hurry, hurry, hurry. So I, I never had the kind of leisure in college or theological school that was waiting for me. I didn't have sense enough to claim it. I thought that I had to work so hard and hurry so fast.

Q:   And how big was your family at this point?

Harrelson:   A, a second child had been born in '47, just as I was moving to Union Seminary. I had gone off to Union in June of '47 alone and, in September, Idel and I moved with a new baby born August 24th with our older daughter.

Q:   What was the climate of life like at that time?

Harrelson:   Well, it was a very exciting time, actually. It was uh... you know, John Foster Dulles was secretary of state.

Q:   The Korean War had started.

Harrelson:   Yeah, the Korean War...

Q:   Not Korean, conflict.

Harrelson:   ...had-- no, it had not started.

Interviewer 1:   No, '47 had...

Harrelson:   It was just before it.

Q:   Oh, I see. 1950 was the beginning.

Harrelson:   That's right. Just before it. And it was uh... cold war stuff. We were, of course, the Marshall plan was under, in full swing, and the Berlin, the blockade occurred about that time. R-Reinhold Neibor was one of the primary teachers up there...

Q:   At Union...

Harrelson:   ...and Paul Tilley was another.

Q:   At Union Theological-- they were both teachers?

Harrelson:   They were both teachers.

Q:   Did you have those?

Harrelson:   I had both of those teachers.

Q:   Wow! Those are seminal names...

Harrelson:   They are seminal names, aren't they? In addition, John Bennett and James Muhlenberg[ph?] in old testament, a name you wouldn't know as well but he was one of the famous interpreters of the literature of the old testament and it was that way across the-- across the street was uh... Abraham Joshua Hessman[ph?], at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a good friend of my professor Muhlenberg uh... I saw-- and I got to meet and hear him frequently. Martin Buber was over.

Q:   Where was Martin Buber?

Harrelson:   He came over for a seminar at Brandeis uh.. in 1951 or spring of '52 and then was in a seminar at Columbia, I was present for both of those.

Interviewer 1:   Could we interrupt right now and go to tape number 2?

[ audio off then on ]

Q:   Okay, we're here with tape number 2, Dr. Walter Harrelson. Same two suspect interviewers are here, Paul Zarback and Sherman Hayes and the date continues to be August 27th, 2003. I think we left off where you're at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Is it actually in...

Harrelson:   Yes. Yes, it's on uh... Morningside Heights, 120th and Broadway.

Q:   And you were just talking about the exciting time that was, there, because of the-- I guess the people that were there.

Harrelson:   Yes, wonderful faculty members, including some refugees from the uh... continent who had, because either of their Jewish connections or because of their stand against Adolph Hitler, had had to flee for their lives, uh... one of whom was Baltovich. Another was a remarkable historian of philosophy, Richard Kroner, uh... with whom I had a number of classes. Uh... he-- a Kantian, a classic interpreter of the 19th century and 18-- late 18th and 19th century philosophy of Germany but who also knew and loved early Christian philosophy. Uh... cared about Platonism and the way in which the Platonic tradition had taken root within the Christian community of ideas and that, of course, was just dear to my heart because my professor at Chapel Hill had been such a lover of the-- of, of Plato and of the way by which uh.. Christian theology had found, in Plato, a great ally.

And it's uh... been uh... one of my commitments in life not to do what many of my colleagues in the study of the Hebrew scriptures had done, to say what has Athens to do with Jerusalem or Jerusalem to do with Athens? From the beginning, I have thought Athens and Jerusalem had better find a way to get along and that, that, that's, I think, a very important thing. That is, there are, there are such strengths in the Platonic notion that the real world is that world of the form that surround us and, and hover over us and are the very substance of being and what we have here is more than appearance. It partakes of that reality that transcends the visible, uh... but it is not fully present here. That is, the substantive world is the world of ideas. The substantive world is the world of Religion, you know, it's a world of the forms and, you know, when Christian thought has a proper wedding with the realism of Hebrew thought, then that's a combination, I think, hard to beat. So I've been a kind of Jewish/Christian philosopher from early days and really think that's, that's the way to go.

Q:   Now, the program that you took led to the doctorate degree.

Harrelson:   Uh huh.

Q:   With the intention of doing what? What was your goal, at this point? You had a family growing and you must be 28 years old and a doctorate.

Harrelson:   That's right. The-- that's right. The, the plan would be uh... to-- because I had-- as I had shifted from philosophy to the biblical literature, I had had to go farther in the languages. That meant I had to learn Assyro-Babylonian and Syriac and Aramaic, at least those, but I had to furbish my Latin and, of course, Greek, I had done a lot of Greek at college, at-- that is, at Mars Hill and then again at Chapel Hill so the Greek and uh... to a degree the Latin were in hand but I had to do a lot in Hebrew and Aramaic and Syriac and Assyria Babylonian. I also took one other alphabetic language that had recently been discovered, uh... Ugaritic, it's called, uh... which is, in part, important for Philological work.

Q:   Where is that based out of? What language?

Harrelson:   That's in Lebanon, Sy-- Syria, actually, the little town Ugar-Ugarit is in northern Syria, that little strip of land that uh... Syria has on the Mediterranean coast, just below Turkey.

