Bishop W. T. Handy, Jr.

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“They Called My Name.” Photograph of Bishop W. T. Handy, Jr. upon being elected to the office of bishop at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the UMC in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 15, 1980.

W. T. Handy, Jr. was born in New Orleans in 1924. He was ordained deacon in 1950 and elder in 1951 by the Louisiana Conference (Central Jurisdiction) of the Methodist Church. A friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., the two met while students at Boston University School of Theology. As part of his commitment to confronting racism and pursuing civil rights, Handy helped lead the Louisiana State Advisory Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations, the Baton Rouge chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Louisiana Council of Churches.

In 1968 Handy became the first African American hired to serve in an executive capacity at The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH), a denominational agency publicly accused of racial bigotry. After ten years of being a reconciling presence at the UMPH, Handy returned to Louisiana to serve as a district superintendent in 1978. Two years later, in 1980, he was elected bishop and assigned to lead the Missouri area of the UMC. Handy retired in 1992 and died in Nashville in 1998 at the age of seventy-four.

View a finding aid for William Talbot Handy, Jr. papers.

Bishop W. T. Handy, Jr.