All posts by David Malone

The Longest Strike in History

Tom HigdonIn recent years much has been happening in the world of unions, collective rights and strikes. April 1st marks the anniversary of what has been called the longest strike in history. What makes the story of this strike amazing, along with its length, was who the strikers were. On April 1, 1914 the dismissal of the teachers of the local school in Burston, Norfolk, England took effect. Kitty and Tom Higdon were relieved of their duties. In response to this 66 of the school’s 72 children went on strike and marched about the village demanding the return of their teachers. Officially, the strike never ended.

In 1902 Parliament passed the Education Bill that stated that working-class children were entitled to an education. In places like Burston that education prepared students for little more than work in the factories, fields or domestic service. Christian educators like Tom and Kitty Higdon believed that that all children should have a better education than what many districts offered. They saw that education was an opportunity for a better life. In 1902 the Higdons began teaching near Aylsham, thirty-some miles from Burston. It was here, in this highly agricultural area, that they organized an agricultural workers union and help local workers make their way onto the local education committee. These committees were often dominated by farm owners who sought to be sure that students were educated sufficiently to work on local farms but not much more. With such limited education workers and their children often lived in squalid conditions and they often took children out of school whenever seasonal cheap labor was needed, thus hampering their education further.

By 1911 the Higdon’s work created a rift in the local community and they were dismissed. It was at this time that they moved south to Burston. In Burston the Higdons arrived and took up the posts of School Mistress and Assistant Master. Tom also served as a Methodist lay preacher. In this part of rural Norfolk the squires and farmers ruled and held sway over the workers, who were expected to work for very low wages–often barely enough to live on with both pay and living conditions at an appalling level. Housing was atrocious and people died because of conditions. The local rector’s salary was 15 times that of the average local worker.

Like Aylsham, the Higdon’s encouraged the workers to take matters into their own hands, especially through changing the Parish Council. It was the Parish Council that set the rates of pay for field workers. In 1914 the local workers were able to assume full control of the council after a full slate of local hands were elected. In response to their agitation the Higdons were removed as teachers by the local school council, a council still under the control of the farm owners. It was their removal that sparked the school strike. Kitty and Tom Higdon teaching on the green (from the Burston Rebellion)The school children marched to express their frustrations. The Higdons continued to teach the children on the local village green. To quell the defiance the school board took parents to court and fined them for failing maintain the enrollment of their children in school. When this didn’t succeed workers were evicted from their homes. The rector evicted workers from the land they rented to grow vegetables. Even the local Methodist minister was censured for aiding the students and their families. Eventually the students and teachers moved into local workshops and a “free” school was built and opened in 1917. It remained a “school of freedom” until 1939 when Tom Higdon’s death in 1939 when Kitty could no longer keep the school open.

The story of the strike is told in the 1985 film The Burston Rebellion directed by Norman Stone, whose papers are housed in the Special Collections.

“The smartest guy in Congress…”

Gerald Ford said of John Bayard Anderson, “He’s the smartest guy in Congress, but he insists on voting his conscience instead of party.” This statement spoke well of the son on a Swedish immigrant who sought to honor his beliefs. Anderson, from Rockford, Illinois (Illinois’ 16th Congressional district) served in the U. S. House of Representatives for twenty years (ten terms) and was a candidate for president in the 1980 election.

Born in 1922, Anderson was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Wheaton (LL.D. — Doctor of Laws) in 1970 and spoke at Wheaton on occasion. Though honored in 1970, his visit on March 12, 1980 was not so hospitable. The election season of 1980 was the most significant season of political stops Wheaton College had ever seen. Illinois has, for a long time, been a key battleground state with its large numbers of electoral votes and the 1980 primary season brought many March visitors to the campus. The first visitor was John B. Anderson.

