Who Was Thornton Whaling?

Thornton Whaling, who delivered the second lecture at the James Henley Thornwell Centennial Lectures in 1912, had just recently become the President of Columbia Theological Seminary – hence his topic, Dr. Thornwell as a Theologian. The History of South Carolina, edited by Yates Snowden in 1920 (Vol. IV: 203-204), includes this biographical sketch of Dr. Whaling:

As president of the Columbia Theological Seminary since 1911, Doctor Whaling has realized the cherished ambitions of a lifetime for a congenial and effective service as a teacher and director of theological education. He has done much in the past eight years to give the seminary its distinctive usefulness in the Presbyterian Church of the South, but, however important that service has been, his previous record is such as to call for more than cursory attention.

            Dr. Thornton Whaling was born at Radford in Montgomery County, Virginia, June 5, 1858, a son of Alexander Lewis and Aggie Lewis (Williams) Lewis (Williams) Whaling. He is connected with the Lewis family in both the paternal and maternal lines. The maternal branch of that family were Scotch-Irish people of the Valley of the Virginia. The paternal Lewises were of the English branch of Eastern Virginia. Doctor Whaling is therefore of Scotch-Irish and English ancestry.

He acquired a liberal education, being a student two years at Davidson College in North Carolina, and received his A. B. degree from Roanoke College of Virginia in 1879. For  two years he was a student at Union Seminary, New York, and for one year at Columbia Seminary, South Carolina. The degree Doctor of Divinity has been conferred upon him by Austin College of Texas, Roanoke University, the degree LL. D. by Southwestern Presbyterian University, and the degree Litt. D. by Louisiana College.

He was ordained a Presbyterian minister November 20, 1883, and served as pastor at Cheraw, South Carolina, from 1883 to 1800. Even in that period he was deeply interested in his educational work. He became a trustee of Davidson College and was one of the regents of the proposed South-Atlantic University. The Woodrow controversy in the Presbyterian Church began in 1885, and for various reasons Doctor Whaling had some considerable share in this famous debate, as a friend of Doctor Woodrow and an advocate of the toleration of his views.

In 1890 Doctor Whaling went to Birmingham, Alabama, as pastor of the newly organized South Highland Presbyterian Church. He served there until 1892, had the satisfaction of seeing the church grow rapidly, and it has since become one of the strongest churches of the South. While there he was offered the presidency of one or two colleges and several educational positions. The choice he accepted made him professor of Philosophy and Economics in the Southwestern Presbyterian University at Clarksville, Tennessee. He held that chair from 1892 to 1896. Probably his most interesting experience as a pastor was in charge of the famous old church at Lexington. Virginia, from 1896 to 1905. That church probably has the largest congregation of any Presbyterian Church in the South and one of the largest in the country. Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute are both located at Lexington, with an aggregate of over a thousand students, and during the pastorate of Doctor Whaling the gallery of his church was always crowded with these young men. Visitors frequently came to Lexington for the express purpose of seeing this great congregation of members and others crowding the floor below and the students and cadets packing the gallery above. It was an audience suffi cient to inspire even the most prosaic preacher.

From 1905 to 1910 Doctor Whaling was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Texas. That church had paid him the compliment of calling him to succeed every pastor it had ever had. The first call was given in 1894, the next in 1901, and the last, which he accepted, in 1905. It was and is a great church, having now a membership of 1,500 and a Sunday school still larger. During his pastorate 500 members were added and a new edifice, costing approximately $200,000, was constructed. That is without question one of the most attractive church buildings in the South. On July i, 1911, Doctor Whaling entered upon his present duties as president and professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Doctor Girardeau had prophesied a quarter of a century before that this would be Doctor Whaling’s final destination, and the latter had been pleased to regard it as his aspiration and inspiration from that time forward. In a congenial and useful work. Doctor Whaling has had the satisfaction of seeing his plans and efforts become fruitful in many ways. The seminary has prospered, has trebled its number of students, and the endowment and assets are now approximately $500,000.

During this period of his life Doctor Whaling has published the following volumes: “Jesus and Christian Doctrines” and “Questions on Theology.” He has in preparation a book on theology which will embody the studies of a lifetime.

In one way or another Doctor Whaling has been connected with every Theological Seminary in the Southern Presbyterian Church with one exception, either as professor or as director. He was president of the Board of Directors of the Union Theological Seminary of Virginia from 1903 to 1905, and for a number of years was director of the Austin Theological Seminary in Texas. He was Bible lecturer at Trinity College, North Carolina, in 1913, and from 1890 to 1898 was associate editor of the Central Presbyterian, and from 1890 to 1893 review editor of the Magazine of Christian Literature. December 20, 1883, he married Lucy Muller, of Columbia, South Carolina.