Q:   And there were texts that you were wanting to analyze?

Harrelson:   There were-- yes, that's right. There is a body of literature, mythic and epic literature, found there in uh... big clay tablets in alphabetic, in the-- one of the earliest alphabetic forms known. Uh... and uh... related-- it's a Semitic language so that, if you know Hebrew and Assyro-Babylonian, you've got a head start but it really is-- it has its own peculiarities. So doing all of this language work uh... meant that I was preparing myself for university teaching uh... if I were going to make use of all that. And uh... and that was what I thought I would do. I would be at a university somewhere or a good theological school.

As it turned out, when we were on our way making plans to go to Switzerland for that second year of graduate study, uh... the uh... president of Andover Newton Theological School in the Boston area came down to visit me and said, "We may have a job for you there." I went up and visited and my wife liked that community so much. We would have an apartment right on the high hill that overlooks that section of Newton to the southwest of Boston and, and I was offered the job. So I left for the year in Switzerland with a job awaiting me in the Fall of '51, what a different kind of world that was from the world today.

Q:   So you didn't have to go through 100 applicants and--?

Harrelson:   No I didn't.

Q:   And all kinds of interviews? Someone came seeking you.

Harrelson:   Never- never had to do it. I've never applied for a job since I applied for the job in the grocery store.

Q:   Why were you going to Switzerland?

Harrelson:   Uh.. I saw a- a program with the American Council of Learning Societies, uh.. which supported a lot of philological work and work in philosophy, and- and literature. And uh.. by then I wanted to learn Assyro-Babylonian better. I'd had one year at Columbia university with a very talented man, Isaac Mendelson,[ph?] but I wanted another year at least of uh.. serious work in Assyro-Babylonian. And we had uh.. at Basel, a wonderful teacher, for- William- oh, Walter Baumgartner, uh.. of all those ancient languages. He was a lexicographer uh.. and a very, very learned person. But the great thing was, Karl Barth was there.

Q:   Oh my gosh.

Harrelson:   And also, Walter Eichrodt, uh.. who had the most famous theology of the Old Testament at the time. Oscar Korman [ph?] was teaching there. Uh.. and- and there was an ethicist, Van Hoyen [ph?]. Uh.. and uh.. also an immensely learned man who had uh.. been chased out of Germany for his friendship with Jews, named Karl Ludwig Schmidt, who had had a stroke and uh.. was not in good health, but was a formidable intellect. So there I had Schmidt and Pumann [ph?] in New Testament, Baumgartner and Eichrodt in Old Testament, Van Hoyen and Karl Barth in theology and philosophical thought.

And in addition to that, there was a- a kind of liberal uh.. Swiss theologian, uh.. whom Barth hated, uh.. named Bourrie [ph?], Fritz Bourrie, uh- uh.. who was kind of a Marxist, and Fritz Bourrie was so exciting- my Lord, what an exciting man he was. And since he was so hated by Barth and uh.. run down constantly by Barth, uh.. he was having to scrounge for friends and, you know, places of influence. So he invited all the foreign students to his (laughs) apartment regularly (laughs) to have a kind of counterpart to Barth. And I loved that man. He was so exciting. Of course, Barth was- David Barth was, you know, unbelievably exciting. But uh.. that just made that community extraordinarily exciting. And with that American Council of Learning Societies grant, which was at that time a big one, $3600.00, you know, and a $1200.00 grant that I'd uh.. been awarded at Union Seminary itself, and then a small grant that was given to me by the Seminary to which I was to go, we were able to live, with the two children, uh.. in- you know, in rather a--.

Q:   A comfortable way.

Harrelson:   Yeah.

Q:   And your wife enjoyed that time?

Q:   She- yes, it was tough for her, 'cuz she didn't know the German or the Schweitzerdeutsch, the local dialect, uh.. but she coped. And, of course, our daughter was by then 7. She went right into the 1st Grade in the- uh.. the Swiss school and learned the languages very, very quickly.

Q:   So you were there for a calendar year?

Harrelson:   For a calendar year. We came in August and left in July.

Q:   And your dissertation came from that experience or--?

Harrelson:   Uh.. yeah I began a dissertation during that period, uh.. trying to block out uh.. the contours of it, and uh.. finally decided on a kind of a historical theological one on uh.. a cer- the city of Shekan and its importance for uh.. an understanding of the dynamics of the relation of Canaan and Israel. So it was a kind of phenomenology of religion approach to the study of the uh.. ancient world, and stood me in good stead. It was uh.. too ambitious a topic and I covered too long a period of time, in- or, you know, if I had really had- you know, so often students do that, if- if- later on I tried to get students to do what I did, not the- you know, it was just too big. It was over 600 pages and uh.. was also not adequately digested. Uh.. but I got it done in a hurry and that was for me at that time, you know, a prime consideration.

Q:   The key- you had it. And did you finish that at Andover while you were--?

Harrelson:   Yes, at Andover, uh-huh.

Q:   You went in as an instructor...

Harrelson:   Yes, that's right.

Q:   ... with that kind of obligation to--.

