Butler Center for Arkansas Studies 100 Rock Street Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201 (501) 320-5700
September 6, 2006
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Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Witsell, William Postell, 1874-1959
William Postell Witsell personal and family collection
7.2 Linear feet
This collection contains papers of William Postell Witsell, D.D., who was rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock from 1927, until his retirement in 1947.
This collection is arranged chronologically and topically, and is divided into four series. Series I contains materials of Dr. William Postell Witsell. Series II contains genealogy research materials collected by Charles Witsell, Jr. Series III consists of photographs. Series IV contains materials of Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson Witsell (mother of Charles Witsell Jr.)
Scope and Contents
This collection contains papers of William Postell Witsell, D.D., who was rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock from 1927, until his retirement in 1947. Included are correspondence, biographical and genealogical information, newspaper articles, church history, sermons, and photographs, as well as books and articles authored by Dr. Witsell. Also included in the collection are correspondence and genealogical research materials compiled by Dr. Witsell's grandson Charles Witsell Jr., a prominent Little Rock architect and preservationist; and materials of Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson Witsell, Charles Witsell's Mother.
William Postell Witsell was born in Walterboro, South Carolina, on December 6, 1874, the fifth son of Dr. Charles Witsell and Emmeline Fishburne Witsell. After attending local public schools, he entered South Carolina Military College, graduating with a B.S. in 1894. He taught at Porter Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, for a short time before entering Hobart College in Geneva, New York, where he earned a B.Litt. degree in 1896. He then earned a B.D. from General Theological Seminary, in New York City, in 1899. In 1925, Dr. Witsell received a D.D. degree from the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee.
William Postell Witsell married Addie May Cherry on December 27, 1899. They had seven children.
Dr. Witsell was ordained as a deacon in 1899, and as an Episcopal priest in 1900. His first rectorate was at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbia, South Carolina. He was rector of churches in Meridian, Mississippi and Waco, Texas before coming to Little Rock as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in April 1927.
While at Christ Church he guided construction of the church parish house, finished in 1929, and rebuilding of the church after it was destroyed by fire in October 1938. During his time as rector, the church membership doubled, as had the membership in his two previous parishes. Dr. Witsell retired in 1947.
Dr. Witsell held almost every post in the Diocese of Arkansas. He represented the diocese at every General Convention of the Episcopal Church from 1928-1946. He was a member of the National Council of the Episcopal Church for over nine years. He was a trustee of the University of the South for many years, representing the state of Arkansas.
Dr. Witsell served as a delegate to the General Triennial Convention of the Episcopal Church from 1913 to 1943, and was also a delegate to the Worldwide Congress of the Episcopal Church in London in 1908 and 1943. Dr. Witsell was never elected bishop. As a young man, he sustained a severe hearing loss after a prolonged ear infection. Many church leaders felt this would hinder him from performing the duties of a bishop.
Dr. Witsell was listed in
Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Arkansas, the Biographical Encyclopedia of the World, and
Who's Who in the Clergy. His biography was included in
Arkansas and its People, 1930.
Dr. Witsel's published works include
Our Church One Through the Ages, 1923, second edition 1929;
The Bible and Evolution, 1925;
A History of Christ Episcopal Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1839-1947;
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, 1953; and
In addition to his church work, Dr. Witsell was active in many community activities. He was chairman of the Little Rock Chapter of the American Red Cross from 1927 to 1929, and a director of the Pulaski County Community Chest. He was also a director of the Little Rock Kiwanis Club.
Dr. Witsell died December 28, 1959 and is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Arkansas -- Biography.
Christ Episcopal Church. (Little Rock, Ark.)
Witsell, Addie May Cherry, 1875-1974
Witsell, William Postell, 1874-1959
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
Non-circulating, in-house use only.
William Postell Witsell personal and family collection, MSS.02.15, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute