Chester L. Wickwire Papers
Scope and Contents
The collection is mainly textual and includes correspondence, brochures, clippings, articles, reports, etc. Also present are photographs and audiovisual materials.
- Wickwire, Chester (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
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.]
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
10.5 Linear Feet
- Levering Hall YMCA
- Chaplain's Office Student and Public Programs
- Civil Rights and Social Activism
- Tapes and Photographs
- Baltimore Committee for Political Freedom
- Baltimore YMCA
- Civil rights
- Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore
- Johns Hopkins University. Levering Hall YMCA
- Maryland Committee to Uphold the Public Accommodations Law
- Personal papers.
- United Church of Christ
- United States Commission on Civil Rights. Maryland Advisory Committee
- Wickwire, Chester
- YMCA of Greater Baltimore
- clippings files
- Finding aid written by UB Special Collections & Archives staff (2004). Revised by Aiden Faust (2011). Revised by Laura Bell (March 2020).
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