Key, Joseph S. (1829–1920)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 1, 1995

Joseph S. Key, Methodist Episcopal bishop and theologian, the son of Caleb and Elizabeth Key, was born at La Grange, Georgia, on July 18, 1829. After graduating from Emory College in 1848 he entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. His first assignment, to a black mission in Athens, Georgia, lasted just a year before he left Athens for Savannah to become an assistant pastor. He served in a series of churches for about two years each, in Columbus, Macon, Augusta, and Atlanta. In 1850 he married Susan McIntosh Snyder. The couple had two sons and a daughter. Susan died about 1890. In 1860 Key received a D.D. degree at the University of Georgia. On May 14, 1886, he was elected to the College of Bishops and assigned to Texas. He lived for a few years in Fort Worth. In 1892 he met and married Lucy A. Kidd (see KIDD-KEY, LUCY A.), founder and president of North Texas Female College. The couple moved the school to Sherman in 1888 and altered the name to Kidd-Key Conservatory of Music. In 1919 the school's name again was changed, this time to Kidd-Key College. Bishop Key traveled in his church duties to China, Japan, and Mexico. He helped establish the Epworth League of Texas. By World War I he was sometimes called the "grand old man of Southern Methodism." In 1916 his wife died; in 1920 Bishop Key died. They were both buried at Sherman.

Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Nolan B. Harmon, ed., The Encyclopedia of World Methodism, (2 vols., Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1974).
  • Religion
  • Methodist

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David Minor, “Key, Joseph S.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995