Wythe Leigh Kinsolving (November 14, 1878 – December, 1964) was an American Episcopal priest, writer, poet, Democratic Party political advocate, sometime pacifist, and anti-Communist. He wrote nine books and dozens of letters and op-ed essays for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and regional papers. He gave an invocation for a national audience at the 1924 Democratic National Convention. Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, he strongly opposed going to war against Nazi Germany.
Early life and education
Kinsolving was born in Halifax, Virginia, the son of the Rev. Ovid Americus Kinsolving (1822-1894)(who had worked in Middleburg, Virginia during the American Civil War and been imprisoned for his Confederate oratory) and his third wife. Three of his half brothers also became clergymen; his half-brother George Herbert Kinsolving became the Episcopal bishop of Texas. Wythe Leigh Kinsolving received an M.A. degree from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., in 1902, and a B.D. degree from Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Va., in 1906. That same year, he married Annie Laurie Pitt, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Robert Healy Pitt, editor-in-chief of a leading Southern Baptist periodical, the Religious Herald.
Career and politics
In 1906, he became rector at Church of the Epiphany in Barton Heights, Richmond, Va., but resigned this position two years later.
In December 1908, newspapers around the country reported that Kinsolving had confronted his father-in-law over questions the latter raised about his mental health, that the two ministers had a fist fight, and that he had resigned the Epiphany pulpit as a result. Kinsolving denied that he had hit anyone, and stated that his resignation was to take other work.
He went on to serve several other Episcopal churches in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee, before going to Europe for World War I relief work in 1917-18, under the auspices of the YMCA. He published a book of poetry and essays, From the Anvil of War, reflecting his experiences abroad, and his desire for all Christians to be united into a single world church.
Democratic Party politics in New York
In 1918, he moved to New York City and worked in various churches there, and served as Chaplain of the Virginian Society. He was often quoted in news reports; his letters and op-ed articles on political and religious topics were frequently published in the New York Times and other papers.
Prior to World War I, he expressed moderate pacifist views, but strongly supported President Woodrow Wilson. Following the war, he advocated for the League of Nations, and defended Wilson's legacy.
He was a supporter of Sen. Oscar Underwood of Alabama for president. Like Underwood, Kinsolving was critical of the Ku Klux Klan, which then played a significant role in mainstream politics.
On July 8, 1924, he offered the invocation at the opening of the 21st session of the deadlocked 1924 Democratic National Convention, calling on the delegates to put aside "all bigotry, all intolerance, all racial or sectional or denominational smallness of nature," and for the candidates "to sacrifice any selfish egotism for party harmony, to sacrifice personal ambition for the national good."
During the 1928 campaign, Kinsolving strongly supported the Democratic nominee, New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith, defending him against criticism of his Roman Catholic faith and his opposition to Prohibition, and traveled to various states making speeches on behalf of Smith.
After Franklin Roosevelt took office as president in 1933, Kinsolving supported his liberal initiatives. At a political round table conference at the University of Virginia's Institute of Public Affairs in 1935, he was quoted as saying, "If I were not a clergyman, I would say, 'Damn the opponents of the New Deal;' they don't know what they are talking about."
Isolationism and Anti-Communism
By the late 1930s, however, his political views turned towards foreign policy isolationism. He opposed the Spanish Republicans, comparing them to the Russian Bolsheviks. He endorsed Neville Chamberlain's attempt to appease Nazi Germany in the Munich conference. Soon, he was openly defending Germany and Hitler, and opposing any U.S. involvement on behalf of Britain.
In a sharp reversal from a few years earlier, he predicted that Franklin Roosevelt would become "a sort of dictator"; he described 1940 Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie approvingly as "a man inclined to peace." Shortly after the fall of France to German Nazi forces, he wrote of the American reaction to the news as "the hysteric period when Hitler Phobia developed into a national menace."
In March 1941, the Roosevelt Administration embarked on the Lend-Lease program, to aid the war effort of Britain and its allies. Kinsolving was opposed to this. He wrote that the British Empire "was built in bloodshed, brutal onslaughts, seizure of lands -- Canada and India, South Africa, Nova Scotia, etc." He ridiculed opposition to Hitler for doing the same: "He becomes Satan! And all his hosts are demons!"
Once the U.S. entered the war in late 1941, Kinsolving fell silent; his op-ed pieces and letters to newspapers stopped appearing for several years.
He died in 1964, and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
Books by Wythe Leigh Kinsolving
- The River of Thought and other verses. Winchester, Tenn.: Southern Printing and Publishing, 1915.
- From the Anvil of War. Winchester, Tenn.: Southern Printing and Publishing, 1919.
- Liberty bonds: a study of the League of Nations. Winchester, Tenn.: Southern Printing and Publishing, c.1919.
