Father James Harold Flye Papers

Identifier: MSS.0148

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The Papers of James Harold Flye (1884-1985) date from 1904 to 1983, with the bulk of the collections dating from the 1950s to the 1970s. The collection includes Flye’s correspondence with over two hundred individuals (primarily letters received), journals kept in scattered years during the 1920s and 1930s and almost daily journals kept from 1957 to 1981, Flye’s own writings, and information regarding James Agee. The collection does not currently include originals of the Agee-Flye correspondence, but it does include typescript copies of Flye’s letters to James Agee.

In addition, the collection includes information regarding Episcopal ecclesiastical matters, St. Andrew’s School (Sewanee, Tennessee), and Flye’s education at Yale, the University of Virginia, and General Theological Seminary in New York City. Flye’s broad -ranging interests and commitment to life-long learning are evidenced in files of collected writings and publications, lecture and continuing-education course notes, and subject files of clippings and miscellany. The papers also include information regarding a traveling exhibit of Flye’s photographs from the 1930s and 1940s, an extensive file of photographs from the 1910s to the 1970s, and audio tapes of telephone conversations, personal observances, and reminiscences. The papers are arranged in fourteen series:

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Correspondence, 1938-1983, nd (1.6 cu. Ft.)

Father Flye corresponded with over 200 individuals. This series contains over 900 letters to Father Flye and over 60 replies from him. The letters date from 1938 to 1983, but the bulk of the correspondence took place in the 1960s and 1970s. James Agee was a frequent topic of discussion; otherwise, the correspondence consists primarily of personal and family news from former students and friends who lived in the various parishes where Father Flye served. Writers often sought advice on personal matters; the scattered replies from Father Flye provide some evidence of the manner in which he responded. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the senders’ names; replies by Father Flye are filed under the recipients’ names. Letters with unknown senders or recipients are placed in two files at the beginning of the series. An additional file at the end of the series contains greeting cards from individuals with whom no other correspondence occurred or was retained.

Series 2: Journals, 1922-1981 (1.8 cu. ft.)

Typescripts and manuscripts of journals dating from scattered years in the 1920s and 1930s and an almost continuous run of journals with daily entries dating from 1957 to 1981. The journals record in some detail the daily events in Flye’s life, along with his thoughts and reminiscences. Of special interest is the journal he kept on a trip to Europe with James Agee in 1925. Arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Writings, 1919-1981 (. 5 cu. ft.)

Father Flye’s writings between 1919 and 1981, most of them unpublished and on a variety of subjects. Of particular interest for shedding light on Flye’s world view are essays on pacifism, neutrality during World War II, educational philosophy, civil disobedience, and hazing. Arranged chronologically.

Series 4: Materials Related to James Agee, 1923-1977 (1.0 cu. ft.)

Typed copies of Father Flye’s letters to James Agee, 1936-1955, articles about Agee, some writings by Agee, and reviews of Agee’s books and of the published collection of his letters to Father Flye. Voluminous clippings consist primarily of reviews of The Letters of James Agee to Father Flye and of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Death in the Family, and of the play and movie All the Way Home, based on the novel. Some clippings of interviews with Father Flye about Agee also provide information about the priest. The correspondence is filed first; the remaining files are arranged by topic.

Series 5: Ecclesiastical Matters, 1915-1982 (1.6 cu. ft.)

Sermon notes, clippings, collected brochures and tracts, church bulletins and newsletters, and some correspondence. Includes information on Episcopal and Catholic monastic orders, the Episcopal liturgy, and Flye’s statement regarding his views on the ordination of women. Organized alphabetically by topic.

Series 6: St. Andrew’s School, 1917-1981 (2.5 cu. ft.)

Fund raising brochures, newsletters and newspapers, student regulations, yearbooks, memorabilia, student papers and tests, and Flye’s gradebooks. Arranged alphabetically by topic or title and by format.

Series 7: Education, 1904-1970 (2.9 cu. ft.)

Materials related to Flye’s education at Yale, the University of Virginia, and General Theological Seminary. Includes class lecture notes, memorabilia, miscellaneous publications, and Volumes One through Six plus Supplements of the History of the Class 1910, Yale College. Biographical sketches submitted by Flye for those volumes are a good source for basic details about his life. Arranged alphabetically by topic and format.

Series 8: Notes, miscellaneous, 1918-1983 (.4 cu. ft.)

Notes from lectures and seminars attended between 1918 and 1967, undated copied quotations and bits of information, and notes on telephone conversations with Robert Costa, a friend and writer, in 1969-70, 1983, and other times with no dates recorded. Arranged alphabetically by topic.

Series 9: Collected Writings and Publications, 1900-1981 (6.2 cu. ft.)

