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Collection 118 Ephemera of Mordecai Ham

 Collection
Identifier: CN 118

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, oral history interviews, newspaper clippings, microfilm, periodicals, photographs, sermon transcripts and notebooks. It documents in a non-comprehensive way Ham’s preaching style, some of his evangelistic meetings; his campaigns against Roman Catholics, Jews, evolution, and for the prohibition of alcohol and the racial hierarchy in the American South. There is in particular a great deal of material about the 1934 meetings in Charlotte when Billy Graham gave his life to Christ.

Dates

  • Created: 1875-1983
  • Majority of material found within 1915-1934

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Full name: Mordecai Fowler Ham

Birth: April 2, 1877, Scottsville, Kentucky

Death: November 1, 1961, Louisville, Kentucky

Family

Parents: Tobias and Ollie Mc Elroy Ham

Marital Status: Married Bessie Simmons, July 1900 (she died December 4, 1905)

Married: Annie Laurie Smith, June 3, 1908

Children: Children of Mordecai and Annie: Martha Elizabeth, Dorothy, Annie Laurie, Jr.

Conversion: About the age of eight

Education:

1890s: Enrolled in Ogden College (later Western Kentucky State Teacher's College)

Career

1897-1900: Worked in Chicago for a photo-enlarging firm

1901: First revival preached at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church

1901-1950s: Held evangelistic campaigns throughout the United States

1927-1929: Pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

1934: Charlotte, North Carolina meetings where Billy Graham was converted

1935: Honorary doctorate degree from Bob Jones University

1936: Engaged in radio evangelism

Other significant information:

Published a paper known as The Old Kentucky Home Revivalist. Some of the book he wrote include The Second Coming of Christ, Believing a Lie, The Sabbath Question, and The Jews. One of Ham's favorite practices was to single out the most well-known sinners in town for personal evangelism. The evangelist often encountered opposition to his preaching, enduring threats, bodily assaults, and police arrests. His revivals were also plagued by two men, W. O. Saunders and J. T. Ragsdale, who circulated critical statements and pamphlets about Ham's work. Often engaged in controversy and spoke about Roman Catholic, Jewish and Bolshevik conspiracies. Was a firm advocate of Prohibition and a firm opponent of evolutionary theory.

Extent

0.75 Cubic Feet (1 Box (DC), Audio Recordings, Microfilm, Oversize Materials, Photographs )

Language of Materials

English

Arrangement of Material

The collection consists of a small portion of Ham’s correspondence, usually materials relating to a particular topic; newspaper clippings; a scrapbook; copies of The Echoes, a newspaper published weekly by the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where Ham served briefly as pastor; copies of The Taproot, a monthly publication of the M. F. Ham Evangelistic Party in Louisville, Kentucky; oral history interviews by Ivan Fahs with Grady Wilson and Vernon Patterson; photographs; and microfilm reels of Ham's sermon notes. Other information found in the articles include names of singers, song leaders, ministers who supported the revival, summaries of Ham's sermons, and accounts of meeting activities.

There are a few items relating to Ham’s family history, such as some of his father Tobias’ insurance policies in folder 1-18 and an 1875 note written by his grandfather (also Mordecai) to his father Tobias in folder 1-7.

Ham was invited to Charlotte, North Carolina, by the Christian Men's Evangelistic Club and he conducted a revival there which lasted twelve weeks between August 30 and November 25, 1934. He was assisted by his business manager and choir director, William J. Ramsey, and his secretary-pianist. The first clipping (folder 1-2) reports a prayer meeting held on July 3, 1934, and the final clipping (1-3) is dated December 11, 1934, describing Charlotte's pastors' reactions to plans to revoke the "blue laws."

The Charlotte campaign was marked by a controversy, reported in the Observer, involving some high school students who were patronizing a house of prostitution in the city. Ham's preaching on the subject aroused much opposition and reaction in Charlotte. The issue was ultimately arbitrated successfully with students and community, and the house was raided as a result of the publicity. Information about this situation is also discussed in the interviews with Wilson and Patterson. Ham's sermon notebooks (reels 1 and 2) are indexed by subject and contain both handwritten and typed notes, some clippings, and outlines which he used in his preaching.

