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Bishop William H. Marmion Papers

Identifier: Ms-1986-013

Scope and Content

The Bishop William Marmion Papers comprises forty-nine five-inch boxes, documenting the forty-seven year ecclesiastical career of William H. Marmion. The Papers include booklets, church bulletins, correspondence to and from Marmion, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, and reports generated by the Bishop in his service to the Episcopal Church.

The Marmion Papers are divided into four series. Materials about the personal life of Marmion compose the first series, Personal Papers. This series contains photographs of the Bishop, biographical information, and newspaper clippings. Of note are a number of folders on social issues and events; examples include religion-related performances such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. This series also has brochures and maps on the sundry locales Marmion visited as a result of his travel to church-related events.

The second series details Marmion's Early Career from 1932 until 1950. During this time Marmion served as a priest and rector in several churches in Alabama and Texas: as Priest in Charge at St. James Church in Taylor and Grace Church in Georgetown from 1932-1935, as Associate Minister of St. Mark's Church in San Antonio from 1935-1938, and as Rector of St. Mary's on the Highlands from 1938-1950. The majority of the material in this series are on issues pertaining to the Marmion's work with the church, including his work with youth. A smaller third series covers the Bishop's tenure as Rector of St. Andrew's, Wilmington, Delaware, from 1950 through May 1954, and many of the documents in this series deal with the affairs of St. Andrew's Church.

The bulk of the Marmion Papers reside in series four, Bishop of Southwestern Virginia, 1954-1979. The series is divided into four sub-series: administrative, civil rights, international affairs, and the Vietnam War. The first sub-series, Administrative files, contains general administrative files regarding the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia and Marmion's duties in the Episcopal Church. Information covers a broad range of topics, such as projects and programs undertaken by both the church and diocese, in committee reports and diocesan reports, and correspondence pertains to the day to day operations of the diocese.

The second sub-series, Civil Rights, contains brochures, correspondence, magazine articles, and newspaper articles which Marmion either collected or produced on the civil rights movement, mainly from the 1950's and 1960's. Documents relate to the controversy over the biracial conferences at Hemlock Haven, a retreat near Marion, Virginia purchased by the diocese in 1957. While Marmion maintained the view that the youth conferences should be open to members of both races, many lay members of the diocese opposed mixed race conferences for young people, and only after five years of debate did the facility open to camps attended jointly by whites and African-Americans. The Bishop's yearly files on race relations from 1954-1965 also offer firsthand insight on the civil rights movement in the United States.

The third sub-series, International Affairs, comprises correspondence and related documents detailing the Bishop's activities in overseas affairs. A large number of the folders discuss companion diocese relationships with churches in Great Britain and Ecuador, and under the umbrella of this liaison Marmion made visits to both countries. Documents in this sub-series also outline Marmion's opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Believing economic sanctions were key to forcing the South African government to end the racial discrimination of the apartheid system, in 1969 the Bishop chaired a committee to prevent the Episcopal Church from using banks which supported that country's government. Marmion's argument was persuasive, and the church agreed not to utilize banking firms who financed South Africa.

The fourth and smallest sub-series, Vietnam War, includes brochures, correspondence, magazine articles, and newspaper clippings on the war in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975. The Bishop advocated ending the conflict in Southeast Asia, and his participation in a public anti-war demonstration in Roanoke drew the ire of some of his parishioners. Called both communist and un-patriotic, Marmion nevertheless sought to influence the United States government to seek an end to military involvement in Vietnam.


  • 1932 - 1981


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Born in Houston, Texas on October 8, 1907, William H. Marmion was one of three children of Charles Gresham Marmion and Katherine Rankin Marmion. William Marmion grew up in Houston, and attended Christ Church in Houston. Graduating from Rice University in 1929, young Marmion entered the Virginia Theological Seminary, where he earned a bachelor's of divinity degree in 1932. Soon afterward, he was ordered deacon in the Episcopal Church, and on April 5, 1933 ascended to the priesthood. Starting his career in the ministry, the newly ordained priest returned to his native state, and served as Priest-in-Charge of two different churches: Taylor's St. James Church and Georgetown's Grace Church, from 1932-1935. The year 1935 was significant for another reason: William Marmion's marriage to Mabel "Blossom" Dougherty Nall on December 28, 1935.

After a brief tenure as Associate Minister of St. Mark's Church in San Antonio, Marmion received the appointment of Rector at Saint Mary's on the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, and occupied this position from 1938 until 1950. While in Birmingham, the Marimon's were blessed with two children, William Marmion, Jr., born on May 26, 1942, and Roger Mills Nall Marmion, born on January 19, 1944. In 1950, St. Andrew's Church in Wilmington, Delaware became his new parish, and the Rector remained until 1954. In this year William H. Marmion received a D.D. Divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary, and later the same year was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, a position he occupied until he retired in 1979.

