Wightman, William May


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Wightman, William May
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William May Wightman was the first chair of the Wofford College Board of Trustees, first president of Wofford College, and a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
William May Wightman was born in Charleston, SC in 1809. After graduating from the College of Charleston, he joined the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He served churches in the 1830s, then became the financial agent for Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. He was later Professor of English there, and then became the editor of the Southern Christian Advocate, the Methodist newspaper for the South Carolina Annual Conference. In 1844, he supported the separation of the Methodist Episcopal Church over slavery, and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1851, he was named to the Wofford College board of trustees by Rev. Benjamin Wofford’s will, and he gave the address at the laying of the college building’s cornerstone on July 4, 1851. Elected to be the college’s first president and professor of mental and moral philosophy, he led the college from its opening in 1854 until his resignation in 1859. He left Wofford to become the founding chancellor of Southern University in Alabama. According to the 1860 census, he owned nine enslaved persons. In 1866, he was elected bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and made his headquarters in Charleston. He returned to the Wofford board of trustees in 1870, serving as chairman from 1874 until his death in 1882.
Date of Birth
29 January 1808
Date of Death
15 February 1882
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