Folder 1-5 contains an undated obituary and twenty-three sermon transcripts of messages delivered over the Kentucky Home Evangelistic Network; fifteen of these are dated between 1941 and 1944 and the rest are undated. Sermon topics include revival, mercy, sinners, the Christian's spiritual weapons, the invincible Church, heroes and cowards, Daniel, Babylon, final judgment, money, and the Second Coming, among others. There are three folders in Oversize Drawer 14 which contain (1) issues of The Echoes (described above), mostly from 1929, with articles by and about Ham as well as printed sermons by Ham; (2) two issues of The Taproot (see above), June and July 1930; and (3) a scrapbook with twenty-three photographs of Ham and his family and two photos of meetings, one in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1934, as well as newspaper and magazine clippings about various meetings held by Ham and biographical material. The sources are not usually identified, nor are they usually dated.

Folder 1-6 contains a very favorable article about Ham from The Defender, comparing him to Patrick Henry.

Folder 1-8 contains effusive letters to Ham from the chapters of the Ku Klux Klan of Atlanta Georgia and Henryetta, Oklahoma, expressing their appreciation of his ministry.

Folder 1-9 consists mainly of letters from Lindsay C. Warren, an attorney and a member of the state legislature of North Carolina. Warren apparently wanted Ham’s assistance for a man he was defending in a sexual assault case and also wanted to explain to Ham his (Warren’s) nuanced position on Prohibition.

Folder 1-10 contains correspondence with journalists Robert Quillen of the Fountain Inn Tribune of Fountain Inn, South Carolina, and F. H. Creech of Washington, D.C. They relate to Ham’s claims of a European conspiracy to undermine the United States through Negro education in the American South. One of the letters is a lengthy defense of Ham by his secretary. Folder 1-11 contains letters from businessman Eugene Arnett to Ham on the need for racial purity in America. The same folder contains extensive correspondence about Ham’s attendance of the Congress of the British Israel World Federation in London in 1926.

Folder 1-13 contains several letters from before and after the presidential election of 1928 in which Ham describes his strong opposition to candidate Al Smith because of Smith’s Roman Catholicism and his opposition to Prohibition. Folder 1-14 contains a letter describing his reasons for ceasing his evangelistic ministry and becoming a pastor in Oklahoma City. Ham in fact resumed his evangelistic ministry later that same year, 1929.

Folder 1-15 contains a letter from Annie and Mordecai Ham to their grown daughter Martha. See folder 1-19 for another, more formal statement from Ham about is love for his children and his hopes for them.

Folder 1-16 contains handbills, brochures and other election documents relating to an effort of the both pro and anti-Prohibition forces to make Nueces (Corpus Christi) and Tarrant (Fort Worth) counties in Texas dry. Included is a handbill about an assault on Ham a few weeks before the election, which he and other blamed on the anti-Prohibition forces.

Folder 1-19 contains a handwritten synopsis of the book of Revelation, possibly written by Ham’s grandfather, also a minister and also named Mordecai F. Ham. The name of the author on the first page, F. M. Ham, appears to have been written in a different hand than the rest of the manuscript.

Accruals and Additions

Accession: 81-79, 82-173, 83-2, 83-25, 92-77, 16-12

May 7, 1980

Mary Ann Buffington

S. Kouns

August 19, 1983

Frances L. Brocker

J. Nasgowitz

March 21, 1993, Revised

Robert Shuster

M.L. Wohlschlegel

February 13, 1996, Revised

Janyce H. Nasgowitz

September 26, 2003, Updated

Wayne D. Weber

February 28, 2020

Bob Shuster

L. Shafik
Title
Collection 118 Ephemera of Mordecai Ham
Author
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Billy Graham Center Archives Repository

Contact:
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630-752-5910