Vandiver dies, Universalist ties

Ernest Vandiver was one of those bridge “old South-new South” figures that leaves most people scratching their heads. He was the governor of Georgia from 1959 to 1963: his career includes his famous “no not one” segregationist defence, but the relatively mild transition from legal segregation (compare Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas . . .) during his tenure makes him a man of his time if not ahead of it.

I met him exactly one time: at the funeral of a politically prominent relative. (If I’ve ever mentioned I conducted a funeral with then-Governor Zell Miller, this was that event.)

You see, Ernie Vandiver’s mother was a Universalist. The governor became Baptist (easier to find than Universalists then and now) but he didn’t forget his mother, Vanna Bowers Vandiver: the memorial Good Shepherd window in my former pastorate, Canon Universalist Church, was his gift.

I’m not embarassed to say I’m a touch sad. May he rest in peace.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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