William B. Ricks Collection

Identifier: MSS.0771

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The William B. Ricks Collection is an archive of personal letters, photographs and other effects belonging to Rev. Dr. William B. Ricks. Most of the collection’s contents are from the 1930s to the 1950s. “Daddy” Ricks worked endlessly to promote the Sigma Chi fraternity in the South. A notable part of the collection is a 1948 presentation album of correspondence with fellow Sigma Chi’s celebrating Rev. Dr. Ricks’ contributions to the fraternity. The album includes correspondence from prominent Sigma Chi members consulting Ricks on personal matters. This is a testament to the respect that Sigma Chi members had for Rev. Dr. Ricks.

The contents of the collection are arranged into four boxes: personal correspondence, photographs, portraits of William B. Ricks, and personal ephemera. The letters in the collection are arranged chronologically and by person. The photographs are arranged by subject. The personal ephemera include newspaper clippings, awards, personal correspondence with fellow Sigma Chi, Rev. Ricks’ Holy Bible and a presentation album from 1948. Ricks’ personal correspondence with family members, particularly with his daughter, provides an excellent insight into the personal character of Ricks’ personality, creed and philosophy.


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Language of Materials


Literary Rights Statement

Permission to publish, copy, reprint, digitize, orally record for transmission over public or private airways, or use materials from the William B. Ricks Collection in any and all other current or future developed methods or procedures, must be obtained from the Special Collections and University Archives Division of the Vanderbilt University Libraries. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards.

Biographical Sketch

Rev. Dr. Ricks was born on April 3, 1866 on a plantation in Nash County, North Carolina. He was the son of George and Sarah Ann Elizabeth Vick Ricks, one of the earliest Methodist families in eastern North Carolina. In 1885, Ricks enrolled at the University of North Carolina. There, he became a charter member and organizer of the Alpha Tau Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1889, Ricks earned his law degree from the university, and was admitted to the Bar in Virginia.

Ricks began his law career in Virginia, where he worked at a firm that would be called Batchelor, Ricks and Winbourne, but he only practiced law for two years. He enrolled in the School of Theology at Vanderbilt University and received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1894. While at Vanderbilt, Ricks helped found the Alpha Psi Chapter of Sigma Chi in 1891. Following graduation, Ricks did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago. He earned his Doctor of Divinity degree from Kentucky Wesleyan College.

Reverend Ricks worked across the South as a pastor. His first pastoral charge began in 1894 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He also served in Helena, Arkansas (1899-1903), Louisville, Kentucky (1903-1906), Bowling Green, Kentucky (1906-1910), Nashville, Tennessee and Columbia, Tennessee. During World War I, Ricks directed a YMCA camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. At the end of the war he was appointed General Missionary Secretary of the Methodist Church, one of its top ranking jobs. He was also the Presiding Elder of the Cumberland District, as well as the Director of the Bishop’s Crusade (1936-1938). Reverend Ricks retired from active church work in 1940.

Ricks’ commitment to Sigma Chi Fraternity lasted throughout his life. He was very active in the national organization, helping establish 45 new chapters in the United States and Canada. Ricks held various national offices including Grand Praetor (40 years) and Grand Tribune (6 years). In 1941, he was elected the 31st Grand Consul of the fraternity, its highest office. Ricks served in this position for two years. Throughout his career of nearly 50 years, Ricks visited almost all of the fraternity’s 124 active chapters. He was affectionately known throughout the fraternity as “Daddy” Ricks, and was also given the titled, “Father of Sigma Chi in the South.” Other accomplishments include participating on the “Put-in-Bay Committee,” which revised the fraternity’s constitution in 1896. In 1897, Ricks attended the Nashville Grand Chapter meeting to enact the changes. On May 2, 1939, Ricks gave the principal address at the unveiling of the Marble Monument at Jonesboro, Georgia, in honor of the Constantine Chapter of Sigma chi, organized on that battlefield during the Civil War. He also gave the address at the dedication of the monument to James Parks Caldwell, one of Sigma Chi’s seven founders, at Biloxi, Mississippi.

Ricks was also deeply devoted to his family. On January 1, 1903, Ricks married Nora Neal of Lebanon, Tennessee. They had two children, Frederick Neal Ricks and Mary Elizabeth Ricks Nagle. He had to grandchildren by his daughter: William Wesley Nagle and Elizabeth Cameron Nagle.

William B. Ricks died in 1963. He is buried in Lebanon, Tennessee.


3.13 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Provenance Statement

The William B. Ricks Collection was purchased by the Vanderbilt University Special Collections in 2011.

Finding Aid for the William B. Ricks Collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States


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