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Chester L. Wickwire Papers

 Collection
Identifier: R0031-CLW

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the social and political activism and work of Chester L. Wickwire (b. 1913 – d. 2008). The papers focus on Wickwire’s position with the Levering Hall YMCA, his position as University Chaplain of Johns Hopkins University, and his advocacy for civil rights and social welfare in the Baltimore area community. The collection documents Wickwire’s positions in and work with a number of noteworthy organizations including the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA), Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., Coalition of Peninsula Organizations (COPO), among others. The collection also includes materials documenting the student activities and events, speakers, cultural events, and community outreach and volunteer programs Wickwire created at Levering Hall YMCA at Johns Hopkins University. Also present are sermons, poetry, and other writings authored by Wickwire in addition to teaching and lecture materials.

The collection is mainly textual and includes correspondence, brochures, clippings, articles, reports, etc. Also present are photographs and audiovisual materials.

Dates

  • 1886-1985

Creator

Language

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Biographical Note

Chester L. Wickwire (b. 1913 – d. 2008) was a social and political activist in Baltimore, Maryland and at Johns Hopkins University where he worked. He fought against racial segregation and advocated for civil rights and peace in the Baltimore, Maryland area and internationally. Wickwire was the Executive Secretary of the Levering Hall YMCA located at Johns Hopkins University between 1953 and 1968, he was the University Chaplain between 1968 and 1984, and he was later Chaplain Emeritus after his retirement from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Chester Wickwire was born in Nebraska in 1913 and earned his B.D. and Ph.D. studying Biblical Theology from Yale Divinity School in 1953. He was ordained by the United Church of Christ. In 1953, Wickwire became the Executive Secretary of the Levering Hall YMCA located at Johns Hopkins University. Levering Hall YMCA was owned and operated by the Baltimore YMCA and Wickwire was employed by the YMCA. Wickwire’s role with Levering Hall YMCA included organizing and managing student activities, student services, religious activities, organizing visiting speakers, special events, volunteer opportunities, and programs on the Johns Hopkins University campus. Wickwire also taught various courses related to world religions, society, criminal justice, and other social topics as a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University.

Wickwire organized campus programs and events for students, including jazz and folk music events featuring well-known artists of the time, and invited speakers who discussed issues relevant to the day. Many music events centered around the student social space called ‘Chester’s Place’ located in Levering Hall. In Levering Hall, Wickwire created volunteering and outreach programs, including the Tutorial Project and the Baltimore Free University, that allowed students at JHU to become involved with the social issues of the larger Baltimore community outside of campus. The Tutorial Project, which is still active, began in 1958 and was an opportunity for Hopkins student volunteers to help tutor Baltimore’s school-age youth.

In 1968-1969, when the YMCA of Metropolitan Baltimore (formerly Baltimore YMCA) decided to separate from Johns Hopkins University, some members of the administration considered also removing Wickwire’s position. However, the Student Association created a successful petition to keep Wickwire on campus. In 1968, Wickwire was named Chaplain of the Johns Hopkins University. As Chaplain of the University, many of Wickwire’s student activities, events, advocacy, and programs continued. His community outreach and student volunteer programs such as the Tutorial Project also continued. He retired in 1984 and became a Chaplain Emeritus. Johns Hopkins University considered eliminating the university chaplain position or reorganizing some of the existing programs, before selecting a new university chaplain in October of 1984.

Wickwire is also known for his civil rights leadership and involvement in social activism and advocacy work with numerous groups in Baltimore. In 1959, he planned the first racially integrated jazz concert at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore. In the 1960s, he and others worked to integrate the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore County. In 1975, Wickwire became the president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore, a largely African-American organization of ministers in Baltimore. Between 1970 and 1984, he was a member of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission. Wickwire was involved with numerous community groups that advocated for civil rights, social welfare, and peace, including local organizations such as Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., Coalition of Peninsula Organizations (COPO), and Baltimore Committee for Political Freedom. He also held positions with many other local groups and organizations. Wickwire’s activism also extended internationally to Central America. Chester L. Wickwire died in 2008 in Baltimore County at the age of 94.

[Information for this biographical note was gathered from local newspaper articles and obituaries found in “The Baltimore Sun” and “The Gazette: The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University,” oral history interviews conducted with Chester Wickwire, and related sources.]

Timeline:

1913 Born December 11 in Inavale, Webster County, Nebraska

1953 Ph.D., Yale University, field of Biblical Theology

1968 Appointed Chaplain of the Johns Hopkins University

1975 President, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore

1984 Retirement from the Johns Hopkins University; receives the title Chaplain Emeritus

2008 Died August 31 in Cockeysville, Baltimore County, Maryland

Extent

10.5 Linear Feet

Abstract

Chester L. Wickwire (b. 1913 – d. 2008) was a social and political activist who advocated for civil rights and social welfare and fought against segregation in twentieth-century Baltimore, Maryland, and who was a Chaplain emeritus of Johns Hopkins University. This collection documents his work with Levering Hall YMCA at Johns Hopkins University, his position as Chaplain, and his social advocacy work.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following 6 series:
  • Biographical
  • Levering Hall YMCA
  • Chaplain's Office Student and Public Programs
  • Civil Rights and Social Activism
  • Tapes and Photographs
  • Teaching

Custodial History

The collection was donated to the University of Baltimore by Chester Wickwire on July 23, 2003.

Related Materials

Related Materials include an oral history interview with Chester Wickwire:

Warren, Mame, "Oral history of Chester Wickwire," transcript of an oral history conducted 1999 by Mame Warren, Johns Hopkins University oral history collection, Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries Special Collections Department, Johns Hopkins University, Batlimore, 1999. [https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/37810]

Processing Information

This collection was processed by UB Special Collections & Archives Staff in 2004.

Creator

Source

Author
Finding aid written by UB Special Collections & Archives staff (2004). Revised by Aiden Faust (2011). Revised by Laura Bell (March 2020).
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Baltimore Regional Studies Archives Repository

Contact:
H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons, Room 104
1415 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore Maryland 21201 USA
410-837-4253