In addition to the books named above, Dr. Whaling also published Science and Religion Today and “The Choice of a Vocation.” He was the Moderator of the 65th General Assembly of the PCUS in 1925, and was at some point a professor at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, according to the church history of the First Presbyterian Church of Cheraw, SC. I was not able to find out when Dr. Whaling passed away. Does anyone happen to know?

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From History of South Carolina, ed. Yates Snowden (1920) Volume IV: 203-204.

Thornton Whaling, D. D.        

As president of the Columbia Theological Seminary since 1911, Doctor Whaling has realized the cherished ambitions of a lifetime for a congenial and effective service as a teacher and director of theological education. He has done much in the past eight years to give the seminary its distinctive usefulness in the Presbyterian Church of the South, but, however important that service has been, his previous record is such as to call for more than cursory attention.

            Dr. Thornton Whaling was born at Radford in Montgomery County, Virginia, June 5, 1858, a son of Alexander Lewis and Aggie Lewis (Williams) Lewis (Williams) Whaling. He is connected with the Lewis family in both the paternal and maternal lines. The maternal branch of that family were Scotch-Irish people of the Valley of the Virginia. The paternal Lewises were of the English branch of Eastern Virginia. Doctor Whaling is therefore of Scotch-Irish and English ancestry.

He acquired a liberal education, being a student two years at Davidson College in North Carolina, and received his A. B. degree from Roanoke College of Virginia in 1879. For  two years he was a student at Union Seminary, New York, and for one year at Columbia Seminary, South Carolina. The degree Doctor of Divinity has been conferred upon him by Austin College of Texas, Roanoke University, the degree LL. D. by Southwestern Presbyterian University, and the degree Litt. D. by Louisiana College.

He was ordained a Presbyterian minister November 20, 1883, and served as pastor at Cheraw, South Carolina, from 1883 to 1800. Even in that period he was deeply interested in his educational work. He became a trustee of Davidson College and was one of the regents of the proposed South-Atlantic University. The Woodrow controversy in the Presbyterian Church began in 1885, and for various reasons Doctor Whaling had some considerable share in this famous debate, as a friend of Doctor Woodrow and an advocate of the toleration of his views.

In 1890 Doctor Whaling went to Birmingham, Alabama, as pastor of the newly organized South Highland Presbyterian Church. He served there until 1892, had the satisfaction of seeing the church grow rapidly, and it has since become one of the strongest churches of the South. While there he was offered the presidency of one or two colleges and several educational positions. The choice he accepted made him professor of Philosophy and Economics in the Southwestern Presbyterian University at Clarksville, Tennessee. He held that chair from 1892 to
1896. Probably his most interesting experience as a pastor was in charge of the famous old church at Lexington. Virginia, from 1896 to 1905. That church probably has the largest congregation of any Presbyterian Church in the South and one of the largest in the country. Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute are both located at Lexington, with an aggregate of over a thousand students, and during the pastorate of Doctor Whaling the gallery of his church was always crowded with these young men. Visitors frequently came to Lexington for the express purpose of seeing this great congregation of members and others crowding the floor below and the students and cadets packing the gallery above. It was an audience suffi cient to inspire even the most prosaic preacher.

From 1905 to 1910 Doctor Whaling was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Texas. That church had paid him the compliment of calling him to succeed every pastor it had ever had. The first call was given in 1894, the next in 1901, and the last, which he accepted, in 1905. It was and is a great church, having now a membership of 1,500 and a Sunday school still larger. During his pastorate 500 members were added and a new edifice, costing approximately $200,000, was constructed. That is without question one of the most attractive church buildings in the South. On July i, 1911, Doctor Whaling entered upon his present duties as president and professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Doctor Girardeau had prophesied a quarter of a century before that this would be Doctor Whaling’s final destination, and the latter had been pleased to regard it as his aspiration and inspiration from that time forward. In a congenial and useful work. Doctor Whaling has had the satisfaction of seeing his plans and efforts become fruitful in many ways. The seminary has prospered, has trebled its number of students, and the endowment and assets are now approximately $500,000.

During this period of his life Doctor Whaling has published the following volumes: “Jesus and Christian Doctrines” and “Questions on Theology.” He has in preparation a book on theology which will embody the studies of a lifetime.

In one way or another Doctor Whaling has been connected with every Theological Seminary in the Southern Presbyterian Church with one exception, either as professor or as director. He was president of the Board of Directors of the Union Theological Seminary of Virginia from 1903 to 1905, and for a number of years was director of the Austin Theological Seminary in Texas. He was Bible lecturer at Trinity College, North Carolina, in 1913, and from 1890 to 1898 was associate editor of the Central Presbyterian, and from 1890 to 1893 review editor of the Magazine of Christian Literature. December 20, 1883, he married Lucy Muller, of Columbia, South Carolina.

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