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James A. Pike Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: EFB
Date: Mar 1971

Biographical History

James Albert Pike (1913-1969) was an American clergyman, lawyer, and author. He wrote and spoke extensively on the church and social problems, Christian and legal ethics, pastoral psychology, psychical research, and spiritualism.

Pike was born February 14th, 1913 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to James A. Pike and Pearl Agatha Wimsatt Pike. After his father died he moved to California with his mother where he graduated from Hollywood High School in 1930 and attended the Santa Clara University for two years. From 1932-1933 he attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), then transferred to the University of Southern California (USC), where he received his BA in 1934 and an LLB from the university's law school in 1936. That same year he was admitted to the California bar.

Pike received a Sterling Fellowship and spent part of 1936-1937 studying for a doctorate in law at Yale, where he was awarded the JSD in 1938. He served as an expert in federal procedure at Catholic University Law School (1938-1939) and in civil procedures at George Washington University Law School (1939-1942), then with a fellow lawyer he established the law firm of Pike and Fischer, specializing in the publication of books on federal judicial and administrative procedure.

Pike married Jane Alvies in Los Angeles on August 14, 1928. They separated at the beginning of 1940 and were divorced in October 1941. On January 29, 1942, he married Esther Yanovsky, whom he had met while she was attending his law class at George Washington. He and Esther had four children: Catherine, James Jr., Constance, and Christopher.

In 1942 Pike joined the Office of Naval Intelligence and later sought and received a commission as Lieutenant (jg) in the Naval Reserve. In 1943 he was accepted as a postulant in the Protestant Episcopal Church. In 1944 he moved to the United States Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration, but then requested and received inactive duty status due to his ordination as deacon in December of that year. His first appointment in the Church was as curate at St. John's Church in Washington. At the same time, he served as chaplain to Episcopal students at George Washington and studied at Virginia Theological Seminary.

In 1946 he left Washington to become a fellow and tutor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, and a few months later (November 1, 1946) he was ordained to the priesthood of the Protestant Episcopal Church. In 1947 he was appointed rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie, New York; he also served as chaplain to students at Vassar College. In 1949 he became chaplain at Columbia University in New York; together with Professor Ursula Niebuhr he established Columbia's Department of Religion.

In 1952 Pike became Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where he made the pulpit a place for discussion of the religious and social problems of the day. He became known as a spokesman for liberal Protestantism and in 1955 was invited by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) to host a series television programs. In 1956 he participated in a trip to Israel to study and report on Arab refugee problems, and in 1957 he was appointed to the Zellerbach Commission, which studied refugee issues across Europe.

He was selected bishop-coadjutor by the annual convention of the diocese of California and consecrated to the position May 15, 1958; later that year, following the death of Bishop Karl Morgan Block, he became the fifth Bishop of California. He held the position for seven years, until he resigned in 1965 after a sabbatical at Cambridge. Shortly thereafter (1966) he joined the staff at the Center for Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, where he established a foundation to aid people experiencing a transition in their religious lives and began an extensive schedule of speaking engagements.

A series of inexplicable events following the suicide of Pike's son James Jr. in 1966 convinced Pike that his son was attempting to communicate with h im from beyond the grave, and he turned his investigative attention to the field of psychic phenomena. This capped an increasingly contentious career, as Pike's outspoken views on theological and social issues (including ordination of women, racial desegregation, and acceptance of lesbians and gays within mainline churches) had already disturbed his fellow clergy. Pike was charged with heresy three times (though the charges were dropped) and was formally censured by his fellow Bishops in October of 1966.

In 1967 Pike and Esther were divorced and Pike married Diane Kennedy, who had been his assistant at the foundation and who had helped him complete a book on psychic phenomena. In early 1969 Pike announced that he and his wife were officially ending their connection with the Episcopal Church in particular and with all forms of organized religion in general. Pike's continued interest in the early Christian church led him and Diane on a research trip to Israel in 1969 where they were lost on an expedition into the desert between Jerusalem and the Red Sea. Diane found her way to safety but Pike's body was found by a search party. He was buried at Jaffa in Israel on September 8, 1969.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The James Albert Pike Papers consist of correspondence, professional records, memorabilia, financial and legal records, writings, and miscellany. The collection is comprised of two separate segments which have not been physically integrated; however, they are listed logically in the inventory. For this reason, box numbers sometimes occur out of order in the inventory.