Harrelson:   That's right. I came back in- in the- in uh.. July of '51, and we moved immediately to Andover- to Newton, and I began study then. I had the use of the Harvard Library. I continued also to do my Assyro-Babylonian studies with Robert Pfeiffer at the Harvard Divinity School. I became a Harvard alumnus, and of course Harvard never let- forgets- never lets you forget if you're one of their alums.

Q:   But Union granted the degree, is that correct?

Harrelson:   Union granted the degree. Uh.. it could have been a Columbia degree. I- I- I chose the Union Th.D. because that really was uh.. a more specialized degree, enabled me to do and count four- count more of the courses in the languages than the Columbia program. I would've needed to take more work in philosophy, just in order to fulfill the requirements, and I'd already done all of that. I didn't wanna re-do, that work.

Q:   Now, tell me a little bit about, through all of this process, are you still identifying yourself as a Southern Baptist? In other words, so often in the theological seminaries today, it's like which denomination? But you haven't mentioned denominations really as--.

Harrelson:   No. No, I have uh.. that church, that Lebanon Baptist Church meant so much to me that I have never really been seriously uhm.. convinced that I should move to any other church. I'm really much more comfortable in orthodox- in the Eastern Orthodox worship and liturgy, or Roman Catholic or Lutheran, or Episcopal, 'cuz the richness of Christian tradition is simply not in the Southport Baptist church- that's not the way they see things, and not the way they feel it. Their hymnody is not that. No, their prayers are not. But nonetheless, you know, I came to life in that little church, and there's so many important things in this Baptist tradition- you know, at least in its heritage. Of course, today what we have are uh.. a bunch of sick people in charge at the national level- you know I mean really sick people who uh.. are not able--. I- don't know--.

Q:   Your choice of words is very diplomatic.

Harrelson:   Yeah. Well these- these persons, they have to be sick, because, you know, they're well educated. They cannot possibly believe what they say they believe. They cannot possibly, you know, believe that 99% of the world is doomed to eternal damnation, but that's what they claim to believe. They cannot possibly believe, you know, that the stories in the first part of the Book of Genesis are exactly historical fact- but that's what they profess to believe. Well, I- I- I call such people sick. But they--.

Q:   Can they historically believe that women are consigned to a secondary status for their--?

Harrelson:   No, that's- that's- well what that stems--. I understand that better than I do some of the other things. What they see is that this modern world is- is doomed to destroy everything they stand for, you know, and everything's going against them. The media are against them, you know, philosophy is against them, you know, the whole sweep and tide of history are against them. And they just can't stand it, and so they're going to say, you know, if we take this biblical mass diction [ph?], you know, at its face value, then what we can say is that a woman's place is in the home, and a woman must be, you know, submissive to her man. She must be. If she's submissive to her man, she won't be caught up in these kinds of movements that are destroying family life, and if people really take the Bible seriously, they won't be tempted to say that a homosex- sexual lifestyle is a somehow bearable lifestyle- they can't possibly say- they don't have to see that it's up to them. And so in this kind of desperate effort to make the world go backwards, you know, they just rear back and declare that they believe things that nobody, no sensible person can believe. It's a sick--.

(9:34 to 10:34,audio cuts out)

Harrelson:   ...modern life but they will not accept it. And so uh.. what that means is that somebody else's - philosophy, somebody else's way of speaking, must become the one we hold fast to. And what that happens to be is a late 19th Century way of conceiving Christian faith- a late 19th Century way of conceiving the faith that they uh.. affirm here in the 21st Century, because that way of conceiving it feels better. And I swear to God, they've got to be sick.

Q:   Interesting. Andover, how many years were you at--?

Harrelson:   We were there for four and uh- uh.. Idella would say it should have been 61. We should have stayed right there.

Q:   Oh she liked it.

Harrelson:   Yeah, right, she loved it. Yeah, there wasn't any reason ever to leave there. She was very obliging and very understanding. But I think she- she- and there's a sense in which she's right. That was a place where I had all the opportunities I needed to help prepare clergy, serious interested clergy- some more Evangelical, some less so, some Congregationalists, some Baptists, uh.. with many non- uh.. non-committed folk there, trying to sort things out for themselves. We had a great library at uh..- you know, the Widener Library was available right there, in Cambridge, just a step away. And I loved those years, they were really very good. But when the University of Chicago said, we need a Baptist to come and be our Dean, and we need a professor of Old Testament.

Q:   You came to be the Dean at the University of Chicago?

Harrelson:   Yes, I moved from there at age 35- that'd be the date.

Q:   Wow, I only--.

Harrelson:   And stayed there until age 40. Uh.. and uh.. it was during the days of a federation of theological schools and the only way I could have done it was under those terms because I didn't have to do all of the Dean's job. There was a--.

Q:   What do you mean by a federation? Again, for the record.

