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James M. Dunn Papers

Finding Aid & Inventory

James M. Dunn was a leader in the Baptist church, serving a number of organizations including the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (1980-1999) and working as a professor at Wake Forest University (1999-2014). The collection (1949-2010) includes articles and essays written by Dunn, as well as personal letters addressed to Dunn from individuals such as United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Also included are newspaper clippings, interviews, and writings about Dunn's life, his numerous awards, his time as a professor at Wake Forest University, and his involvement in various issues such as religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

Biographical and Historical Note

Baptist religious leader James M. Dunn was born on June 17, 1932, in Fort Worth, Texas. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Wesleyan College and Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dunn has worked as a pastor, a campus minister, and a college professor. From 1980 to 1999, Dunn served as the director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (now called the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty). Prior to his work at the Baptist Joint Committee, he spent twelve years as the executive director of the Christian Life Commission, the social action agency of Texas Baptists. Dunn also served as president of Bread for the World, a chair of the Ethics Commission of the Baptist World Alliance, and president of the Baptist Joint Committee Endowment. From 1999 until 2014, Dunn was a professor of Christianity and public policy at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

Dunn wrote numerous books and contributed to several publications, and has also appeared on major network television programs including "The Today Show" and "Nightline." Throughout his life, he advocated for religious liberty and the separation of church and state. Dunn received various prestigious awards such as the T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Award (1995). The James and Marilyn Dunn Chair of Baptist Studies at WFU School of Divinity was established in 2011. He was married to Marilyn McNeely Dunn.

Collection Overview

This collection consists mainly of correspondence to and from James Dunn from 1950-2010, including letters from Bill Moyers, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Mahon, and Joseph Dawson. It also includes news articles, essays, and writings written by or about Dunn. In addition, the collection features pamphlets and programs pertaining to events that Dunn attended or spoke at, as well as biographical materials. Some of the significant topics represented in these files are religious liberty, the separation of church and state, prayer in public schools, nuclear warfare, and world hunger.

Organized into five series: Series 1. Articles, Subject Files, and Writings; Series 2. Awards; Series 3. Biographical Materials; Series 4. Correspondence; and Series 5. Events. Items within these series are arranged alphabetically with the exception of Series 4, Correspondence, which is ordered chronologically.