Correspondence covers the years 1889-1970. The early correspondence, 1889-1904, consists of letters from Pike's father to his mother (Pike's grandmother) and sister (Pike's aunt). There is a large amount of correspondence between Pike and many of his relatives during the period 1952-1958. Some of this correspondence contains important genealogical information. Especially interesting is a series of letters between Pike and a cousin, Sister Agnes Marie, a Roman Catholic nun, which contain his reflections on his own religious development beyond what he received from his Catholic background. However, there is very little correspondence with his wives and children.

There are a number of important groups of correspondence and some noteworthy individual letters. These include letters relating to: Pike's controversy with the Vassar religion department over the teaching of the Christian faith, 1949-1950; his refusal of an honorary degree from the University of the South, 1953; the organization and construction and administration of the Chapel of Saint James the Fisherman, Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 1952-1961; the controversy over the treaty with Spain which included a restriction on the freedom of United States service personnel to marry Spanish women, 1954; the controversy over the sermon which criticized Senator Joseph McCarthy, 1954; the work of the Rev. G. Michael Scott at the United Nations regarding South West Africa, 1952-1957; the issue of the Arab refugees and the Middle East, 1953-1957; his sermon on the movie Baby Doll 1956-1957; the issue of the alleged religious quota system in the assignment of probation officers in New York City, 1957; his threatened suit against the Manchester, New Hampshire Union, 1957; the charges of heresy against him, 1966-1967; and the question of psychic phenomena, 1967-1969. Also of interest is a series of correspondence with the Harry Walker Agency relating to that organization's handling of the scheduling of Pike's speaking engagements and to the problems caused by his decision, late in 1967, to reduce the number of his appearances. Scattered throughout are groups of correspondence related to his various articles, books, sermons, and speeches, as well as pastoral letters counseling people on matters of divorce and mixed marriages, which have been restricted. After 1965 the bulk of the correspondence is of the "fan mail" variety, and most of it deals either with the charges of heresy or with psychic phenomena. A selected group of correspondence relating to his speaking engagements during this period has been included. At the end of the correspondence are a number of notebooks, 1955-1958, which contain carbon copies of his replies to correspondence as well as carbon copies of some inter-office memoranda.

Among individual pieces of correspondence which are of interest are: a letter dated February 24, 1947 in which the Rev. John Hines, later Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, invites Pike to become the Episcopal religion professor at the University of Texas; letters dated June 19, 1966 to K. Greenleaf Pedley, and October 18, 1967 to Robert Marshall, in which Pike gives his views on the Qumran community and comments on his research into Christian origins; a letter dated March 16, 1967 to Emil Oberholzer in which he details his views on the taxation of churches; a detailed memo from William Stringfellow dated August 1967 which discusses possible strategies for the general convention in Seattle; a letter dated Nov 3, 1968 from Mrs. Paul Tillich, in which she criticizes Pike for involving her husband's name in accounts of his experiences with psychic phenomena; and a letter to J. Richard Lander dated April 5, 1969 in which he recounts some of the events surrounding his first marriage.

An index of certain significant correspondents is included at the end of this inventory. Notable persons and their dates include:

