Previous Summers Lecturers

  • 2019—Darby Ray: “Losing My Religion, or Finding It Elsewhere: Emerging Adults, Vocation, and the Search for Authenticity”
  • John Claypool
  • James Fowler
  • C.P. Minnick
  • Will Campbell
  • Robert Bergmark
  • Martin E. Marty
  • Samuel S. Hill
  • Stanley Hauerwas
  • Elie Wiesel
  • Sharon Welch
  • Bruce Rigdon
  • Mary Ann Swenson
  • James H. Cone
  • Tex Sample
  • Joycelyn Elders
  • Rosemary Ruether
  • Jim Wallis
  • John Kolb
  • Warren Nord
  • Jay McDaniel
  • Harmon Smith
  • James Nelson
  • Marjorie Suchocki
  • Robert Cummings Neville
  • Mark Wallace
  • M. Thomas Thangaraj
  • James A. Sanders
  • Steven M. Tipton
  • Paula Cooey
  • Luke Timothy Johnson
  • Barbara Holmes
  • Jack Sasson
  • John Kaltner
  • Bart D. Ehrman
  • Don & Emily Saliers
  • Choon-Leong Seow
  • Joseph T. Reiff


The Summers Lectures bring to the Millsaps campus persons who have gained national recognition for their perspectives on theological and social issues of today. Enriched by seminars and forum discussions, the lectures are intended to stimulate dialogue among persons of all faiths.

Established in 1979 by the Reverend Lemuel C. Summers, the lecture series is directed to ministers and laypersons in the church and to the general public. There is no admission charge for the lectures.

The annual series, planned by the Department of Religious Studies at Millsaps and the Center for Ministry, is supplemented by the Reiff-Lewis Endowed Seminar Fund, in honor of emeriti religion professors Dr. Lee Reiff and Dr. T. W. Lewis. The fund provides supplemental support for the lectures through leadership training and response groups.

All programs will be in the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex Recital Hall at 7pm unless otherwise noted.

The History of the Summers Lectures

Lemuel C. Summers was born September 18, 1888, eighth in a farmer family of ten children, near Montpelier in Clay County, Mississippi. When he was five the family moved to Limestone County, Texas, and farmed there for ten years. When he was fifteen the family moved to western Oklahoma, where he grew to manhood.

Summers began his education in the public schools of Texas at the age of eight. He attended a one-room country school with about 65 pupils and one teacher for first grade work through some high school studies. In this school he completed his grammar school education. Oklahoma at that time was new country, and the school where Summers lived was not organized for high school work. He was out of school for three years, then entered high school in Mangum, Oklahoma, in 1906 and graduated in 1909.

In 1910 he entered Vanderbilt University. he spent seven years there, though he was out two years between his freshman and sophomore years, working to pay debts incurred during his first year. He received three degrees from Vanderbilt: Bachelor of Science in 1916, Master of Arts in 1917, and Bachelor of Divinity in 1919. He received the Owen Medal for Scholarship in two fields, sociology and philosophy. After working a few years in the pastorate he studied at the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1933.

He taught grade school and high school and served as Director of Wesley Foundation and chairman of a college Department of Religion. He united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1900, just before he turned twelve. He felt the call to preach at age sixteen and was licensed to preach in May, 1910. He joined West Oklahoma Conference in 1920, serving pastorates in that conference until his retirement, with the exception of the four years spent at the University of Chicago. He served as conference secretary and on various boards and agencies. He was a delegate to a number of National Methodist Rural Life Conferences, and did the research for the first such conference which met at Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1947.

Summers was twice married: first to Miss Katherine Tatum, a native of Tennessee, later of Shawnee, Oklahoma, who was killed in an auto accident; then to Miss Flossie Davis of Clay County, Mississippi, who passed away in 1972.

He returned to Mississippi in 1964, and served as a retired supply pastor in the North Mississippi Conference until his second retirement.

In 1979 he established an endowment intended to enable Millsaps College to present outstanding speakers in religion and related fields to address the complex issues faced by church and society.

On August 4, 1988, only a few weeks before his one-hundredth birthday, Summers died. The Summers Lectures, which were named in appreciation for his generous spirit, are now dedicated to his memory.