A devout Christian, as a member of Congress Anderson, on three occasions, sought to amend the U.S. Constitution to recognize the law and authority of Jesus Christ over the United States. This put him in good stead with conservative Christian voters, but during his race for the presidential nomination he supported certain abortion rights. His endorsement of a person’s right to choose, which he believed was God-given, put him at odds with the same conservatives that once heralded his work in Washington. It is amazing to see what difference a decade can make. Having served in Congress for nearly two decades Anderson retained his economic conservatism but grew much more moderate in his position on social issues. He and his fellow Republicans of similar moderate beliefs had become known as Rockefeller Republicans. Anderson’s wife noted that after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1968 riots she understood her husband’s devotion to his work. Though shaken by the events of that year she found she couldn’t match his level of concern.

Anderson’s reception at the November polls were about as favorable as he had received at Wheaton. In the end he received 7% of the popular vote and didn’t carry a single precinct, not even in Rockford, Illinois. Unable to return to his seat in Congress Anderson found himself as a visiting professor on several college and university campuses. Unfortunately, Wheaton College was not one of them.

The Wesley Pippert Papers document a portion of the Anderson campaign, including audio of several of his campaign speeches.

No Small Feat!

"Mite" Bible2011 is the 400th anniversary of the Authorized Version, or more commonly known, the King James Bible. Through the end of 2011 the Archives & Special Collections has mounted an exhibit, Out of Sacred Tongues, celebrating this anniversary by displaying original and facsimile texts that show the history of the King James Bible.

Included in this exhibit is what would be considered a “mite” bible. This miniature bible is just over 1 3/4 inches tall and contains the full text of the King James Bible. The text is so small it requires a magnifying glass to easily read the text. Fortunately the publishers included one in a pocket in the back of the Bible!!

The Bible was published in Edinburgh and London, Nimmo, Hay, and Mitchell and jointly published with Henry Frowde. The publishers had the text printed at the Oxford University Press who had recently acquired the ability to print “micro” text. Some may be familiar with this printing technology through the “compact” edition of the Oxford English Dictionary which allowed individuals to own the gargantuan 600,000 word, twenty-volume, dictionary–that took 80 lexicographers to complete– in just two volumes. That two-volume set, like the mite bible, came with its own magnifying glass, but stored in a drawer. This set was a great enticement to join book clubs like the Conservative Book Club.

The production of this Bible was no small feat in the same way that the creation of the King James Bible was no small undertaking. “Authorized” in 1604 a group of the “best learned” from Oxford and Cambridge, along with bishops and the chief learned of the church” set about the task of translating a Bible for the whole church. After seven years the 47 scholars involved produced what has become the most widely sold book in history. In 1881 when a group set about to revise and update the text they found that “the longer we have been engaged upon it the more we have learned to admire its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression, its general accuracy, and, we must not fail to add, the music of its cadences, the felicities of its rhythm.” Not until more recent decades has the text of the King James been supplanted by more modern renderings.

A rare breed – Charles Percy

Charles PercyCharles Harting Percy died over the weekend at 91. He was an unusual politician, not unlike another recently passed Republican, Mark Hatfield. Percy was on the moderate-end of the Republican spectrum, probably a bit left of Hatfield. Both were known as Rockefeller Republicans. He had broad appeal in Illinois, including in the African-American community in Chicago. The Washington Post’s Emily Langer said, “in today’s polarized political climate, Sen. Percy would be described as a rare breed–an unabashed liberal and skeptic about military spending and war….He repeatedly clashed with President Richard M. Nixon on foreign and domestic issues.” Again, not unlike Hatfield.

Born in Florida and a reared in Chicago, Percy was elected to the United States Senate from Illinois in 1966 after having worked at Bell and Howell for over 25 years. Percy remained in the Senate until 1985. On two different occasions (1968 and 1976) Percy explored the possibility of running for President, but did not run either time. His most important political act, and one that had the most enduring legacy, was overhauling the process of nominating federal judges. Implementing a system of broad input, including the bar association, Percy’s approach was unusual for the time.

The Wesley Pippert papers contain several files related to the life and career of Charles Percy. Pippert served as Percy’s Press Secretary from 1967-1968 during one of the exploratory periods for the U. S. presidency. The Pippert Papers are available to researchers at the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections.