Adler, Mortimer J., 1966
Baker, Richard H., 1958-1966
Barnes, Hazel E., 1967
Barnes, Roswell, P., 1949-1955
Barrett, George W., 1966-1969
Bayne, Stephen F., 1951-1967
Bently, Eric, 1961
Berthold, Fred, 1965-1957
Block, Marguerite, 1954
Bloy, Francis Eric, 1958-1967
Bretall, Robert W., 1967
Burrill, Gerald F., 1956-1958
Burroughs, Nelson W., 1952-1968
Burton, Phillip, 1966
Cadigan, George L., 1966-1968
Campbell, Wilburn C., 1958-1969
Carman, James W. F., 1956-1964
Cassels, Louis, 1966
Craine, John P., 1953-1967
Crittenden, William, 1958-1967
Crowther, C. E., 1967
Culley, Margaret, 1965
Davis, Elmer, 1955
DeMille, Cecil B., 1956
DeWitt, Robert L., 1968-1969
Dillistone, F. W., 1952
Donegan, Horace W. B., 1952-1968
Dun, Angus, 1944-1958
Emrich, Richard, 1953-1966
Ferre, Nels F. S., 1969
Fey, Harold E., 1957
Frazer, Thomas A., 1964-1968
Fry, Franklin Clark, 1958
Giambastiani, J. F., 1968
Gilpatric, Roswell L., 1959
Goldstein, Israel, 1955
Gray, Walter H., 1958-1966
Hall, Charles Francis, 1957-1969
Hart, Oliver J., 1957-1962
Harte, John Joseph, 1958
Hatch, Robert McConnell, 1953-1966
Hennings, Thomas C., Jr., 1955
Hines, John E., 1947-1969
Hobson, Henry W., 1957-1958
Hodgson, Leonard, 1957
Hook, Sidney, 1957
Hubbard, Russell S., 1949-1964
Hurst, Fannie, 1958
Irion, Paul T., 1967
Kazan, Elia, 1957
Kellogg, Hamilton H., 1957-1967
Kinsolving, Arthur L., 1947-1958
Lawrence, William A., 1956-1957
Lichtenberger, Arthur, 1954-1963
Louttit, Henry I., 1953-1968
MacInnes, Angus Campbell, 1957-1958
McLaughlin, John, 1967
Marmion, William H., 1958-1969
Metcalf, George R., 1957
Michalis, C. G., 1951
Moore, Paul J., 1955-1968
Mosley, J. Brooke, 1953-1968
Myers, C. Kilmer, 1957-1968
Nash, Norman B., 1952-1958
O'Dwyer, Paul, 1953
Pardue, Austin, 1953-1959
Parsons, Edward L., 1956-1958
Peabody, Malcolm E., 1949-1953
Poage, W. R., 1957
Powell, Noble C., 1953-1958
Pusey, Nathan M., 1950
Quarterman, George H., 1953-1966
Reston, James B., 1954
Ritschl, Dietrich, 1967
Robinson, James H., 1965-1967
Ruether, Rosemary, 1968
Scribner, Charles, Jr., 1966
Sherman, Jonathan O., 1953-1965
Sherrill, Henry Knox, 1953-1958
Skelton, Kenneth J. F., 1967
Spurrier, William A., 1955
Stark, Leland, 1953-1969
Stewart, Weston Henry, 1956-1957
Stiegler, George E., 1966-1967
Stinnette, Charles R., 1953
Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1952-1969
Swift, A. Ervine, 1956-1958
Trueblood, O. Elton, 1955
VanBuren, Abigail, 1967
Walters, Sumner F.D., 1958-1968
Warnecke, Frederick J., 1956-1958
Washburn, Benjamin M., 1956-1958
Welles, Edward Randolph, 1952-1956
Wencilius, Leon, 1965
Wetmore, J. Stuart, 1955-1969
Wheeler, Harvey, 1966
Whittemore, Lewis B., 1954-1958
Wright, Richard, 1949

Other correspondents not specifically listed include: Donald B. Aldrich, John M. Allin, A. J. Appasamy, Donald Arden, Lane W. Barton, J. Christiaan Beker, Karl Morgan Block, Allen W. Brown, Frederick G. Budlong, John H. Burt, Michael Cantner, Charles C. J. Carpenter, H. H. Clark, Archie Henry Crowley, John T. Dallas, William Davidson, Ralph S. Dean, Harry Lee Doll, Roscoe T. Foust, Wallace J. Gardner, Robert F. Gibson, Frederick D. Goodwin, Clarence Haden, John S. Higgins, Walter M. Higley, William W. Horstick, Harry S. Kennedy, C. Avery Mason, Frank Arthur McElwain, Philip F. McNairy, R. Bland Mitchell, G. Ashton Oldham, E. O. Peters, W. R. Chilton Powell, George E. Rath, Basil Rathbone, Russell T. Rauscher, David B. Reed, R. Ambrose Reeves, F. Reus-Froylan, Lauriston L. Scaife, Bernard J. Sheil, Frank W. Sterrett, Robert W. Stopford, Albert R. Stuart, Arthur L. Swift, and F. H. Wilkinson. Almost all of these men are Episcopal bishops.

