The Chapel as the “WorldHouse”
The Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel – the world’s most prominent religious memorial to Dr. King – is a unique, tangible metaphor of his World House concept.
The Chapel building and plaza honor the memory and celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, Morehouse College’s most well-known alumnus, and Dr. Howard Thurman, our best-known interfaith theologian.
Built in 1978 under President Hugh Morris Gloster, the Chapel seats 2501 (2,500 and always room for one more). The Chapel backdrop Features the 6,000-pipe Wendell P. Whalum organ. Hall of Honor includes 158 oil portraits of global leaders of the international civil and human rights movement. Our lobby is home to busts of Mahatma and Kasturbai Gandhi. The plaza is home to only bronze statue of Dr. King in Georgia and the Howard Thurman obelisk and crypt. The Dean’s Office and Library houses a 500+ collection of King related photos, artifacts and memorabilia.
The Chapel building, a multi-purpose campus facility, hosts people of diverse backgrounds from around the globe. Chapel is used for Morehouse academic, cultural, community and spiritual programs and events. 1 million people from 100 countries have visited the Chapel over the past 32 years and over 150 global leaders have spoken from the Chapel pulpit over the past 32 years.
Dr. Howard Washington Thurman is considered a “Twentieth Century holy man.” Ebony and Life magazines identified him as one of the 10 greatest preachers in America.
Thurman’s influence is seen upon the College’s emergence as a center of the Ghandi-inspired strategy of nonviolent resistance. Under his tutelage, Morehouse became an early laboratory for the study of nonviolence as a tool for confrontation and change, ultimately impacting Dr. Martin Luther King’s leadership in the civil rights movement.
Thurman is also considered a forerunner in the religious movement of celebrating the unity of all people, embracing a religious spirituality that was intercultural, interracial, interdenominational and international. His influence-which has touched the lives of countless chaplains, deans, imams, ministers, priests, preachers, rabbis and lay persons-continues.
A 1923 graduate of Morehouse College, he was a teacher and preacher to Morehouse and Spelman. He served as the first dean in Andrew Rankin Chapel at Howard University and Daniel Marsh Chapel at Boston University. Dr.Thurman was co-founder and pastor of the Church for the Fellowship of All People in San Francisco, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Dr. Thurman authored 23 books including Jesus and the Disinherited and The Inward Journey. He died in 1981
“It is not what you keep, but what you give that makes you happy.”
“We make our living by what we get. We make our life by what we give.”
“Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead, and no man yet to be born can do it any better.”
“As we face the unpredictable future, have faith that man and God will assist us all the way.”
—From Quotable Quotes by Benjamin Elijah Mays
Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays was a giant in the Christian ministry and American education. He is remembered for his outstanding leadership and service as a teacher, preacher, mentor, scholar, author and activist in the civil rights movement.
Born August 1, 1894 near Epworth, South Carolina, he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Bates College in Maine. He served as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church from 1921-1923 in Atlanta, Georgia. Recruited by Morehouse President John Hope, Mays would join the faculty as a mathematics teacher and debate coach. He obtained a master’s degree in 1925 and in 1935 a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago. In 1934, he was appointed dean of the School of Religion at Howard University and served until 1940.
He became president of Morehouse College in 1940 and launched a 27-year tenure that shepherded the institution into international prominence. He upgraded the faculty, secured a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and sustained enrollment during wartime America. His most noted forum was Tuesday morning Chapel in historic Sale Hall, where he challenged and inspired the students to excellence in scholarship and in life itself. One of Morehouse’s most distinguished graduates, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ’48, remembers Dr. Mays as his “spiritual mentor” and “intellectual father.”
Upon his retirement, he served as president of the Atlanta Board of Education from 1970 to 1981.Throughout his educational career, he would receive 56 honorary degrees, including a posthumously awarded degree from Columbia University. He published nearly 2000 articles and nine books.
In 1926, he married Sadie Gray, a teacher and social worker, who died in 1969. Dr. Mays died in 1984.
The credit for the success of the organ at Morehouse College rests with Dr. Wendell P. Whalum Sr. It was through his insistence and tireless effort that Morehouse College, his alma mater, acquired this instrument.
Dr. Whalum described the organ he envisioned as follows “My chief concern is to honor the college with making available an instrument that is capable of playing organ literature from all musical periods.” It is also an effort to create an instrument that would attract the world’s greatest organists. In the chapel that seats 2,501 and with this organ, we are able to further enrich the music education of Morehouse students, community and move into first place with facility and equipment.”
To fulfill these varied requirements, Morehouse College called upon the Wicks Organ Company through Mr. Arthur Schlueter of Atlanta, to do the construction and installation. The Wicks Organ Company is located in Highland, Michigan. Charles Mosely of Houston, Texas, directed the tonal design and construction to ensure an instrument suited to its particular mission.
The resulting instrument is striking, both visually and aurally. The façade, which measures thirty-eight feet in width, features an exposed 32’ Principal and copper 8’ Trumpet en Chamade, the lower notes of which are hooded. The tonal design of the organ can be described as “American Classic,” with French flavor as well as nomenclature. At the time of the instrument’s completion, it was one of the largest organs in the South, and second largest in Atlanta. The Wicks Organ was featured at the 1992 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists during its Opening Convocation.
Dr. David F. Oliver – “Improvisation on Dear Old Morehouse”
On April 25, 1982, the new 92-rank Wicks pipe organ was dedicated in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel to Dr. Wendell Phillps Whalum Sr., Callaway Professor of Music, College Organist, and Director of the renowned Morehouse College Glee Club.
Since the passing of Dr. Whalum in 1987, three organists have had the honor of serving as College Organist. Michael Johnson succeeded Dr. Whalum in 1987. David Stills ’60, served as organist from1988-1995. Dr. David F. Oliver has served as Artist in Residence and College organist since 1995. Dr. Elaine Satterwhite, of the Department of Music, taught organ and served as associate organist for many years.
Many renowned organists have performed recitals on the Wendell P. Whalum Sr. Pipe Organ. Among them include the following African-American organists: Dr. Joyce Johnson, Dr. David Hurd, Dr. Herdon Spillman, Dr. Herman Taylor, Marvin Mills, and Dr. Mickey Thomas Terry.
Wendell Phillips Whalum Sr. Memorial Pipe Organ Photo:
List of Treasures to be added:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Statue, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. Gift
- Howard Washington Thurman Obelisk
- The 125th Anniversary Marker
- The Century & Millennium Marker Honoring MLK Jr., Prince Hall Masons Gift
- The Martin Luther King Jr. Cornerstone, Boston University Gift
- Wendell P. Whalum Pipe Organ
- Oikoumene Cornerstone
- The Cornell Everett Talley Pulpit
- International Hall of Honor Oil Portrait Gallery
- Morehouse College Presidential Chair and College Mace
- The Howard Thurman Chest
- The Carey Wynn Urn
- The Tutahnk Ahmen Mace of the Dean of The Chapel
- The Silverbluff Springfield Baptist Church Founding Bell
- The President’s Medallion & Ceremonial Robe
- The President’s Seal
- The President’s Rules of Order
- The Hugh M. Gloster Memorial
- The John Hope Memorial
- The William Danforth Chapel
-The Chapel for The Inward Journey in Sale Hall