Robert E. Seymour, Jr., 1948 B.D.

Seymour, Jr.
2004Distinction in Ordained Ministry

Robert E. Seymour, Jr., '48 B.D., pastor emeritus at Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, NC, received the Alumni Award for Distinction in Ordained Ministry. Delois M. Brown-Daniels, '80 M.Div., presented the award, hailing Seymour as �a champion of social justice� who helped found an interracial congregation �that challenged racial segregation.� Seymour became Binkley Memorial's first pastor after serving churches in Warrenton and Mars Hill, NC.

During Seymour 's 30 years at Binkley Memorial, it was a congregation on the front lines in the battle over integration and participation of women in Baptist churches. Seymour 's ministry was not only prominent in the civil rights struggles of the 50's and 60's. He raised a prophetic voice of resistance during the Vietnam years. All the while, he was seen as a compassionate and vocal advocate on behalf of the aged and the poor. Dean Smith, the prominent basketball coach emeritus at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a parishioner of Binkley Memorial, once said of Seymour, �Bob was brilliant in communicating his intelligent thoughts from the pulpit... I was nurtured by the ministry of Bob Seymour for 30 years."

At the awards banquet, Seymour recalled Chapel Hill in 1962 as a �typical segregated town.� One of the first African-American interns at Binkley Memorial was a young student from Union Theological Seminary, Jim Forbes, well known now as The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., senior minister at Riverside Church in New York City. Seymour said the presence of Forbes as summer intern, �transformed the congregation.� Binkley Memorial was originally established as a Southern Baptist congregation but eventually affiliated with the American Baptist Churches.

Born in Greenwood, South Carolina, Seymour came to Yale Divinity School as a Navy chaplaincy candidate after completing an undergraduate degree at Duke. (At the awards ceremony, he quipped, �Unlike many of you, I did not apply to YDS, I was ordered to come here!�) He received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Edinburgh. After his retirement in 1988, Seymour founded the Chapel Hill Senior Center. He has written four books: Whites Only, Aging Without Apology, A Village Voice, and When Life Becomes Worthwhile. He is also a regular columnist for The Chapel Hill News.

At Yale, recalled Seymour, it was Liston Pope who introduced him to the social aspects of the Gospel, including its application to issues of human rights. �The racial issue has been on the front burner for my entire ministry,� he said.