John Cowper Granbery, Jr., a Methodist minister, sociology professor, and publisher of the Emancipator, son of John Cowper and Ella (Winston) Granbery, Sr., was born in Richmond, Virginia, on June 15, 1874. His father was a Methodist bishop. Granbery entered the seminary at Vanderbilt in 1895 and was ordained in 1897. However, rather than accept a church assignment after graduation in 1899, he attended the University of Chicago, where he was influenced by George B. Foster, Albion W. Small, and Jane Addams's nondenominational settlement. After studying in as many as seven departments, Granbery finally took his doctorate in sociology in 1909.
In 1913, after a turbulent career as a Methodist preacher in West Virginia and Kentucky, where he enraged coal-mine owners and church leaders, Granbery accepted a position at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. In 1914 he joined the Foyer du Soldat, the YMCA serving the French Army in Europe. The Greek government decorated Granbery twice for distinguished service during World War I. He returned to Georgetown in 1918, where he soon gained a reputation as an internationalist. During the 1920s he was an anti-Klan, anti-Ferguson prohibitionist, but by 1924 his anti-Klan feelings led him to support Miriam A. Ferguson against her pro-Klan opponent, and he made some speeches on her behalf.
In 1925 Granbery was hired by the newly founded Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University). He chaired the history department at Tech and coauthored a college history textbook while he was there. A chapter of the book sympathetic to evolutionary theory was cited by J. Frank Norris as evidence of Granbery's apostasy. In the spring of 1932, despite protests from the press, Granbery and several other "liberals and socialists" on the campus were fired.
After a sojourn in Brazil, Granbery returned to Georgetown and Southwestern University in 1935. In 1938 he was dismissed by the school's board of trustees. In September 1938, with borrowed money, he began publication of the Emancipator, a liberal monthly. By the end of the first year of publication, Granbery had subscribers in eleven states and three countries. Among them were such national figures as Norman Thomas and Henry Wallace and, on the state level, Fontaine Maury Maverick, Bishop Robert E. Lucey, and James Allred.
In 1941 Granbery left Georgetown for San Antonio, where he published his magazine for the next eleven years. During this period he continued to teach at local universities and had a radio program on WOAI. He was a Democratic precinct organizer, espoused tolerance for racial and religious minorities, spoke against the younger Martin Dies and the House Unamerican Activities Committee, defended Methodist welfare organizations from charges of communism, and was branded a "subversive" by the Houston chapter of the Minute Women of the USA. He was chairman of the United Nations Committee in San Antonio after World War II.
Granbery was married to Mary Ann Catt in 1903, and she served as coeditor of the Emancipator until 1953, when it ceased publication. They had no children. Granbery died in his home in San Antonio on May 5, 1953.