Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Roland Quinche Leavell was born on December 21, 1891, as the eighth of nine boys to conservative, religious parents in Oxford, Mississippi. Raised in Oxford, he followed his mother's wishes and entered the ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a pastor, he not only served well in a number of churches, but became renowned throughout the Convention for his success in evangelism. Because of this success, he won appointment to two of the most prestigious offices in the Convention: Director of Evangelism and president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. This dissertation is not, however, simply a recital of this man's successes. Based on his large collection of personal papers and on interviews with many friends and associates, it is a discussion of a paradigm, the Southern Baptist religious leader born and raised in the ideas and notions of the conservative South but forced over time to face the conditions of twentieth-century America and the world. Leavell never shrank from observing twentieth-century life. Besides his religious work, he studied early on in Chicago where he first encountered integration; he experienced the First World War as a YMCA volunteer and as a stretcher-bearer; he visited the China of the warlords; in 1934 he witnessed Nazi Germany at first hand; and he preached in Nagasaki soon after the city's destruction by the atom bomb. Despite all these experiences, he clung to a religion and theology rooted deep in what he learned at his mother's knee, a faith focused on individual salvation and the avoidance of the puritanical sins of drinking, gambling, dancing, and illicit sexual activity. Socially he made little progress; he believed throughout his life in the inequality of the races and the superiority of what he perceived as Southern values over those of the North. Intellectually he grew little as well, ducking and dodging the difficult questions the world posed to him. He stands in stark contrast to the fellow Oxfordian of his youth, William Faulkner, but he also represents a much more common type in the twentieth-century American South.