Log Blog and Silos

Ebay brings forth some of the oddest things around. Sometimes it gives a glimpse into history and sometimes it just plain rips it wide open. Today’s post would fall into the latter category.

Wheaton's petrified logSeveral months ago, the picture shown here (really the negative) appeared on Ebay. It purported to have been taken on the campus of Wheaton College and clearly had Wheaton connections with the individuals shown. On the far left is football coach Jack Schwartz and next to him is Harv Chrouser, athletic director. Also in the picture is a player, Jim Kielsmeier. Of course, the “800-pound gorilla” in the picture, or more accurately the 7,300 pound item, is a massive petrified oak log. What makes this picture unusual is not the subject matter so much, though this is intriguing, but that this huge log should be on Wheaton’s campus. Geologic specimens on college campuses are not unusual, but what is unusual is when they disappear, especially those of such weight and size.

The fossilized oak log was said to have been presented to Wheaton College on October 23, 1964. However, today it can’t be found. Where does a four-ton piece of rock go to? And, not just any rock, but one shaped clearly like a log and on a large base? For those unaware, petrifaction occurs when a tree or log is buried underground and is deprived of oxygen and fails to decay. The organic material of the wood is replaced with mineral material such as quartz and the tree or log eventually becomes preserved in a solid “rock” form.

The listing on Ebay sparked several emails to current Geology faculty, all of whom post-date the original gift by several decades, in order to determine the log’s whereabouts. However, the inquiries returned no answers as the log had not been seen during their tenures. Further inquiries continued to turn-up nothing. Diligence paid off as departmental archives were consulted which revealed some correspondence about the petrified log. Now that the connection was verified the whereabouts of the log were still in question. Former faculty were consulted to determine its former location. It certainly had not been stored outside the science building, though it would make a nice monument outside Wheaton’s new science center.

The tale of the lost log continued until recent days when further digging uncovered a connection to Wheaton’s Facilities Management (formerly Physical Plant) staff. The “investigation” indicates that the large oak log had at some time been stored under the football stadium (built in 1956) and roughly a decade ago it needed to be relocated. Somehow a breakdown of communication occurred and the log was broken down and disposed of. Not a simple feat. Accounts indicate that a small piece was salvaged and retained as a personal keepsake.

This tale can certainly illustrate all that can go wrong in an organization as it grows larger and segmentation occurs. Silos emerge and the left hand may not know what the right is doing. Talking about and breaking down the silos may very well be the real “800-pound gorilla.”

From one language to another: translating Christ cross-culturally

Eugene NidaWord from the American Bible Society came over the weekend of Rev. Eugene A. Nida’s recent passing. Nida, who died at 96 years of age, had served the American Bible Society for roughly four decades. His greatest contribution to the society was his approach to training Bible translators for their work. After graduating from the University of California Nida attended Camp Wycliffe and worked among the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. He was a charter member of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Nida, born November 11, 1914 in Oklahoma City, was an anthropologist who had studied patristics and drew upon the fields of linguistics, anthropology and communication science to develop a new approach to translation work that became known as “dynamic equivalence” (later “functional equivalence”). This methodology later influenced secular translators in their work. This new methodology sought to retain local idioms through faithful adaptation of the text. His work helped jump-start the translation process that had previously relied heavily upon Western missionaries that were unfamiliar with the local language and its nuances. The newly developed dynamic equivalent translations were more readable and easily-understood than the stiff and wooden word-for-word translations that had been the previous standard.

