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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


A Presbyterian minister and founder of Henry Kendall College (now the University of Tulsa), William Robert King was born in Hawkins County, Tennessee, on January 12, 1868. His parents were John Ben and Mary Clark King. William Robert King received a bachelor's degree in 1889 and a divinity degree in 1890 from Washington College in Tennessee. In 1892 he graduated from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. After graduating, he married Florence Amanda Broyles on June 21, 1892, at her home in Jonesboro, Tennessee. They had one son, also named William Robert.

The Presbyterian Board of Home Missions appointed Reverend King to serve the church in Tahlequah, Indian Territory (I.T.). Soon he was elected synodical missionary of the Synod of Indian Territory and received an annual salary of fifteen hundred dollars. The synod consisted of four presbyteries, which included 106 churches and fifty-three ministers. King supervised five boarding schools operated by the Presbyterian Church, four contract schools at which the American Indians owned the school property, and various day schools that operated within the churches.

King began to agitate for a Presbyterian-sponsored institution of higher education, because the Baptists had opened Indian University in 1880 in Tahlequah and the Methodists had established Harrell Institution in 1881 in Muskogee. Receiving little enthusiasm from the local synod, King took his idea to the Board of Home Missions in New York City, which gave him encouragement to open a college to be named after Henry Kendall, the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions secretary. In 1894 King founded Henry Kendall College in Muskogee, I.T. He served as Kendall's second president from 1896 to 1899.

After his tenure at the college ended, King served as superintendent of the American Sunday School Union's southwestern office in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1899 to 1902. He also ministered at churches in Illinois and Missouri. He was secretary of the Presbyterian Board of the National Missions from 1919 to 1927 and executive secretary of the Home Missions Council from 1927 to 1938. Before his death on November 21, 1951, King penned the History of the Home Missions Council, With Introductory Outline History of Home Missions (1930) and received an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University of Tulsa in 1945. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Kingsport, Tennessee.

Linda D. Wilson


"William Robert King," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Guy W. Logsdon, The University of Tulsa: A History, 1882–1972 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977).

Who Was Who in America, Vol. 3, 1951–1960 (Chicago, Ill.: Marquis Who's Who, 1966).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “King, William Robert,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=KI009.

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