Financial and legal records contains agreements relating to book publication, bank statements and check books for both the bishop's discretionary fund and special account, contracts for speaking engagements, and the divorce papers of Pike's first divorce.

Memorabilia consists in large part of biographical materials, including newspaper clippings, various sermons and papers by others dealing with Pike's opinions and their significance, photographs, and programs of events in which he participated, and five large scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings.

Personal records contains Pike's birth certificate, along with personal correspondence, personal financial and legal material, and material on the Pike family. There is also a small amount pertaining to Pike's son James Pike, Jr.

Professional records consist of materials relating to Pike's professional career and are subdivided according to the chronological sequence of that career: lawyer, 1936-1944; curate, 1944-1946; rector, 1947-1949; chaplain, 1949-1952; dean, 1952-1958; bishop, 1958-1966; resigned bishop, 1966-1969. Materials of special interest in this series include the following: copies of the Christian education materials which he helped to introduce at St. John's Church in Washington, D. C.; drafts of reports and statements relating to the Vassar and Sewanee controversies; certificates of consent to Pike's election as bishop, as well as tally sheets of the votes of the election and materials relating to the preparations for the consecration; memoranda, pastoral letters, and directives related to the administration of the diocese of California, particularly a memorandum from Pike to an unidentified strategy committee and a position paper of that committee; materials related to the discussion of the status of deaconesses at the meeting of the House of Bishops in Glacier Park, Montana; materials relating to the heresy charges and the meeting of the House of Bishops in Wheeling, West Virginia, particularly the transcripts of tapes made by the C. B. C.; releases, memos, statements, and resolutions from the General Convention in Seattle, Washington; a proposal to buy The Churchman; an organizational affiliation card file; and notes and questions from two speaking engagements.

Recordings contains more than a hundred audio and video recordings of speeches, interviews, lectures, television appearances, sermons, and so on. Also included here is a recording of an episode of the television series "In Search Of" which focused on Pike and his disappearance in Egypt.

Writings consists of articles, book reviews, books, columns, forewords, interviews, memoranda, radio and television transcripts, sermons, speeches, and miscellaneous. Dates are given when known.

Among the books, The Next Day appears to have originated as a collection of sermons, and the original draft seems merely to consist of copies of those sermons. The next draft is apparently made up entirely of fragments from the first effort to put them into some continuous order. The drafts of Chapters 1 through 3 of The Other Side have been arranged as nearly as possible in the sequence in which they were written. It appears that after the book was begun the concept of its composition was changed and material which had been grouped together was separated into what eventually became the first three chapters. The first draft of the section of Selected Readings On The Legal Profession which Pike edited consists mainly of published material annotated so as to indicate material to be included in that section. Of interest among the drafts of Teen-agers and Sex are drafts of chapters which have been annotated by an unknown reader.

The columns consist mainly of drafts of the "Dean's Column" from the Bulletin of the diocese of New York. Of interest also are drafts of a proposed syndicated newspaper column in which Pike would have answered questions submitted to him by readers. The interviews are in the form either of drafts submitted to Pike for his approval, transcripts from tapes of the interview, or published material. Of significance here is a transcript of the interview of Pike and Arthur Ford on Canadian television by Alan Spraggett. Legal memoranda and memoranda submitted to the staff of the Center for their discussion and as proposals for further investigation constitute the section on memoranda.

The sermons are in large part mimeographed publicity releases by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine containing excerpts from or summaries of Pike's sermons. Since most of his preaching was done extemporaneously, and, apparently, without notes, most of this material consists of either prepared statements or transcriptions of tapes. However, there are some notes of sermons which date from the earlier part of his ministry. Many of these are arranged together in folders which cover a number of years, since the specific dates of their delivery are unknown. The speeches also consist in large measure of excerpts or summaries or transcriptions of material given extemporaneously.