Harrelson:   Yes, uh-huh. The federation was- the University of Chicago's Divinity School joined with the Chicago Theological School- a strong Congregationalist seminary at that time- and the Meadville Theological School- a small but elegant Unitarian uh.. Theological School- and a Disciplines of Christ Study Hall that had had one or two faculty members but was never intended to be a full theological school, standing on its own ground. Those four joined together to form the Federation of Theological Schools at the University of Chicago. And the University of Chicago Divinity School sort of vested its powers in academic faculty work in a new Dean appointed for the Federation. That was a friend of mine from those Union Seminary days, uh.. Jerry- Jerry Brouwer, a Lutheran, a fine historian of American religious thought. And Jerry became the Dean of that Federation soon after it was born, and he's the one who invited me then to come and be Dean of the Divinity School. So I came uh.. to be a teacher, but with some of the perks of being a Dean, uh.. and with a sense of uh.. responsibility for the Baptist heritage at the university which is, of course, the central religious heritage at that great university.

Q:   Is that right? I didn't know that.

Harrelson:   Oh yes, it was established to- by John D. Rockefeller because William Harper talked him into it.

Q:   That's right.

Harrelson:   William Rainey Harper, a great Baptist- uh.. Old Testament scholar and theologian and man of affairs, an extraordinary man. He was their first president and he also was an educator of immense imagination and intellect. And so the Baptist heritage is central to the place, and which meant that my appointment was not just a ________ thing. No, uh.. there were people looking for me to do my best, to see to it that this- the Baptist heritage didn't get overlooked. We had a Lutheran Dean of the Federation but by golly there oughta be a Baptist theologian somewhere there, with some standing.

Q:   But as referring to your earlier comments, this would have been in the '60's, the early '60's.

Harrelson:   '50- yeah, '55 I went there.

Q:   '55.

Harrelson:   And left in '60.

Q:   The term Baptist didn't mean Southern Baptist.

Harrelson:   No.

Q:   This was really Baptist in the broadest sense of the--.

Harrelson:   That's right.

Q:   Historic Baptist.

Harrelson:   Yes, uh-huh. Well you see when I went to Union Seminary I immediately was associated with the American Baptists.

Q:   American Baptists.

Harrelson:   Uh-huh. And have- uh.. while I was ordained in the Southport Baptist Church, uh.. I- the- the southern Baptists uh.. don't bother, you see, to try to check on who's who, uh.. it's none of their business in the first place. But I don't know whether I've ever been listed in a Southern Baptist year book, that identifies the clergy. I've never sent in papers to be, but they may list me. But I've always been listed in the American Baptist year books.

Q:   American Baptist, yes.

Harrelson:   And I also have standing with the Disciples of Christ and with the United Church of Christ.

Q:   Oh interesting.

Q:   Those are my traditions. So Chicago, tell us a little bit about--.

Harrelson:   That was one of the most exciting--.

Q:   A reputation as a wonderful university but--.

Harrelson:   Yeah, they- they- they- when I got there the Associate Dean, who'd been Acting Dean, uh.. (laughs) uh.. thought so much of the university that when he would go on recruiting trips he would say to- uh.. to the people on the- and the campus ministers and faculty members, "Now, don't send me anybody who just uh.. knows that he- he or she's ready to be a minister. I want the unusual people, uh.. we- we at Chicago don't wanna bother with those who are traditionalists." Well when I got there I- I said to this fellow, "There's nothing wrong with a person supposing that he or she wants to be a minister. The question is whether we can help them to be good ones." You know? And uh.. so he finally left because he- you know, he had such a love of the place and such an idealized picture of it that I found that just absurd. You know, and- and- and Chicago always had this uh.. Chicago sense.

Q:   Still does.

Harrelson:   Yeah, the other people don't appreciate us. Yeah, I think it's right. They could never believe that they're properly appreciated.

Q:   Did you ever graduate anybody because the reputation of the Ph.D. programs at Chicago is that they all go in--.

Harrelson:   (laughs) Oh, that's right.

Q:   --and no one comes out because nobody's good enough to finish.

Harrelson:   That's right. No, no, I- I saw that. But a good number of the ones with whom I worked did.

Q:   That's good.

Harrelson:   And I was talking just yesterday with one, a woman, who studied at Vanderbilt and uh.. was in some of my classes in the undergraduate program there, and then took a few classes in the Divinity School but finished up at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. She enrolled at Van- or tried to enroll at Vanderbilt- I was on leave- and the people turned her down because she had been such a radical and uh.. she had also had such a checkered academic record. People weren't sure whether she was serious, because she- she fought for the Wilmington Ten or whatever it--.

Q:   Oh really- wow.

Harrelson:   Yeah. Yeah, she spent a lot of her time with the nuns and other radicals here in North Carolina fighting for their place and for a re-hearing.

Q:   Sinners and publicans and type associations.

Harrelson:   Yeah (laughs).

Q:   Have a care there.

Harrelson:   (laughs) Well this- this woman- Pamela Owens is her name- went to Chicago when she couldn't get in here and I told her that that was a second choice. I thought she had--. And I kept in touch with her through all these years. It took her a long time because her first professor went off to Harvard after a year. Her second professor said to her, "Your Hebrew's not good enough, go away, learn Hebrew and then come back." Uh.. and she wasn't about to do that. She knew Hebrew pretty well- not well enough but she knew it pretty well. And then that professor moved out of teaching and finally a woman professor came who was ready to help her and who's still there- Tikva uh.. Frymer-Kensky, uh.. who is a, you know, fabulous scholar. And Tikva has been a good- but- but she shifted to the Department of Oriental Languages where Dennis Pardee [ph?] gave her time and got her through. But she never got through in the Divinity School. She got- she got a degree from the Department of Oriental Languages delivered to her. So (laughs)- what a place.

