Atticus G. Haygood, an editor, author, and educator, was a distinguished president of Emory College and a progressive bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He gained national prominence as a spokesman for the New South, promoting business and commercial development, and he fearlessly preached reunion, reconciliation, and educational opportunity for African Americans. He also championed such causes as federal aid to education and prohibition.
Atticus Greene Haygood was born on November 19, 1839, in Watkinsville, the eldest of Martha Ann Askew and Greene B. Haygood’s eight children. Educated at home, he entered Emory College in Oxford in 1856 and graduated in 1859. That year he married Mary Yarbrough, with whom he had eight children (four of whom survived to adulthood), and was admitted into the Georgia Methodist conference. (He and Mary also adopted and raised a grandson.) He served as a circuit rider and intermittently as army chaplain during the Civil War (1861-65).
After the war Haygood quickly assumed leadership roles in the Methodist establishment. He became presiding elder in the North Georgia Conference, and in 1870 the General Southern Conference selected him as Sunday school secretary. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and edited and published church school materials. His book Our Children (1876) resulted from the experience. In 1875 he was elected president of Emory College, where he reformed the curriculum, worked to make the college more affordable, and generally helped raise Emory’s profile in the region. From 1878 to 1882 he edited and contributed to the Wesleyan Christian Advocate.
Haygood’s rise to national prominence began with his 1880 Thanksgiving sermon, during which he spoke of the positive impact emancipation and industrialization would have on the South, and with his book Our Brother in Black: His Freedom and His Future (1881), an account of the role played by freedpeople during Reconstruction (1867-76). His work caught the attention of the directors of the John F. Slater Fund, an agency created by northern philanthropists to underwrite projects for southern African American education. Haygood was the fund’s agent from 1883 to 1890. His book The Case of the Negro (1885) advocated racial and national reconciliation, and he was a key figure in the founding, in 1882, of Paine Institute (later Paine College) in Augusta. Elected bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, that year, he declined the position, citing his unfinished work at Emory. In 1884 he resigned the Emory presidency, and when reelected bishop in 1890, he accepted and was assigned to California. In 1893 the Haygoods returned to Oxford, where he died in 1896.