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Conwell, Russell Herman (15 February 1843–06 December 1925), lecturer and minister, was born in South Worthington, Massachusetts, the son of Martin Conwell and Miranda Wickham, farmers. Conwell attended Wilbraham (Wesleyan) Academy and Yale University before enlisting in the Union army in 1862. During the war he served as captain of two Massachusetts volunteer units guarding Union installations near New Bern, North Carolina. Although he was dismissed from the military after being charged with deserting his post during a Confederate attack, Conwell claimed to have later been reinstated into the army by General ...

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Dixon, Thomas (11 January 1864–03 April 1946), author, clergyman, and lecturer, was born Thomas Dixon Jr. near Shelby, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Dixon, a Baptist minister and farmer, and Amanda McAfee Dixon. Thomas, the third of five children, was born during the Civil War. The Dixon family, which had once been prosperous, was reduced to extreme poverty by the war's end in 1865, owing to the collapse of the Southern economy and the destruction of farmland. During the ensuing years of Reconstruction, as lawlessness stalked the South, the elder Dixon struggled to support his wife and children, and their humiliation and degradation led him, like many other formerly prosperous Southerners, to join the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, a vigilante organization of white males that proclaimed the supremacy of the white race, had been founded in 1866 to restore honor to the South and to oppose social and political advancement by Negroes, as African Americans were then called. Both the senior Dixon and his brother, the favorite uncle of Thomas Dixon Jr., became leaders in the Klan, and young Thomas grew to adulthood revering the Klan and its teachings....

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Newton, Joseph Fort (21 July 1876–24 January 1950), Baptist, Universalist, and Episcopal minister, lecturer, and author, was born in Decatur, Texas, the son of Lee Newton, a Baptist minister and lawyer, and Sue Green Battle. Raised according to the rigid doctrinal standards and strict moral code in place among Texas Baptists at the turn of this century, much of Newton’s life was a pilgrimage in search of gentler, more open-ended religious insight. Largely self-educated, he learned classical languages and literature with his mother’s help, and in 1895 he was ordained a Baptist minister. Later that year he entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where his predilection for a liberalized religious perspective became more intensified. He read widely, learning more from poets and critical essayists than from the formal syllabus prescribed for divinity students. Newton searched for a faith that could satisfy the mind while it sanctified the heart. He grew increasingly dissatisfied with theological tenets that separated churches, and in 1897 he left both the seminary and the denomination because he found sectarian exclusiveness to be absurd and reactionary dogmas embarrassing....