But uh.. I would start home, after a long day's work, and might be stopped on the street by Bernard Lummer [ph?] who wanted to confer a little bit, you know, and he would say- tell me something he had read or- you know. And we might be there for an hour, standing on that street corner, people coming by and we would wave at them, you know, but we were carrying on a conversa--. Nothing was more important than the conversation between pe--. It was as though we were back in Plato's stoa. You know? We were back there in the marketplace. And that was uh.. heaven for me but it was hell for Idella. And she- by then we had three children, and she was taking care of everything. And on one occasion she said to me, thank God, "Life's got to be better than this. Now do you want a wife, do you want a family? Do you really care?" That was a wake-up call, as they say.

Q:   Because you were immersed in the life of a- as the Dean.

Harrelson:   Yeah, yeah, having the administrative responsibilities because that Federation, of course, had to meet, and all those people had to act as though they were presidents and deans- you know, for their soul's sake- and that was the thing that finally killed it, that persons could not hold the rank and title that they had and have so little to do uh.. in the normal course of events, that reflected that.

Q:   The Holy Roman Empire comes to mind.

Harrelson:   Yes, indeed, yes. And, you know, for people who were regular teachers, as I was, you know, doing a full load of teaching, it was manageable. But uh..- and the new President of- of the- Unitarian Seminary in Meadville, uh.. Sydney Mead, uh.. a extraordinary historian of American Christianity, his love was scholarship. And so these administrative duties were things we did with our left hand, but not for persons who were president of the- of the Chicago Theological Seminary, which was a freestanding seminary with a great tradition in its own right. And by God, the president of- of Chicago Seminary was a president, you know, and he had to have a faculty and he had to be recognized for who he was. And that- that really killed the Federation.

Q:   And orders and forms.

Harrelson:   Yeah.

Q:   Very important.

Q:   And so it split apart after that?

Harrelson:   Yes, uh-huh.

Q:   Back to each its own--.

Harrelson:   That's right. Mead and I uh.. in 1959 and '60 just said to one another one day, "We're wasting our time. We're not gaining sufficient benefit from this." Now Brouwer did not want that to happen, but Mead and I said to him, "We simply cannot stand this- you know, it's- it's taking too big of a toll from our lives, uh.. it's not- there's not a sufficient gain to keep the thing going." And uh.. so Brouwer recei- uh.. took over as Dean of the Divinity School, and Vanderbilt called me to be a professor. And that worked out well- that- that's what Idella wanted, it was- uh.. it was exciting for me but uh.. it was really more the thing to do for the family, than the thing that I wanted above all to do. I was a little fearful about whether Vanderbilt was going to be, as interesting a place as I wanted to be in.

Q:   And the year was what?

Harrelson:   That was 1960 and, of course, it was a time of the Civil Rights explosion.

Q:   When we chatted off camera- and my experience with Tennessee starts in 1972. But in the '60's, it must have been a florid culture shock.

Harrelson:   Yes.

Q:   To move from Chicago to Nashville, Tennessee.

Harrelson:   Yes.

Q:   I'm reminded of Heinrich Heine's quote, when they asked about what would happen if he knew the end of the world would take place? Remember he said he would move to Holland- there everything happens a year later.

Harrelson:   Yeah, that's right (laughs).

Q:   Well in those days anything happened in the world, it never happened at Nashville.

Harrelson:   That's right, that's right.

Q:   What was that like?

Harrelson:   That was not simple, that was not simple at all. Uh.. it had its great side, when we came in and uh.. had not yet sold our house in Chicago, uh.. the treasurer of Vanderbilt uh.. said, "We can provide you a mortgage." And I said, "But I really don't have ready at hand the down payment for this house I want to buy." "Well Mr. Harrelson, we'll just write you a check. We trust you."

Q:   (laughs) Gosh.

Harrelson:   And- and so- and everything was done that way. He was the treasurer, he was the financial advisor, he saw to the whole of the assets of that university, and he was a local, you know, Tennessean, who simply was smart as could be and a- and a magnificent investor. But he took care of all things financial at that university at the time, and Harvey Branscombe ran the place, you know, out of his hip pocket. And it was- uh.. Branscombe's undoing was, of course, the Civil Rights struggle, when James Lawson, uh.. the African-American member of the Divinity School, uh.. became the trainer in non-violence for the whole school system, black school system, of downtown Nashville. Uh.. then the owner of the afternoon newspaper, uh.. Staldwin [ph?] and the owners of the major department stores and the like, all of whom were trustees of that, remember, said to Mr. Branscombe, "You've got to get rid of that fellow, he's a Marxist, he's training these people uh.. to uh.. disobey the laws of the state and the city, and of the land. He cannot be harbored in our Divinity School." Uh.. and Harvey tried to get them to let him take care of it but they pressed and they pressed until finally he made the stupid mistake of dismissing that student, over the objections of the Divinity School Faculty.

