Union Community Mourns Passing of Union Alum, Rev. Dr. Henry H. Mitchell

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Dear Union Community,

It is with great sadness that I share that a giant in theological education and Christian ministry circles has passed, Union alum, Rev. Dr. Henry H. Mitchell. Over the years, I had many blessed chances to spend time with Rev. Mitchell and his family and enjoyed hearing his stories about the time he and his beloved, late wife, Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell, spent at Union. He was a truly remarkable man who made tremendous academic and ecclesial contributions not just to the world but to countless individual lives.  Rev. Mitchell’s incredible legacy lives on with all those he impacted, including especially the many Black ministry students and pastors he mentored and inspired at Union and across the nation.

An ordained American Baptist Churches USA minister, Rev. Dr. Henry H. Mitchell served from 1945-1959 as a denominational staff person in Northern California. He subsequently pastored California churches in Fresno and Santa Monica before beginning his esteemed academic career. His time in academia included:

  • Being named the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Black Church Studies at Colgate Rochester Divinity School
  • Serving as founding director of the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies, in Los Angeles
  • Acting as Academic Dean and Professor of History and Homiletics at Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University
  • Team teaching along with his wife, the late Rev. Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell, as Visiting Professors of Homiletics at the Interdenominational Theological Center
  • Mentoring students, again with Dr. Ella Mitchell, in the Doctor of Ministry Program at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio

Rev. Mitchell was the author of three texts, Black PreachingThe Recovery of Preaching and Celebration and Experience in Preaching. He co-authored two other books, Soul Theology and Preaching for Black Self-Esteem with Dr. Emil M. Thomas. In 2004, his Black Church Beginnings, 1650-1990, a radical rewrite and correction of early Black Church History, was released by Eerdmans Publishing. The Mitchells’ inspiring love story, Together for Good, was originally published in 1999 and re-released by Judson Press in 2005.

Rev. Mitchell was awarded an honorary D.D. degree by the American Baptist Seminary of the West and an honorary L.H.D. degree by Lincoln University. He and his wife were also the recipients of the 2008 Union Theological Seminary Trailblazer Award.

Rev. Mitchell was a native of Columbus, Ohio. He held degrees from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania (B.A & L.H.D, hon.); Union Theological Seminary, New York (B.D./M.Div); California State University at Fresno (M.A. Linguistics); Claremont School of Theology, California (Th.D.); and The American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley, CA (D.D., hon.).

The tentative date for Rev. Mitchell’s funeral service is Saturday, January 29, 2022 at 12 pm EST at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA.

With deep sadness and with gratitude for the gift of Rev. Mitchell’s life and legacy,

President Serene Jones

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