Collection Inventory

  • Articles, Subject Files, and Writings (1973-2008)
    • Articles (1981-1994) / Box 1 Folder 1
    • Articles/Quotes in the News (1973-2008) / Box 1 Folder 2
    • Baptist General Convention of Texas Notes and Materials (undated) / Box 5 Folder 1
    • Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Board Meeting Materials (1997) / Box 6 Folder 8
    • Book Materials (undated) / Box 4 Folder 9
    • Book Materials and Notebook (undated) / Box 4 Folder 7
    • Christian Ethics Materials (1956-1961) / Box 5 Folder 11
    • Christian Ethics on Social and Moral Problems Materials (1962-1992) / Box 6 Folder 1
    • Christian Peace--Notes and Materials (1979-1986) / Box 5 Folder 4
    • Church and State Controversy Materials (1982-2014) / Box 5 Folder 9
    • Essays and Writings (circa 1977-1999) / Box 2 Folder 9
    • "Faith Matters: Wake Forest University," by Dr. Bill J. Leonard (1997-1998) / Box 2 Folder 10
    • Homosexuality Materials (circa 1979) / Box 3 Folder 4
    • Lecture and Research Materials (circa 2008) / Box 3 Folder 1
    • New Baptist Covenant Celebration, Comments (2008) / Box 3 Folder 5
    • Potential Sermon Materials (circa 1980) / Box 6 Folder 5-6
    • Prayer and Sermon Notes and Materials (circa 1982) / Box 5 Folder 10
    • Presentation Materials (1999) / Box 5 Folder 3
    • proVision Asia Materials (circa 1996) / Box 5 Folder 8
    • Religion and Politics Materials (1958-2005) / Box 3 Folder 3
    • Religious Articles and Materials (circa 1970) / Box 5 Folder 7
    • Speeches Materials (1960-1972) / Box 6 Folder 4
    • Speeches Materials (circa 1974) / Box 4 Folder 5
    • Speeches Notes and Materials (circa 1975) / Box 4 Folder 8
    • Speeches Notes and Materials (undated) / Box 5 Folder 5
    • Texas Baptist Commission (1973-1996) / Box 2 Folder 11
    • Transnational Dialogues Project Trip to West Africa Materials (1977) / Box 4 Folder 2
    • Weaver, Aaron Douglas, "James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom," thesis (2008) / Box 6 Folder 11 / Box 3 Folder 6
  • Awards
    • Awards (1998-2010) / Box 1 Folder 6
    • T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Award (1995) / Box 1 Folder 4
  • Biographical Materials
    • Annotated list of Dunn-related materials (2008) / Box 1 Folder 15
    • Articles and Interviews on James Dunn (1999-2000) / Box 4 Folder 4
    • Biographical Materials (undated) / Box 1 Folder 5
    • Clippings and Correspondence (1966-2003) / Box 1 Folder 6
    • Personal Writing and Interview Materials (1942-2009) / Box 3 Folder 8
    • Photograph (undated) / Box 4 Folder 13
    • Remembrances and Memorial Materials (2015) / Box 2 Folder 12
    • Youth (circa 1949-1952) / Box 1 Folder 7
  • Correspondence (1950-2009)
    • Autographed Correspondence and Related Materials (1980-2007) / Box 4 Folder 12
    • Baptist Joint Committee, on Public Affairs Correspondence and Related Materials (1972-2003) / Box 4 Folder 3
    • Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs Correspondence and Related Materials (circa 1987) / Box 3 Folder 7
    • Baptist Joint Committee Resignation Correspondence and Related Materials (1998-1999) / Box 4 Folder 10
    • Clinton, Bill and Hillary, Correspondence (1993-2004) / Box 2 Folder 3 (Includes letters from Bill Clinton to Dunn regarding Dunn's support for various matters and legislation such as the passage of the crime bill, school prayer and religion in schools, religious liberty, separation of church and state, the Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection bill, and providing AIDS treatment for those who need it; a message congratulating Dunn on his receipt of the T.B. Mason Ethics Award, and various messages thanking him for passing along various literary materials and for demonstrating spiritual leadership; messages from Hillary expressing her gratitude for Dunn's friendship, encouragement, and prayers/public support of the President; comments made by Bill Clinton taken from an audio tape of a dinner on October 4, 1999 in which the President expresses his admiration for Dunn and his and appreciation for Dunn's work, as well as mentioning his intention to prepare a nuclear test ban treaty and his hope that Dunn and others will embrace and support it.)
    • Correspondence and Photographs (1955-1997) / Box 5 Folder 6
    • Correspondence, George Mahon (1969-1973) / Box 1 Folder 13 (Correspondence between Dunn and George Mahon, a member of the House of Representatives. Includes letters regarding the movement for the impeachment of President Nixon, threats to religious liberty, concerns about the "prayer amendment," funding for family planning clinics, Dunn's book titled "Politics: A Guidebook for Christians," and cigarette labelings.)
    • Dawson, Joseph, Correspondence (circa 1952-1971) / Box 1 Folder 9 (Correspondence with Joseph Dawson, the executive director of the Joint Committee on Public Affairs for Baptists of the United States and a pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas for 31 years. Includes Dawson's personal letters addressed to Dunn, as well as some of his writings and essays regarding religious liberty and the separation of church and state.)
    • General Correspondence (1950-1959) / Box 1 Folder 8 (Includes personal letters to Dunn regarding his involvement in religious revivals and his decision to pursue a doctorate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
    • General Correspondence (1957-2009) / Box 1 Folder 10 (Miscellaneous correspondence including a letter from Dunn's mother Edith to a friend; a letter from Dunn to President Bill Clinton warning against the pressures of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dunn's acceptance into the doctorate program at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
    • General Correspondence (1960-1969) / Box 1 Folder 11 (Includes letters addressed to Dunn from members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives following his trip to Washington D.C. with a group of students; letters regarding Dunn's election as Executive Secretary to the Texas Christian Life Commission in Waco, Texas; letters written to T.A. Patterson regarding a Statement of Concern drafted by Texas Baptist leaders involving racial relations.)
    • General Correspondence (1970-1979) / Box 1 Folder 14 (Includes a letter addressed to Dunn from Charles W. Colson (Special Counselor to President Richard Nixon) regarding Federal aid to non-public schools; various letters to Dunn in relation to his stances against legalized gambling; a letter to Dunn retarding the prayer amendment from Wright Patman of the United States House of Representatives; various letters from E.S. James of the Christian Life Commission; letters from Ralph Yarborough, with one in particular regarding the nuclear arms race; letters addressed to Dunn expressing concern for his illness, hospitalization, and operation; letters from Mark Hatfield of the United States Senate, with one specifically discussing Dunn's book "Endangered Species" and world hunger problems; numerous letters addressed to Dunn in relation to his Distinguished Service Award for leadership in Christian social ethics granted by the Christian Life Commission (1979).)
