Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1849, Charles Galloway became a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and one of the state’s leading postbellum religious figures.
Galloway attended the University of Mississippi as a teenager after the Civil War. Following his graduation, he married Harriet Willis of Vicksburg, and the two moved to Black Hawk for his first ministerial position. The young couple were strong supporters of education, including Sunday schools, and Harriet Galloway became the first president of the Women’s Missionary Union in Mississippi. Charles Galloway quickly became a Methodist leader, beginning his work as editor of the New Orleans Christian Advocate in 1882 and serving as minister at churches in Vicksburg and Jackson. At his urging, First Methodist Church of Jackson completed a new building in 1883. In 1886, at age thirty-seven, he was named a bishop, earning the nickname the Boy Bishop.
Galloway provided leadership and commentary on the most important issues in religious life. An ardent supporter of missionary work, he traveled to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East to spread the Gospel, detailing his travels in A Circuit of the Globe (1895).
As the head of one of Mississippi’s most popular denominations, Galloway became a popular speaker at graduations, dedications, and other ceremonial events, among them the founding of Millsaps College and the dedication of the New Capitol. His language tended to be lofty and optimistic, with great hopes that education, good government, and Christianity were leading to a better nation and world.
At a time when many ministers preferred not to take a stand on the issue, Galloway was a public proponent of Prohibition laws, and in 1887 he debated Jefferson Davis in the press on the issue of alcohol sales. The two public figures argued, often in debater’s language that alternated between great esteem and irritated rebuke. Galloway lamented that such an eminent figure as Davis could let his words be used by supporters of saloons, and Davis criticized Galloway for moving toward the “forbidden union of church and state.” Galloway emphasized that opposing the sale of alcohol was simply part of the “duties of citizenship.”
Galloway was a leading supporter of higher education and uplift. He was crucial to Millsaps’s founding and served as president of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South Board of Education as well as on the boards of trustees at Vanderbilt University and the University of Mississippi. His interest in education informed his ideas about race relations. He always advocated the education of African Americans, particularly industrial training, and openly opposed James K. Vardaman and others who sought to cut funding to African American schools.
Historian Ray Holder argues that Galloway was torn between a desire for kindness and brotherhood with African Americans on one hand and participation in the life of white southerners of his generation on the other. He grew up among Confederate supporters and heard sermons as a child that “proved to my perfect satisfaction that the South was bound to win.” He was an insistent supporter of the Lost Cause, celebrated the Confederacy, and denounced the policies of Reconstruction. In a 1903 address, “The South and the Negro,” the bishop made clear that he supported segregation and political discrimination. According to historian Charles Reagan Wilson, Galloway advanced “four principles for race relations: no social mixing, separate schools and churches, white control of politics, and opposition to the colonization of blacks.” However, Galloway was frustrated by the violence and hatred found in turn-of-the-century Mississippi, declaring that “any policy which tends to inflame prejudice and widen the racial chasm postpones indefinitely the final triumphs of the Son of Man among the sons of men.” He condemned lynching, overt displays of hatred, and the politicians who benefited from heated language about preserving white supremacy. Without ever holding up possibilities of equality, Galloway urged that white Mississippians had two main duties with regard to African Americans—making sure all people were protected under the law, and improving education.
After Galloway’s death in 1909, First Methodist Church in downtown Jackson was renamed Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church.
- Charles Betts Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (1898)
- Charles Betts Galloway, Great Men and Great Movements: A Volume of Addresses (1914)
- Ray Holder, Mississippi Methodists, 1799–1983: A Moral People “Born of Conviction” (1984)
- Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920 (1980)