Articles, pamphlets, stories, and poetry by friends and by writers Flye admired, much of it unpublished, dated between 1923 and 1980. Arranged alphabetically by author. Also, scattered issues of magazines dating from 1900 to 1967, arranged alphabetically by title.

Series 10: Subject File, nd (3.3 cu. ft.)

Pamphlets, brochures, clippings, and miscellany on a variety of subjects, particularly politics, foreign relations, and eastern and mystical religions. Arranged alphabetically.

Series 11: Financial Matters, 1957-1983 (.21 cu. ft.)

A copy of Father Flye’s will, correspondence regarding the sale of property in Franklin County, Tennessee, and information about his burial plot in Sewanee, Tennessee. Arranged by topic.

Series 12: Materials Related to Father Flye, c. 1970-1983 (.21 cu. ft.)

Mostly correspondence of Father Flye’s primary care-giver during his last years on matters related to Flye. Includes some clippings, memorabilia, and miscellany. Arranged by topic.

Series 13: Photography, c. 1910s -1980s (6.1 cu. ft.)

Files regarding a traveling exhibit of Flye’s photographs entitled “Through the Eyes of a Teacher”, which toured in 1980-81. Includes correspondence, clippings, financial information, transcripts of interviews with Flye about photography, and galleys of labels and the catalogue. Arranged alphabetically by topic or type of material. Also includes hundreds of photos of children from St. Andrew’s, friends of Father Flye from the various parishes he served over the years, trips to Europe, and of Father Flye himself. Arranged chronologically and topically.

Series 14: Audio Recordings, c. 1940s-1980s (3.3 cu. ft.)

Tapes of James Agee and others reading from their own and others’ works and Father Flye’s sermons, comments on political events, and telephone conversations. Formats included are reel to reel tapes, cassette tapes, and Dictaphone discs transcribed to cassette tapes. Arranged in numerical order.


  • 1904 - 1983

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact specialcollections@vanderbilt.edu.

Biographical Note - James Harold Flye

James Harold Flye was born in Bangor, Maine, on October 17, 1884. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Winter Park, Florida. Flye received his initial education at Rollins Academy in Winter Park, graduating in 1903. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree. from Yale in 1910. In the 1910-11 school year, he served as associate principal of a high school in Orlando, Florida. During that year, he converted from Congregationalism to Anglo-Catholicism and was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in December, 1910.

In 1912, Flye received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Virginia. He taught history at a high school in Columbus, Georgia, during the 1912-1913 school year. From 1913 to 1915, he studied at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating in June 1915. In May, 1915, he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and in December, he was ordained into the priesthood.

Father Flye married artist Grace Eleanor Houghton in Orlando, Florida on July 15, 1915. Born in Toledo, Ohio, she was the daughter of Major A.C. and Amy (Twitchell) Houghton. Following their marriage, Father Flye became the rector at St. Stephen’s Church in Milledgeville, Georgia. He remained in that position until 1918.

In 1918, Father Flye began his lengthy career as a history teacher at St. Andrew’s School in Sewanee, Tennessee. The school had been established around the turn of the century as a mountain mission school by the Order of the Holy Cross, an Episcopal monastic order. It was during his first year at St. Andrew’s that Flye befriended James Agee, then a ten year old student. Flye served as Agee’s friend, confidant, and mentor until Agee’s death from a heart attack in1955.

Father Flye remained at St. Andrew’s until 1954. During the summers, he served as a priest in the cathedral parishes of Chicago and Milwaukee, at St. Mark’s in Philadelphia, at the Church of the Incarnation in Washington, D.C., at a mission parish in the Bahamas, at St. Edward the Martyr’s in Harlem, and at St. Luke’s in Greenwich Village, New York City. Shortly before his retirement from St. Andrew’s in 1954, Father Flye’s wife died.

After his retirement, he served at St. James Church in Wichita, Kansas (1954-1958) and at St. Barnabas in Omaha, Nebraska (1958-1959). In 1959, he retired to Greenwich Village in New York City, where he continued to assist at St. Luke’s through the early 1970s.

Flye spent the early years of his retirement preparing for publication the letters that James Agee had written him over the years. In 1962, The Letters of James Agee to Father Flye was published. A second edition came out in 1971 and included some of Father Flye’s letters to Agee. Aside from those two books, his parochial responsibilities, and an exhibition of his photographs, Flye spent his retirement years maintaining an extensive correspondence and a daily journal of his thoughts and experiences. He died on April 14, 1985.


27.30 Linear Feet (65 Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials



The Papers of James Harold Flye (1884-1985) date from 1904 to 1983, with the bulk of the collections dating from the 1950s to the 1970s. The collection includes Flye’s correspondence with over two hundred individuals (primarily letters received), journals kept in scattered years during the 1920s and 1930s and almost daily journals kept from 1957 to 1981, Flye’s own writings, and information regarding James Agee.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the Father James Harold Flye Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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