Q:   And this was a student in this Divinity School.

Harrelson:   Yeah, a student in the Divinity School, uh.. who came to us from Oberlin- a brilliant student. Uh.. and I had accepted the appointment in the Fall in '59, this was the Spring of '60, and those faculty members resigned and I resigned. Uh.. I had accepted a summer appointment and then a regular appointment as of the Fall and I had to resign and, of course, wanted to resign and did so. But that meant I was without a job just as much as they were, because Brouwer was to take over the Deanship of the Divinity School in July. Uh.. so I lined up a job with the Presbyterians to teach over in Africa, if these matters had not been settled. Uh.. and it turned out that uh.. finally, you know, after all kinds of negations by everyone- the Medical School Faculty and the Law Faculty and some in engineering came to our aid and one of them, David Rogers, a professor of medicine at the Medical School, said, "I'm leaving this place and, as you know, I've got 12 million dollars."

Q:   In grants.

Q:   And it goes with me.

Harrelson:   And it goes with me.

Q:   Grants.

Harrelson:   You know, and they began to back down. So finally uh.. Harvey Branscombe did, as he as said later what he should have done from the start, he told the trustees, "I'll settle this matter, leave it to me." And so he worked out, with the aid of a number of- he talked to the people how to handle all of that. And the thing was settled and uh.. all of us with- withdrew our resignations, except those who had already made commitments they couldn't get out of.

(Crew talk)

Q:   Perhaps in order to provide a context, for people who have not been to Nashville, at the time you were there, would you name some of the other schools and colleges and universities that were there.

Harrelson:   Yes. Yes, at that time, across the street was a Teacher's College, Peabody uh.. College for Teachers, a very distinguished Teacher's College. And across the street and a little north of Peabody, was the Skarratt College for Christian Workers, a Methodist school, and a very good one. It had had by that time some financial difficulties but it had a president, a man named Holt, who was a committed Christian and one ready to take every risk for the sake of the faith. His students were more important to the Civil Rights struggle than the Vanderbilt students, I think. It's hard to imagine because those Vanderbilt students were certainly key. They weren't as important maybe as the Fisk ones, but they were probably second in importance.

Q:   But Fisk was another school.

Harrelson:   This- uh.. Fisk University, right, was across the street, a very important, private uh- uh.. African-American- school for African-Americans largely, though they had some white faculty members and white students. And the Fisk faculty uh.. was supported by the United Church of Christ and other uh.. monies from uh.. major denominations, and uh.. was really a kind of uh.. elite black college.

Q:   And then you had Meharry Medical--.

Harrelson:   Meharry Medical College was adjacent to Fisk University and was one of the two major universities for uh.. African-Americans training for medicine and dentistry, uh.. the other one being that at uh..- that- the- uh.. the- the- the Washington, DC school- I can't think now.

Q:   Georgetown or--.

Interviewer 1:   No.

Harrelson:   No, no, no. And uhm.. (laughs). I don't know very clear, I'll think of it in a moment.

Q:   But there was also a state--.

Harrelson:   A state, yeah.

Q:   Historically.

Harrelson:   Right, yes. Uh.. there were two- or there were three other schools there. Uh.. there was a Nazarene School, Trivecca College, uh.. not too far from us with some splendid students and faculty members, uh.. who came and studied with us in theology. And there was a Bible College, a very important Bible College, the American Baptist College and Theological Seminary, where John Lewis, among others, uh.. Vivian- uh.. C.T. Vivian, and many of the uh.. leaders in the Civil Rights Movement got their degrees- uh.. and that's still going, that's a very important school. And the University of Tennessee had a Nashville branch, and then there was a state school, uh.. the Agricultural and Technical College, now called Tennessee State University, once called Tennessee A&T- but Tennessee State University then took over the campus of the University of Tennessee, Nashville branch. Uh.. and then there was the David Lipscombe College, a Church of Christ College, located on the south side of the place. And there was a Free Will Baptist Bible College that was located in the southwest part of the town, training Free Will Baptists, uh.. in a college program that also served as their seminary. I may have missed some but those are the main--.

Q:   Higher education was a primary industry in the city of Nashville. Possibly state government was dwarfed by it.

Harrelson:   Yes, I think it was. I think that's right.

Q:   And so your fears about coming to Vanderbilt and being intellectually at the backwater didn't materialize?

Harrelson:   Didn't materialize at all, uh.. partly because of the strength of Vanderbilt. I didn't realize how good a university it was. I knew that the Divinity School was very good. But there was also a program in English that was extraordinary- a very, very good program. They had, of course, some people who were uh.. taken in, I think, by the effort to maintain a certain form of southern culture, who could not give up on certain things that had to go, in- especially in relationship to the Civil Rights Movement. One of my dear friends there, Jack Aiden [ph?], let himself become the president of the White Citizens Council, for the sake of making the point that there are elements in this culture of ours that are so important to be preserved that we gotta take risks to preserve them- a sad, sad thing. And Donald Davidson, that great, great interpreter of literature and such and American literature and- you know, and a- and a man of uh.. great and formidable poetic gifts- Donald Davidson was just too, too reluctant to see the changes take place that he saw happening with the Civil Rights Revolution. So that was one of the sad features of that great university, that we had some of the persons most able to lead us, least capable of doing so, for ideological reasons.

