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Thomas Kilgore, Jr. papers

Identifier: 0381

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Scope and Content

This collection contains the papers of Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Jr. These papers include his correspondence, manuscript and typescript drafts of his sermons, awards and citations he received, drafts of his speeches and lectures, outlines of workshops in which Kilgore participated, photographs, printed ephemera and two scrapbooks. Also included in this collection is a small amount of material documenting Kilgore's involvement with the civil rights movement, including the program from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral and two planning documents for the 1963 march on Washington, D.C. A 2017 accrual to the collection included Dr. Kilgore's numerous plaques, trophies, and other awards as well as a large collection of audio tapes.


  • Creation: 1935 - 2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1962 - 1998


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Jr. was born February 20, 1913 in Woodruff, South Carolina to Thomas and Eugenia Kilgore. He graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1935, completed some graduate work at Howard University's School of Religion in 1944 and 1945, and received a Master's of Divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1957. He held pastorates in North Carolina from 1936 to 1947 and at the Friendship Baptist Church in Harlem from 1947 to 1963, where he rose to prominence in the civil rights movement.

Kilgore began his efforts for equality in the 1940s registering voters and organizing tobacco workers in North and South Carolina. In Harlem, he worked to end segregation in the schools and in housing. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and played a significant role in his Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the South and on both coasts. He was a primary organizer of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom to Washington in 1957 and of the civil rights March on Washington of 1963.

In 1963, Kilgore moved to Los Angeles to become the pastor at the Second Baptist Church. He was the first African-American president of the American Baptist Convention (1969-1970) and also served two terms as the president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention (1976-1978). Locally, Kilgore served as a special advisor on community affairs to the University of Southern California president, spent many years on Los Angeles's Community Redevelopment Agency, and worked toward ecumenism and, particularly after the 1992 riots, for dialogue across racial lines.

Kilgore retired in 1985 and passed away in 1998. He married his wife, Jeannetta, in 1936, and they had two daughters, Lynn Elda and Jini Medina.


48 Linear Feet (53 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of manuscripts, drafts of sermons, church and personal correspondence and photographs of Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Jr., pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles from 1963-1985 and a noted civil rights and civic leader. A subsequent accrual to the original collection includes a large number of plaques and awards, as well as audiovisual materials and ephemera.


The Thomas Kilgore, Jr. papers are organized into eleven series: Series 1: Pastoral Duties; Series 2: Correspondence; Series 3: Celebrations; Series 4: Addresses, Workshops, Publications, and Lectures; Series 5: Baptist Organizations; Series 6: Civil Rights Movement; Series 7: Ephemera, Photographs & Clippings; Series 8: Audiovisual Materials; Series 9: Plaques, Awards & Citations; Series 10: Realia; and Series 11: Textiles.


Gift of Jini Kilgore Cockroft, 2010, 2017.

Separated Materials

Thomas Kilgore, Jr.'s memoir, A Servant's Journey: The Life and Work of Thomas Kilgore. (Judson Press, 1998), was removed from this collection and cataloged into USC's Special Collections book holdings.

Finding Aid of the Thomas Kilgore, Jr. papers
Rebecca Hirsch and Sarah Guidas
2011 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
The processing of this collection and the creation of this finding aid was funded by the generous support of the National Historic Publications and Records Commission.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States