Nida’s work fostered the creation of Bible translations in Navajo, Tagalog, Quechua, Hmong and hundreds of others. In the United States Nida’s work influenced the creation of the Good News Bible, a colloquial English-language version originally intended for non-native English speakers that was first published beginning in 1966. Nida’s legacy continues on at the American Bible Society through the Eugene A. Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship.


audio-icon-sm1LISTEN to Nida’s 1986 Morris Inch lecture at Wheaton College (mp3 – 0:47:24 in duration)

Friday Night Lights

Wheaton High School Football team, 1920The school year has begun in many parts of the country and, despite record-breaking heat, fall is in the air. This means football! Football begins on Red Grange field as the Wheaton Warrenville South Tigers take on the Glenbard West Hilltoppers from Glen Ellyn. Over ninety years ago Harold “Red” Grange (first row, third from the left) donned a football uniform along with his fellow Wheaton classmates and made his way to the local field with its simple wooden goal posts. Before play could begin it was likely necessary that the field needed to be cleared of the many apples that had fallen from the trees around the field. The “Red” Grange collection at Wheaton College is the largest publicly available archival collection on this football great. It covers much of his life and career.

Beyond a rock and a hard place – Mark O. Hatfield (1922-2011)

Mark O. HatfieldMark Odom Hatfield (1922-2011), a friend of Christian higher education, passed away August 7, 2011 at the age of 89. Hatfield, a supporter of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, was a former legislator and governor for the state of Oregon and served his home state as a United States Senator for thirty years. His Christian faith informed his perspective on the world and the legislation that he wrote. While a member of the Oregon House he introduced legislation to outlaw discrimination in public accommodations after seeing his fellow students of color refused hotel rooms in Salem. A former soldier, he was an outspoken critic of war, specifically the Viet Nam and Persian Gulf wars, and was not afraid to take his fellow Republicans to task on issues close to his heart. In the early 1970s he teamed up with George McGovern to block funding for the Viet Nam War. He was proud of his efforts to enact legislation in 1987 that banned nuclear weapons testing. Hatfield’s friendship for Christian higher education extended to Wheaton College where he visited and spoke on several occasions. In 1960 Wheaton College bestowed an honorary doctor of humanities degree upon Hatfield. However, his political views later put him at odds with Wheaton College president Hudson Armerding, who rescinded an invitation to speak in chapel. It may be that Armerding feared an unruly response in chapel similar to what was received by McGovern several years before. This “hiccup” caused a great stir on the campus and among alumni. The turmoil was repaired and Hatfield was invited to speak on campus, though not in chapel during this visit. Hatfield felt drawn to Wheaton seeing it as a place of good work. He noted that he felt “uplifted and spiritually refreshed” after his visit. During his later chapel talks and discussions with student visiting Washington, D.C. Hatfield would speak about fusing faith and politics and his life exemplified this integration. He never shied away from speaking on behalf of the poor, homeless and others in need. Hatfield wrote Between a rock and a hard place in 1976 that expressed his views on the Scriptures and socio-political action. Hatfield believed that the solutions to worlds problems should be demonstrated by the Church and not solved through military solutions. Carl F. H. Henry noted that this book would challenge all its readers. Having never lost an election, Hatfield was known as someone seeking the center rather than the left or right wing. He modeled Christian political action and helped influence the lives of many who followed in his footsteps, leaving a legacy of Christian conviction and compassion.