Q:   Now was there in the Divinity School a graduate program or was it primarily preparing practicing ministers or Ph.D.? Give some sense of--.

Harrelson:   Uh.. the thing I liked about Vanderbilt was that it insisted from its early days that it was a place to help people learn how to be interpreters of religion, academically, and a place to which persons who wanted to be clergy could come, and that their needs would be met insofar as possible, equally. It was not a school, like Chicago always- uh.. as Chicago almost let itself become, in which the Ph.D. program was the big thing.

Q:   It was the big thing.

Harrelson:   And if you wanted to study for ministry, we wouldn't object. That's about the way it had developed, at one time. Uh.. it was not that, and it was not the way Yale had done it, where you had downtown a big program for undergraduates and graduates in religion, and up on the hill a seminary in which we prepared people for ministry. Some faculty members from up the hill could go down the hill but others were of inferior breed and could not. And it was not the kind of program that Harvard had, in which the main thing was to keep alive a ministry tradition, even though we didn't much believe in it, while we did our graduate study. Uh.. and- and we had to keep it alive because that's a part of our tradition.

And, you know, eventually deans came to Harvard Divinity School who took the view that Vanderbilt had kept all along, and that was that we had to keep these programs working together. Uh.. and I think Harvard today is in a pretty healthy position, in that regard. But Yale is not. No- and Chicago still is not. Uh.. but Vanderbilt is a- it's shaky right now at Vanderbilt, new things have come along. But I believe that they are still committed, and committed about equally, to the preparing of people to be Methodist and other ministers, and to prepare people to be scholars and teachers.

Q:   And that's the intention, but they're not an undergraduate program.

Harrelson:   No, and the undergraduate program is now strong. When I came there, the undergraduate program was something that Vanderbilt was not invested in- undergraduate religion, that hardly fitted the well-rounded program of a college in which to introduce religion was to introduce a thing that ought to permeate the totality of the curriculum. So you have a little work in religion so that we'd not be criticized, but you don't really focus on that. And anyway, we got that big Divinity school- see, no, and- and a number of undergraduate programs in religion suffered from that same kind of approach. And that was sad, because the phenomenon religion, and particular religions, are a part of the intellectual heritage that any country has, and you just cannot afford to be, you know, thin, in an undergraduate curriculum. They're certainly not today.

So the Vanderbilt program in undergraduate religion today is really strong. And the faculty members in that undergraduate program do join with the graduate faculty of religion, uh.. to make for a strong and formidable new element in this mix that leads to the Ph.D., and it can diminish the capacity of the total faculty in religion and theology, to keep that un- that graduate program for ministry, as strong and central as most of the people there, I think, want it to be, because it can get overshadowed by undergraduate teaching about religion and with the specialties of religion, and graduate specialization in a number of religious areas, while in the middle of those two is a program that's intended to be integrated that prepares people to take up the responsibilities of actual on-the-spot professional leadership, in a given religious theological tradition, that includes worship and includes service and includes spiritual nurture. That's- see, that's the kind of thing--.

Q:   Interesting intensions.

Harrelson:   Yes, yes. It's just- uh.. they have to be kept together uh.. or both sour, I think- that is, to study about religion without remembering that there's some practitioners of religion, for whom the life of prayer and the life of service in the name of faith are absolutely central to their existence, so that when you talk about Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Buddhism, you're talking about two things- you know, an intellectual heritage, lots of literature, lots of important, valuable things, but you're also talking about something for which people have committed their lives, and from which they draw nurture, every day of their lives. And if that's not kept in mind, then I think that the- the teaching about religion, you know, loses, and loses a measure point.

Q:   Interesting.

Harrelson:   It's been the happiest thing in my life that I was able, always, to be in a program in which those two things were helping out.

Q:   Now you yourself became Dean at what point?

Harrelson:   After seven years, the uh.. the Divinity School uh.. I think was ready to say, "Well, Harrelson came here as a Dean and we didn't know whether he really was serious about uh.. being a scholar, or whether he was just waiting in the wings," uh.. and uh.. I was asked then to do that. And by then Idella had seen that I was- I was- I was committed to the family and I was trying to be a parent, and- and she was not happy about it, but ready to see what happened, if I took on that job.

Q:   And it's the time commitment, is that the issue, with Dean's--?

Harrelson:   Yes, that's right.

Q:   And also moving away from your scholarship.

Harrelson:   Yes- I never did that. That is, uh- uh.. what I did was uh...

Q:   Teaching.

Harrelson:   ... do the Dean's job a little less effectively than I might have done, if I hadn't insisted on being a teacher. But I kept that going and during that time did a microfilming project in Ethiopia that uh.. claimed a good piece of my life for a 15-year period.

Q:   Well tell us about that. That's interesting.