- Thoughts on Religion. New York: Gorham Book Sellers, c.1923
- Tapestry: Lyrics by Wythe Leigh Kinsolving. Richmond, Va., c.1929.
- Early history of Virginia and Maryland and seven centuries of lines. Richmond, Va., 1935
- That they may be one: a poem of the church. Charlottesville, Va., c. 1938
- The world and Virginia. Charlottesville, Va., 1943
- Discovery: poems of creation, history, and literature. Charlottesville, Va.: Jarman Press, 1951
- Stowe's Clerical Directory of the American Church 1920-21 (biographial listing of Episcopal clergy). Minneapolis: Andrew David Stowe, 1920
- "MINISTERS COME TO BLOWS: Rev. W. L. Kinsolving Ejected by His Father-in-Law, Dr. Pitt. Demanded Explanation for Letter to His Mother Regarding His Health, and Fight Followed", Washington Post, December 13, 1908
- "FOUGHT -- With His Father-in-Law -- and Rev. Wythe Leigh Kinsolving Has Resigned as Rector of the Virginia Church", Cincinnati Enquirer, December 13, 1908
- "DENIES HE HAD FIGHT", Alexandria Gazette, December 19, 1908
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving (1919).From the Anvil of War. Winchester, Tenn.: Southern Printing & Publishing Co.
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "No Second Portsmouth", New York Times, March 17, 1916
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "VIRGINIA SENTIMENT: State Claims Wilson as One of Her Greatest Sons", New York Times, November 19, 1921
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "THE NORDIC QUESTION", New York Times, August 23, 1923
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "World Court Action," New York Times, December 17, 1932
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "No Southern Literature?", New York Times, July 8, 1923
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "A Southerner on Lincoln", New York Times. July 3, 1922
- "SAYS BIAS SWAYS GRANT ON DIVORCE -- Church's Attitude Not Based on One Isolated Text, Dr. Kinsolving Asserts", New York Times, September 3, 1922
- "TRIBUTE TO HOOVER STIRS EPISCOPAL ROW -- Diocesan Meeting Votes 257 to 114 for Wickersham Resolution Praising Economy Message -- Democrat Assails Action", New York Times, May 11, 1932
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Underwood for President", New York Times, October 29, 1923
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Democratic Candidates", New York Times, March 3, 1924
- "UNDERWOOD, GLASS, DAVIS LEADING, KINSOLVING SAYS -- Field of Possible 'Deadlock Breakers' Is Narrowing, Minister Declares -- Says Wets Gain Power", New York Times, June 29, 1924
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Big Issue Dead" [referencing the KKK and Hugo Black], New York Times, October 5, 1937
- Official Report of the Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention, published by the Democratic National Committee (1924), p. 886
- "Thrills Come Early in Morning After Session Opens Tamely", New York Times, July 9, 1924
- "EDUCATORS ANALYZE POLITICAL ISSUES -- Prohibition Held Chief of Them at Virginia's Institute for Public Affairs," New York Times, April 7, 1928
- "VIRGINIA CLERIC FOR SMITH -- Son-in-Law of Pro-Hoover Baptist Editor Would Speak for Governor", New York Times, August 25, 1928
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Smith A Real Leader," New York Times, September 10, 1928
- "Kinsolving to Stump for Smith", New York Times, October 11, 1928
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "A Happier Land", New York Times, April 11, 1933
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "More Time for Play: This Country Has Opportunity to Set a World Example", New York Times, August 26, 1933
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Why Roosevelt Is Strong: He Is Considered To Be Truly Representative of The Majority of Our People", New York Times, March 31, 1934
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "New Deal and the Churches: Former Held Worth While and Latter Should Help It Along", New York Times, September 5, 1934
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Money Well Spent: Aid to People Held to be Mark of Roosevelt Wisdom", New York Times, October 11, 1936
- "At the Round Table," Brooklyn Eagle, July 20, 1935
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "The Cause of Christianity: United Effort is Urged to Overcome Various Subversive Factors", New York Times, March 27, 1937
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Figuring Spain's Position", New York Times, February 9, 1939
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Madmen", Washington Post, October 23, 1938
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Ties of Race and Blood", Washington Post, April 30, 1939
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "We ought to keep out of the affairs of Europe", Washington Post, July 20, 1939
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "The More He Sees", Washington Post, January 14, 1940
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Germany's War Responsibility" [denying that Germany was wholly responsible for World War I], New York Times, April 9, 1940
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Minding Our Own Business", New York Times, April 29, 1940
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Deplores Hatred" [of Germany], New York Times, June 28, 1940
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Moral Standards," Washington Post, September 22, 1940
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, letter, Halifax Gazette, South Boston, Va., July 4, 1940
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "Seizures", New York Times. September 9, 1941
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "On Keeping Free of England", Washington Post, November 22, 1941
- Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, "The Pope's Message", Washington Post, January 4, 1949