Walter Taylor Sumner

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Walter Taylor Sumner

Death 5 Sep 1935 (aged 61)
Burial Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, USA
Memorial ID 75267297 · View Source
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The Fighting Parson: The Fourth Bishop of Oregon
Bishop Walter Taylor Sumner, D.D.
By Richard Van Orman, Diocesan Archivist and Historiographer
Note: This article is abridged. The full version includes quotations from Bishop Sumner's writings and a discusson
of his controversial embrace of eugenics, visit OECN Online (
Bishop Walter Taylor Sumner, D.D. was born in Manchester, NH, on December 5,1873.

His father was Charles D. Sumner, a cotton manufacturer. His mother's maiden name was Rintha A. Thompson. He attended public schools in Manchester and graduated
from Dartmouth College in 1898. Raised by Baptist parents, he served as an organist and choirmaster at St. Thomas's Episcopal Church in Hanover, NH, during college and was confirmed as an Episcopalian. After graduation, he entered a program for outstanding graduates at the Western Electric Company. While working for that company, he volunteered at Hull House, which served poor immigrant families on the West Side of Chicago. Jane Addams, the pioneering reformer and co-founder of Hull House, assigned him charge of the boys' club at the cathedral. He decided to enter seminary.

Sumner graduated from Western Theological Seminary and was ordained to the diaconate on November 7, 1903, and to the priesthood on May 20, 1904. Sumner was priest-in-charge of St. George Mission, Grand Crossing, IL. In 1906, he was made Dean of the Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul, Chicago.

Walter Taylor Sumner was elected Fourth Bishop of Oregon, on September 16, 1914. Upon hearing of his election to the House of Bishops, former President Theordore Roosevelt
congratulated him:

Mrs. Roosevelt and I are so pleased; that you
should be made bishop that we cannot deny ourselves
the pleasure of writing to tell you so …
Sumner told the eminent Oregon newspaper
columnist and historian Fred Lockley (1871-1958):
One of the greatest assets of my fights for civic
righteousness has been the making of scores and
hundreds of friends. Some day I will tell you how
much I value the friendship of Colonel Theodore
Roosevelt and his splendid cooperation in my various
fights for better civic conditions.
On January 6, 1915, Sumner was consecrated
Bishop of Oregon #276, at the old Cathedral of Peter and Paul, Chicago by Bishops Charles P. Anderson of Chicago; William Andrew Leonard of Ohio and John Hazen White of Indiana. (A number is assigned to all bishops in the order of their dates of consecration.)
Also in attendance were Bishops Morrison of Iowa, Williams of Nebraska, Partridge of Kyoto, Toll of Chicago, Longley of Iowa, and Reese of Ohio.

Sumner would be the last Bishop of Oregon not consecrated in Oregon. He arrived in Portland to take charge of his episcopate on January 20, 1915. He received an honorary
DD from Western Theological Seminary, Chicago, that same year. On January 1, 1918, Bishop Sumner and Myrtle Mitchell were married in the cathedral in Chicago. They
were to have two children, Elizabeth Ann
"Betty" and Mary Jane.

Bishop Sumner's twenty years of work in Oregon would leave their mark. In 1928, Lockley wrote in the Oregon Journal:
Bishop Walter Taylor Sumner believes in militant
Christianity ... A good many people think enduring evils is easier than curing them. Bishop Sumner has always acted on the belief that the way to cure evil is to go right after it, hammer and tongs, and never let up till that particular evil has been put out of business. They call him the Fighting Parson.

During Sumner's Episcopate the first consecration
of a bishop in Oregon took place at Trinity Church, Portland, in 1929, when the Rev. Thomas Jenkins, rector of St. Barnabas, McMinnville, was consecrated the Fourth
Bishop of Nevada.

Bishop Sumners' diocesan accomplishments included the opening of the Gearhart Retreat Center for lay spiritual development and the establishment of the first "colored"
congregation. He did not live to see the opening of the Epiphany Mission, the first Japanese congregation, which occurred just one month after his death.

One high point of his episcopate was the 47th Triennial
General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, September 6-23, 1922, in Portland.

This was the only General Convention held in Oregon, and
second one ever held west of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1922, Sumner opposed the KKK-backed initiative that would have done away with private and parochial schools in Oregon.

This initiative was passed by the voters and was jointly appealed by the Sisters of the Holy Name, Mt. Angel, and the Hill Military Academy (Episcopal). It was overturned by
the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1925, as a member of the Joint Commission on Home and Family Life, Sumner presented a paper which strongly condemned birth control. In 1926,
Sumner was one of only 18 Episcopal Bishops
to favor prohibition.

Daughter Betty (1919-1992) became the second wife of Gregory Bateson, the noted British author and anthropologist, in 1951.

His first marriage had been to American cultural
anthropologist Margaret Mead. The diocesan archives recently received a significant number of artifacts from a friend of Betty's which had belonged to the Bishop. Daughter Mary Jane (Jackson) now lives in Anacortes,
WA. Bishop "Sandy" Hampton has recently visited her and has provided additonal photos and news items of her father's.

Bishop Sumner died at Good Samaritan Hospital, Portland, September 4, 1935. To quote a Chicago newspaper obituary, "He devoted years of study to the social evil and
was considered one of the world's most noted authorities on the subject." His funeral in Trinity Church, Portland, was led by Bishop Huston of Olympia, Bishop Peter Trimble
Row of Alaska, and several other bishops, a represenative of Archbishop Edward D. Howard; Governor of Oregon and Mrs. Charles H. Martin; and priests from the Greek and Russian Churches. He was buried in Manchester, NH, November 22,1935.

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  • Created by: Pat Van Den Berghe
  • Added: 21 Aug 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 75267297
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Walter Taylor Sumner (5 Dec 1873–5 Sep 1935), Find a Grave Memorial no. 75267297, citing Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, USA ; Maintained by Pat Van Den Berghe (contributor 47310624) .