|Professor Emeritus of Systematic|
Theology Theodore H. Runyon
People still, after all these decades, ask me, "How did you and your husband get involved in Civil Rights? Of course, there's no one simple answer. We were "called" for sure but it was definitely a journey.
Around 1965 Ken and I, along with our two toddlers, left our home and our suburban lifestyle in Plantation, Florida in exchange for three years at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. We knew we were called to inner city work. If we'd gone to another seminary and Ken studied under different professors, I know things would have been different.
But at Emory, we both came under the influence of four young professors who were eventually called the "Young Turks." Two of them, Bill Mallard and Ted Runyon, were especially impactful.
Ted Runyon died on May 11th at the age of 87. Here is a small portion of a remembrance by Kendall Soulen:
...He was a member of the storied faculty cohort...known as "the young Turks" by their older colleagues. Ted and his academic peers were instrumental in Candler's early involvement in the Civil Right movement, as well as other hot-button issues of a turbulent era, including liberation theology, the global struggle for human rights, and the "death of God" controversy. Still without tenure in the early 1960s, and so not privy to the meetings of full professors, the young Turks met together informally to read each other's work and for mutual support and encouragement.
Ted Runyon was a Fulbright scholar who received his doctorate on the theology of Paul Tillich at the University of Gottingen. That tells us a lot.
I understand that he was loved and respected all over the world but we in Florida claimed him as our own. I hate to think how our lives and careers would have been different if it had not been for visionaries like Ted Runyon and others on the Emory campus in the 1960s and beyond.
P.S. When my husband, David Runyan, first came to Florida and he started meeting tons of United Methodists, many times the first question he would be asked was "Are you related to Ted?' The first few times he said "Yes" because his father was named Ted - and was a Methodist minister and educator. But, eventually he leaned to say "No, but I hear he's a great guy."