Harrelson:   Uh.. I went with Idella and our youngest child uh.. to visit li- libraries and universities in Europe and in Africa, uhm.. to see how far the interest in a new edition of the uh.. pseudoapocrypha, the writings outside the Bible--.

(Crew talk)

Harrelson:   ...the writings outside the Bible uh.. were uh.. about to appear. Uh.. I wanted to see a new edition of these uh.. writings outside the Bible, not the ones in the regular apocrypha, which of course are in some Bibles, but the ones beyond that- Jewish and Christian write- uh.. writings. So, we ended up in Ethiopia and I was looking in particular in Ethiopia for a- the possibility that- that a- a copy of the Testament of Moses, uh.. one of these pseudoapocrypha might be found. We had only one copy of it, and it was a pulibcest [ph?], that is it was- another writing was written over it.

Q:   Ouw.

Harrelson:   Uh.. so uh.. the patriarch said, "We don't know what we have and uh.. our manuscripts are being, you know, sold by the monks when tourists come through. Help us get them on microfilm. We can't just collect the manuscripts from the churches. That's- that's not acceptable." So uh.. I came back and uh.. got the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide a big chunk of money to start that process, and then kept it going for 12 years, with their support. And then the Ford Foundation supported us for another three or four years. And then the political conditions got so bad the Ford Foundation uh.. quit. We have over- almost 9000 Ethiopian manuscripts, uh.. at the St. Johns University man- manuscript library- the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library in St. Cloud, uh.. Minnesota- Collegeville, Minnesota. And that uh.. work was all done, or all but done, during the days when I was Dean, and that- that cost me, that took a lot of time that otherwise could have been given to Deaning or scholarship. But it was so important, I thought, and I was glad that I did it. And it has, I think, proved to be a very valuable thing. We've got a lot of materials uh.. that have helped to swell the ranks of these uh.. Jewish and Christian writings outside the Bible. So I'm really pleased about that.

Q:   Well that's great. And so most every summer you were headed off to Ethiopia?

Harrelson:   Yes, and sometimes during the academic year, for a week.

Q:   Wow. But I also note from what we've collected that you were a pretty heavy writer throughout your whole career.

Harrelson:   Yes, I- I--.

Q:   What were the areas that you particularly liked to write in?

Harrelson:   Well I've done a- a fair amount in a number of areas. I- the earliest uh.. book I did was uh..- well- well I did a- a popular book on Jesus and another one for children. I've tried throughout my career to do my writing in the way that I've uh.. done my work, that is try to be a helper for church life, and a contributor to scholarship. Uh.. and then I did a book on Jeremiah, uh.. in 1959, published by the American Baptists. The first major book was a- an interpretation of the uh.. whole Old Testament body of literature called Interpreting the Old Testament. The next was a book on early Israelite worship, in which I dealt with worship in the surrounding countries, as well as in Israel, and uh.. at- uh.. and the next thing I turned to was law, legal materials. I'd done a large number of writings for the New Interpreters dictionary of the Bible, uh.. and had- that was a multi-volume uh.. dictionary. And so I wrote a book on the Ten Commandments and Human Rights, and that one has uh.. been reprinted and revised now- more recently Mercy University Press has put out a new edition of it. Then I began to work on Jewish Christian relations and with a rabbi in Nashville wrote two books, dealing with the relations of Judaism to Christianity generally, and then with religious ethics in the two traditions, how they compared.

I've done a lot of Bible translating. I was on the Translation Committee that produced the new and- you know, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, uh.. and now chair that uh.. Translation Committee. Uh.. and I've written a book with some of the other translators, explaining that process. And I have a new book called The New Interpreters Study Bible, which is a one volume commentary on the whole Bible. I'm the general editor and I wrote on the psalms in that, and on the Book of Aruk and the Letter of Jeremiah and some of those other esoteric writings that I like so much. And I have a essay in a recent book, uh.. published by John Merkel, uh- uh.. including essays that uh.. these uh.. Christian scholars concerned about Judaism, in particular, have produced. Merkel asked us to say how did you get interested in the relations of Judaism and Christianity? And so mine is a chapter in that book that's- it opens the book, uh.. telling the story, some part of which you've already just heard, about how Judaism came to be so important a phenomenon for me.

Q:   All right, well we're about done, I think. I'm starting to run out of gas. How about you Paul?

Interviewer 1:   I think it's just an interesting commentary that you're back in Brunswick County. You started here and you chose to retire back to the home country, as your home territory.

Harrelson:   Yes. A part of that came from Wake Forest University's inviting me to help them complete plans for a new Divinity School there- that was in '94. So I came back and- and for a two-year period did that job. And during that time Idella and I explored this area where my brother was still here, and two sisters, at that time, were still alive. So uh.. family connections led me to think about uh.. this place. My wife is from Elizabeth City, and it could just as easily have been Elizabeth City, but uh.. I talked her out of it or, you know, prevailed and she found this particular locale, on the river. That helped, with that big oak tree out behind us, and that helped to settle the question, whether we came here or to Elizabeth City. So it's been fun to be back.

Q:   And we're glad that you're back.

Q:   Thank you.

#### End of Tape 5, Walter Harrelson ####