John Keith Benton Papers
Scope and Content Note
The John Keith Benton Papers are composed of 3.25 linear feet of sermons, articles, research, correspondence and photographs from his career as a pastor and Vanderbilt Dean. The dates of the collection range from the 1940s to the mid-1950s. It is divided into five series.
- Sermons—transcripts of sermons given by Benton
- Research Notes—notes and research on potential sermons and other lectures by Benton
- Programs—programs from Benton’s lectures and sermons as well as other church bulletins and programs
- Writings—articles and addresses by Benton
- Miscellaneous Documents—contains correspondence, drafts by others, as well as Benton’s Freedom Foundation Award and World War I pilot cap
Language of Materials
Literary Rights Statement
Permission to publish, copy, reprint, digitize, orally record for transmission over public or private airways, or use material from the John Keith Benton Papers in any and all other current or future developed methods or procedures, must be obtained in writing 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.
John Keith Benton was born on May 24, 1896 in Banks, Alabama to Martha Frederick and Arthur Franklin Benton. Benton joined the Army in 1917 and served as a pilot in WWI. He graduated from Birmingham Southern College with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received a Bachelor of Arts in Divinity from Yale University. Upon leaving Yale he attended Edinburgh University where he received his PhD. Benton soon took the position as professor of philosophy and psychology at Drew University in New Jersey before moving to Vanderbilt University in 1939 to become dean of the School of Religion. Over the course of his career, Benton gave numerous sermons and addresses but also published several theological articles, many of which are preserved in his collection.
Benton is remembered as the presiding Dean when Vanderbilt’s Divinity School began to admit African American applicants in 1952; he is reported to have encouraged Chancellor Harvie Branscomb and other university officials to examine their University policy on race-based admissions.
Benton served as Dean of Vanderbilt’s Divinity School from 1939 to 1956. While Dean, Benton spearheaded the construction of a new home for Vanderbilt’s Divinity school. Benton died on August 21, 1956 before the building was completed, prompting the University to name the building Benton Chapel in honor of his service. Benton Chapel still serves as the primary multidenominational house of worship and center of the Divinity School on the university’s campus.
3.25 Linear Feet
Special Collections & Archives
The Benton Papers were donated by Ms. Lyn Lowrey Honig to Vanderbilt University Special Collections in 2008.
- Finding Aid for the John Keith Benton Papers
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository
Special Collections Library
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