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Lee, Umphrey (1893–1958)

Walter N. Vernon Biography Entry

Umphrey Lee, Methodist preacher, college administrator, and scholar, was born in Oakland City, Indiana, on March 23, 1893. He moved to Texas when his father, Rev. Josephus Lee, was transferred there in 1910. He attended Trinity College (A.B., 1914), Southern Methodist University (M.A., 1916), and Columbia University (Ph.D., 1931). He served several pastorates before going to the University of Texas to establish the Wesley Bible Chair in 1919. In 1923 he became pastor of Highland Park Methodist Church, on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas; it became one of the Christian Century's "Great Churches of America" and by 1960 was the largest in the denomination. During this time Lee also served as professor of homiletics at the SMU school of theology; from 1937 until 1939 he was dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Religion in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1939 he became president of Southern Methodist University, and by 1954, when he left the presidency to become chancellor (because of health problems), the university's endowment had increased by $20,500,000 and eighteen new buildings had been erected. Lee was recognized as one of the most discerning interpreters of John Wesley and Methodist theology because of such books as The Lord's Horseman (1928), John Wesley and Modern Religion (1936), and Our Fathers and Us (The Heritage of the Methodists) (1958). He wrote a half dozen other books as well. He was a delegate to four general conferences, gave seven college or university lectureships, and was a member of numerous boards and agencies of the church. He held membership in the Medieval Academy of America, the American Historical Society, the American Society of Church History, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. He died in Dallas on June 23, 1958, and was buried there in Restland Memorial Park.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Winifred T. Weiss and Charles S. Proctor, Umphrey Lee: A Biography (Nashville: Abingdon, 1971). Who's Who in America, 1960–61.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Religion
  • University Presidents and School Administrators
  • Methodist

Time Periods:

  • Texas in the 1920s

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

Walter N. Vernon, “Lee, Umphrey,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 27, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.