edited by John Haller Jr.


This autobiography by Curtis Williford Reese (1887-1961) offers a window into the early history of the Unitarian movement in America, with special reference to its non-Theist Humanist element. His story, which he recounts in My Life Among the Unitarians, was originally submitted to Beacon Press but turned it down because the editors felt Reese had not given sufficient detail to the issues. The manuscript is housed among the Edwin H. Wilson Papers in the Special Collections Division of Morris Library at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. It was presumably given to Wilson since he had intended to write a history of the Unitarian movement but died before he was able to complete it.

The ninth child in a family of six boys and three girls, Curtis Reese came from a long line of Southern Baptist preachers. They included his great-grandfather, grandfather, two uncles, two brothers, and two nephews. In 1911, after being ordained in the Baptist church in 1908 and serving as pastor in several churches, including becoming the State Evangelist for the Illinois Baptist State Association, he came to the realization he was preaching things he no longer believed and turned to Unitarianism in 1913. Curtis’s autobiography captures his education as well as his years as secretary for the Western Unitarian Conference, his work for Lombard College, the Meadville Theological School, his membership on the Board of Directors of the American Unitarian Association, his involvement in the preparation of the Humanist Manifesto of 1933, and his years as Dean of the Abraham Lincoln Centre in Chicago. In many respects, his life provides the interested reader in a bird’s eye view of the first fifty years of the Unitarian movement in the United States.