Frederick Buechner – Spy

Frederick BuechnerIn 1953 after great success and failure as a writer Frederick Buechner left his post at Lawrenceville School to write full time. After leaving the security of his job he found he was unable to write a word. Needing to make a living he pursued several options. After his initial failed attempt as a professional writer Buechner sought employment in the advertising world but found that he needed a toughness that he knew he didn’t have to weather the rejection that can come in that business. So, in a complete roundabout he sought work with the Central Intelligence Agency. The United States had developed a hydrogen bomb and Khrushchev had become the leader of the Soviet Union. If there was to be another war Buechner would have rather been in the CIA rather than back in the infantry. Buechner had to interrupt his studies at Princeton to serve in the United States Army from 1944 to 1946. When asked in an interview if he could inflict pain upon someone to extract vital information in order to save lives Buechner realized he didn’t have the stomach to torture someone and discarded the CIA as an option. After these failed attempts at writing and finding gainful employment Buechner found himself feeling that much of his life was a farce. Finding himself on his own pilgrim’s progress — his own divine comedy. This comedy took him to church, simply because he had nothing else to do with his Sunday morning. After listening to sermon after sermon Sunday after Sunday Buechner was drawn to George Buttrick’s sermons. One sermon, actually one phrase, in particular struck him with great significance. Buttrick, in an off-the-cuff comment described Christ’s refusal of Satan’s temptations and the counterfeit crown he was offered. Buttrick said that the inward coronation of Christ as King takes place in the hearts of those who believe in him. The coronation occurs “among confession, and tears, and great laughter.” Buechner stumbled upon the open door of God’s grace that had been opened to him as he mulled over the pair of words, “great laughter.” In his 1985 chapel address at Wheaton College he recounted that “On such foolish tenuous holy threads hang the destinies of all of us.” The spy’s secret life was of little significance for Buechner as he realized that there was a life hidden to him. He found what he had half or partly-seen at other times in his life. He said he “found Christ.” All the poetic, psychological or historical words he knew failed to fully describe this event. Buechner found he had to rest simply in the name of Christ.

John Stott (1921-2011) – Global Christian

John Stott
John Stott with Hudson T. Armerding, circa 1968

Word spread today that John Stott has left this earth and moved on to his reward following a short illness. Stott, who died mid-afternoon London-time, had a relationship with Wheaton College that went back many decades. He spoke at Wheaton on numerous occasions with nearly thirty recordings being housed in the College’s archive. Stott, who studied at Cambridge University and was the long-time minister at All Soul’s Place, Langham Place (Adjacent to the BBC), was a frequent-enough speaker at Wheaton College that a pattern for his visit emerged where he would have a time of questions and answers with students following his address. During his 2003 visit to Wheaton, responding to a student’s question of how to proclaim Christ in a post-modern, relativistic age, Stott responded, “I, myself, am persuaded that the major way in which the gospel can be presented to a post-modern age is not by anything we say but how we live. There needs to be in us Christian people an authenticity which cannot be denied, so there is no dichotomy between what we say and what we are. No dichotomy between our public life and our private life. What an incredible thing it is in our day that politician after politician after politician says “My private life has nothing to do with my public life.” What unadulterated rubbish that is. So, there must be no dichotomy between what we are in private and in public. What we say. What we are. That is authenticity. People have to see Christ in us and not just hear what we talk about.”

Stott was a strong proponent of the expository form of preaching, which seeks to shine light upon the meaning of a particular text or passage. Former Wheaton faculty member Kenneth Kantzer wrote in Christianity Today‘s pages in 1981, “When I hear him expound a text, invariably I exclaim to myself, ‘That’s exactly what it means! Why didn’t I see it before?'”

According to a Christianity Today write-up, Stott was born into a London doctor’s family where he spent virtually his entire life in the same London neighborhood. He would later become the pastor of the church he attended as a child, All Souls Church, though he was less interested in the service then than later. He would sometimes drop wads of paper from the balcony on to the hats of ladies below. When Stott was ordained Evangelicals were in the minority in the Church of England, without a single Evangelical bishop. He fostered the growth of Evangelical organizations, such as the National Evangelical Anglican Congress, within and outside of the church, proper. His biggest contribution to the church as a whole was his participation in the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization and its subsequent work. He gave the opening address and was the chair of the committee that drafted the Lausanne Convenant, which established a common mission for evangelical action. Lausanne was a defining moment in global evangelicalism. The records of the Lausanne meetings are located in the Billy Graham Center Archives. Stott was a concerned about global Christianity and his engagement was diplomatic and humble. When Stott traveled to Argentina to meet with Latin American theologian Rene Padilla the two found themselves in the middle of a heavy rain storm. They arrived to their destination completely drenched and muddied. Padilla remembered vividly the grace shown by Stott as he took the time to clean and shine Padilla’s shoes.

Along with the archival audio at Wheaton College several of Stott’s more recent addresses are available online through Wheaton’s WETN website