Miscellaneous writings include the position paper written by Pike for presentation to the Bayne Committee, what appear to be papers written for courses which he had taken, as well as letters to the editor, press releases, and other types of public comment on various issues.

The collection concludes with a small amount of Writings by others, 1923-1970. This consists of writings of others arranged alphabetically by author. Included are published materials containing annotations by Pike or by the author to Pike, and papers written by students in Pike's classes.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically, with incoming correspondence stapled on top of outgoing; a small amount of undated correspondence is placed at the beginning. Professional records are arranged chronologically, grouped by positions held (e.g., lawyer, 1936-1944; curate, 1944-1946; etc); within these general headings the materials are arranged alphabetically by type and subject. Memorabilia is arranged alphabetically by type of material; the oversize scrapbooks have been placed at the end of the collection. Financial and legal records are arranged alphabetically according to the type of material.

Writings are arranged alphabetically by type and within that alphabetically by title, except for book reviews, forewords, and sermons. Book reviews and forewords are arranged alphabetically by the author of the book reviewed or the book for which the foreword was written, while sermons are arranged chronologically by the date on which they were delivered. Untitled materials at the end of each section are arranged alphabetically by subject matter.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Researchers wishing to use materials relating to family, or of a pastoral nature, require the written permission of Diane Kennedy Pike.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Researchers wishing to publish materials relating to family, or of a pastoral nature, require the written permission and approval of Diane Kennedy Pike.

Related Material

The collection originally contained a number of published editions of books by Pike, or to which Pike contributed. These have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these items.

Special Collections Research Center has considerable holdings relating to the church and clergy. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Bennett, John Coleman, 1902-
Berrigan, Daniel.
Blanton, Smiley, 1882-1966.
Coburn, John B.
Dickey, John Sloan, 1907-1991.
Dillenberger, John.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969.
Exman, Eugene.
Fromm, Erich, 1900-1980.
Grant, Frederick C. (Frederick Clifton), 1891-1974.
Johnson, Howard Albert, 1915-
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.
Krumm, John M. (John McGill), 1913-
Luce, Henry Robinson, 1898-1967.
Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990.
Miller, Randolph Crump, 1910-2002.
Montefiore, Hugh.
Muste, A. J. (Abraham John), 1885-1967.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971.
Peale, Norman Vincent, 1898-1993.
Pfeffer, Leo, 1910-1933.
Pike, James A. (James Albert), 1913-1969.
Pittenger, W. Norman (William Norman), 1905-1997.
Poling, Daniel A. (Daniel Alfred), 1884-1968.
Pollard, William G. (William Grosvenor), 1911-1989.
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
Sayre, Francis Bowes, 1885-1972.
Scott, Michael, 1907-1983.
Shepherd, Massey Hamilton, 1913-
Sockman, Ralph W. (Ralph Washington), 1889-1970.
Stringfellow, William.
Walsh, Chad, 1914-1991.
Zabriskie, Alexander C. (Alexander Clinton), 1898-1956.

Corporate Bodies

Cathedral of St. John the Divine (New York, N.Y.)
Episcopal Church -- Bishops.
Episcopal Church -- Clergy.


Abortion -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Abortion -- Religious aspects.
Birth control -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Birth control -- Religious aspects.
Christian ethics.
Christian heretics.
Church and social problems.
Clergy -- United States.
Clergy as authors.
Episcopalians -- United States.
Lawyers -- United States.
Legal ethics -- United States.
Pastoral psychology.
Psychical research.
Religion in the public schools.
Sermons, American.

Genres and Forms

Beta (Betamax)
Book reviews.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Financial records.
Galley proofs.
Manuscripts for publication.
Phonograph records.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

James A. Pike Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Diane K. Pike, 1970-1993.

Table of Contents


Financial and legal records


Personal records

Professional records



Writings by others

Selected index to correspondence


Selected index to correspondence

All correspondence is incoming (to Pike), unless noted as "(outgoing)".