McGruder Ellis Sadler, civic and religious leader and president of Texas Christian University, was born on November 5, 1896, at Hobucken, North Carolina, the son of John Daniel and Mary (Alcock) Sadler. He graduated from Atlantic Christian College in 1919 and received an M.A. degree from Vanderbilt in 1921. The following year he attended the University of Chicago, where he did graduate work in religious education. He accepted an appointment in 1922 as secretary of religious education in the Chesapeake Bay area for the United Christian Missionary Society. He took a leave of absence to earn a B.D. degree at Yale in 1925 and later returned to Yale, where he received a Ph.D. degree in 1929. Sadler was appointed national secretary of religious education for the UCMS shortly thereafter; a year later a division of the Rockefeller Foundation sent him to investigate Far Eastern missions and the Oriental way of life. On his return to the United States in July 1931, he accepted the deanship at Lynchburg College in Virginia; then in 1936 he accepted the ministry at the Central Christian Church in Austin, Texas. In 1941 Texas Christian University selected him as its sixth president. In 1943 Sadler reorganized the university into seven schools and colleges (in 1946 an eighth college was added), each with its own administrative head. After the establishment of a strong undergraduate program, Sadler instituted Ph.D. work in six areas.
While president of the university he also served in many other important capacities. He was elected president of the International Convention of Christian Churches in 1944, and in Amsterdam in 1948 he helped organize the World Council of Churches. He helped organize the National Council of Churches of Christ in 1950 and the Texas Council of Churches in 1953. He was elected vice president and president of those organizations, respectively. He was elected president of the Association of American Colleges in 1952 and served on the board of the Fort Worth Opera Association. In 1966 he was president of the Philosophical Society of Texas. In 1954 the Fort Worth branch of the National Conference of Christians and Jews selected him as recipient of its annual award for outstanding services, and on November 5, 1964, the Newcomen Society in North America held a "Texas meeting" as a special recognition commemorating his sixty-eighth birthday. Sadler married Frances Windley Swain on September 17, 1924; they had two daughters. He retired as president of Texas Christian University on July 1, 1965. He died on September 11, 1966, in Walker County and was buried in Greenwood Mausoleum, Fort Worth.