    • General Correspondence (1980-1989) / Box 2 Folder 1 (Includes a letter from Dunn to Jim D. Bowmer regarding his desire to join the Erasmus Society; brief letters from President Jimmy Carter expressing gratitude for their friendship; a letter from Congressman Albert Gore Jr.; a letter from the chairman of the Baylor Unviersity Deptartment of Biology regarding Darwinism ; letters addressed to Dunn discussing religious freedom and the separation of church and state from Roy J. Cotton, Director of Special Campus Ministries; correspondence with Ed Ethridge regarding a disagreement over fundamentalist principles; a letter expressing Dunn's admittance to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Ministry at St. Mary's Seminary and University; a letter from Rev. Robert Randolph praising Dunn's responses to the appointment of the ambassador to the Vatican on the radio program "All Things Considered" and ABC news; personal letters to Dunn regarding personal and critical attacks on his character and addressing Criswell's controversial comments on a CBS interview; letters regarding Dunn's involvement with the Bread for the World program; letters to Senator Orrin Hatch regarding the position of the Southern Baptist Convention on Public Affairs with regard to pending civil rights legislation (1984 Civil Rights Act).)
    • General Correspondence (1990-1999) / Box 2 Folder 2 (Contains a letter from Dick Bumpass criticizing Fundamentalist advances made against Dunn and this group's hardening control over the Southern Baptist Convention; a letter from Flo McAfee, Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison in Washington D.C., regarding Dunn's involvement with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act singing ceremony; letters from Mark Hatfield of the U.S. Sentate regarding Dunn's vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment and praising Dunn's work in the field of religious liberty; messages from Jimmy Carter, including a congratulation for his receipt of the T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Award and an invitiation requesting that Dunn join Carter and a small group of Baptist leaders for a discussion about cooperation among the Baptist community; a letter from Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstate regarding discrimination in Belguim against the Baptist movement; a letter from Senate member Howell Heflin regarding the effects of education vouchers on public schools; a letter from Barney Frank of the House of Representatives on support for both religion and religious liberty; letters regarding Dunn's new employment at Wake Forest University; a message from Rabbi A. James Rudin, National Director of Interreligious Affairs, expressing his sadness over James's retirement from his position in Washington D.C. and his move to Wake Forest University; messages from Vice President Al Gore including one regarding Dunn's support after the death of Gore's father.)
    • General Correspondence (1990-1999) / Box 5 Folder 2
    • General Correspondence (2000-2009) / Box 2 Folder 4 (Includes letters from Mel Carnahan (governer of Mississippi) and his wife, Jimmy Carter, and Mark Hatfield praising Dunn's books such as "Soul Freedom: Baptist Battle Cry" and "Truth With The Bark On It: The Wit and Wisdom of James M. Dunn;" letters from Vermont Senator Patrick J. Leahy; a letter from John Hamilton Lawrence thanking Dunn for his mentorship and for introducing him to Billy Moyers; a letter from Brandon Jones of the House of Representatives (Mississippi); letter from the Director of Gift Stewardship at Wake Forest University regarding a report on the Bill and Judith Moyers scholarship Fund; a letter from Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch thanking Dunn for his generous support of the university's students.)
    • General Correspondence (undated) / Box 2 Folder 5 (Undated letters including one from E.S. James regarding Dunn's position as secretary to the Christian Life Commission; a letter from Rev. Larry Phillips of the Emmanual Baptist Church in Schenectady, New York praising various of Dunn's writings; letters from William Pinson and Lucien Coleman of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary praising Dunn's work with the Christian Life Commission, his writings, and his public communications.)
    • Interview Correspondence and Related Materials (1983-1999) / Box 6 Folder 2
    • Moyers, Bill, Correspondence (circa 1965-1990) / Box 1 Folder 12 (Includes letters and notes addressed to Dunn by Bill Moyers, Special Assistant to the President Lyndon B. Johnson and broadcaster for CBS News. Often they address personal matters and express an appreciation towards Dunn as an intimate friend.)
    • Moyers, Bill, Correspondence and Related Materials (1996-2006) / Box 6 Folder 7
    • Religion and Politics Correspondence and Related Materials (1998-2004) / Box 6 Folder 10
    • Speech Engagement Correspondence and Related Materials (1977-2012) / Box 6 Folder 3
  • Events (1958-1999)
    • Baccalaurate Sermon at William Jewell College Materials (1996) / Box 4 Folder 1
    • Clinton Presidential Inauguration Materials (1992-1994) / Box 4 Folder 6
    • Commencements, Alderson-Broaddus College and Furman University (1990, 2002) / Box 3 Folder 2
    • DC-Related Events (1993-2005) / Box 2 Folder 6
    • Religious Essays and Attended Programs (1958-2005) / Box 2 Folder 7
    • Religious Liberty Conference (1972) / Box 5 Folder 12
    • Speaking Engagement Programs and Schedules (1959-1999) / Box 2 Folder 8
    • Stewardship/CLC Conference Materials (1975) / Box 6 Folder 9
    • Various Religious Seminars and Workshops Materials (1960-1999) / Box 4 Folder 11

Summary Information

Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
James M. Dunn Papers
Date [inclusive]
2.52 linear feet  6 document boxes

Administrative Information

Publication Information
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives 2014
Revision Description
 Revised by Stephanie Bennett 2015-2016
Access Requirements
Collection is open for researchers. 
Copyright Notice
The nature of the WFU Z.Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of ZSR Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. . 
Preferred Citation
James M. Dunn Papers (MS 632), Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA. 

Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Clinton, Bill, 1946-
  • Moyers, Bill D.

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