Service to church and community punctuated the Bishop's life. Early in his career, Marmion became active in civic affairs serving in Youth Work in both Texas and Alabama. While in Birmingham, he also participated in the Department of Christian Social Relations of the Executive Council of the Diocese of Alabama, and for four years chaired the Alabama Committee on Interracial Cooperation. While at St. Andrew's, the Rector chaired the Department of Christian Education. These activities represented more than temporary assignments, for civil rights, education, and social relations among all Episcopalians remained life-longs interests.

After being consecrated Bishop in 1954, Marmion continued to focus on social issues. Opposed to unequal treatment of church members because of race and the War in Vietnam, the 1960's marked a troubled time in his career. In particular the five-year controversy (1957-1962) over the use of Hemlock Haven, a Diocesan retreat near Marion, Virginia, for biracial youth conferences proved to be a test of the Bishop's belief in equal treatment for all members of his diocese. Although at first the youth conferences were canceled due to the inability of the Diocese to come to an agreement on the terms of use, in 1963 Bishop's position prevailed, and the retreat finally hosted integrated youth conferences for young Episcopalian. The Bishop served on a number of committees that dealt with the topic of race and religion, including the Department of Christian Social Relations. Marmion also opposed American Involvement in the Vietnam Conflict, and his efforts to encourage an end to the conflict drew both support and sharp criticism from the members of his Diocese. Before retiring from his post as Bishop of Southwestern Virginia in 1979, Marmion participated in a number of church committees, including the Committee on World Relief and Interchurch Aid and the American Church Institute. He also chaired several committees, including the Church and Race Fund Committee and Long Range Planning Committee. Marmion also served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church from 1963-1969, and was active in establishing the Appalachian People's Service Organization, now Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, which was based in Blacksburg, Virginia before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee. After retiring as acting Bishop of the diocese, the Bishop and his wife continued to reside in Roanoke, Virginia.


Brown, Katharine. Hills of the Lord: Background of the Episcopal Church in Southwestern Virginia, 1738-1938. Roanoke, VA: The Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, 1979.


20.6 Linear Feet (48 boxes)


Bishop William H. Marmion, born 1907, was Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia from 1954 to 1979. The papers document the forty-seven year ecclesiastical career of William H. Marmion. Materials include booklets, church bulletins, correspondence to and from Marmion, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, and reports generated by the Bishop in his service to the Episcopal Church. Topics of interest to the researcher cover Marmion's interest in the civil rights movement, education, the Viet Nam War, Race relations in South Africa, and social relations among all Episcopalians.


The Bishop William Marmion Papers, 1932-1981, are arranged in four series:

Series I. Personal Papers, 1950-1979

Arranged alphabetically by topic, this series consists of brochures, maps, papers, phamplets, and photographs related to the Bishop’s personal interest in social issues, his travel, personal photographs, and information about his family.

Series II. Early Career, 1932-1950

Arranged alphabetically by topic, documents in this series focus on the Bishops early career as a priest and Rector in both Texas and at St. Mary’s on the Highlands, in Birmingham, Alabama. Topics include youth work, race relations, and church calls.

Series III. Rector of St. Andrews, Wilmington, Delaware, 1950-1954

Arranged alphabetically by topic, the series contains documents related to the Marmion’s tenure as Rector of Saint Andrews Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Formats include booklets, letters, and newspaper clippings related to Marmion’s ecclesiastical duties.

Series IV. Bishop of Southwestern Virginia, 1954-1979

Arranged alphabetically by topic, the series encompasses Marmion’s administrative record as Bishop of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, as well as several topics that he took special interest in. Divided into four sub-series: Administration, Civil Rights, International Affairs, and the Vietnam War.

Physical Access

Please note: This collection is located in off-site storage and may require 2-3 days notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Source of Acquisition

The Bishop William H. Marmion Papers was donated to Special Collections and University Archives in 1986.

Related Archival Materials

See also the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, Ms1985-004, at Virginia Tech Special Collections and University Archives.

Separated Materials

The Little Choir Book by Thomas Curry (Spec Small ML1505 L47 1896) was separated to the Rare Book Collection at the VT Special Collections and University Archives.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Bishop William H. Marmion Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Bishop William H. Marmion Papers were completed in June 2000.

Although a conscious effort has been made to adhere to the original order, the choice was made to arrange the papers topically by subject to provide quicker, more succinct access to the papers. Original titles of the folders were maintained; however, many folders may contain a variety of information beyond the scope of the title.

Bishop William H. Marmion Papers 1932-1981
Reagan Grimsley
2001 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Web version of the finding aid funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US