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BISHOP LEONIDAS POLK

The Texas Churchman - April 1949

Leonidas Polk was born in Tennessee in 1806. He was destined for a military career and entered West Point. Here he had a profound religious experience, was baptized and carried out his determination to enter the Episcopal ministry in face of violent parental opposition. In 1833, he moved to Columbia, Tennessee, from his first charge in Richmond and settled down to the comfortable existence of a well-to-do clergyman in a charming southern city. From

this idyllic existance, he went in 1839 to become amazingly, a missionary Bishop in an area so wild, so desolate, and so vast that only an heroic nature could have risen to the challenge.

From 1839 to 1841 he was Missionary Diocesan to Alabama, Mississippi, the Indian Territory, Louisiana and Texas. During this time he made three visitations from one end of

the immense area to the other; preaching, baptizing, marrying, burying, confirming as he went. In 1841 he was elected Bishop of Louisiana, but in the generosity of his heart, agreed to continue overseeing Alabama and Texas until the former became organized as Diocese.

Bishop Polk was a man of large personal fortune and the example set by him and his wife in their responsibility for the Christianization and humanization of the Negroes of their plantation was a lesson in applied Christianity for all slave owners. The later loss of his entire fortune and a series of personal tragedies seem never to have broken his gallant spirit. Actually, it was at this very time that he initiated the move­ment to found the University.

His episcopacy continued to the outbreak of the War between the States, when his military training and rare gifts cost the Church dearly. At the outbreak of the War, in 1861 he reluctantly left his ecclesiastical duties, accepting the call to arms and enlisting for what he believed to be temporary service---with rank of Lieutenant

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