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Senate Chaplain

Chapter 1: Office of the Senate Chaplain
Chapter 2: Senate Chaplains

Office of the Senate Chaplain

When the Senate first convened in New York City on April 6, 1789, one of its first orders of business was to appoint a committee to recommend a candidate for chaplain. On April 25, the Senate elected the Right Reverend Samuel Provoost, Episcopal Bishop of New York, as its first chaplain. Since that time, the Senate has been served by chaplains of various religious denominations, including Episcopalians (19), Methodists (17), Presbyterians (14), Baptists (6), Unitarians (2), Congregationalists (1), Lutherans (1), Roman Catholics (1), and Seventh-day Adventists (1). The Senate has also appointed guest chaplains representative of all the world's major religious faiths. In addition to opening the Senate each day in prayer, the current Senate chaplain's duties include spiritual care and counseling for senators, their families, and their staffs—a combined constituency of over 6,000 people—and discussion sessions, prayer meetings, and a weekly Senators' Prayer Breakfast.

For more information, see "Senate Chaplain" by Senator Robert C. Byrd, from The Senate, 1789-1989: Addresses on the History of the United States Senate (pdf).

Senate Chaplains
NameDenominationDate of AppointmentNote
Samuel Provoost, D.D. Episcopalian 17890425Apr 25, 1789 First Bishop of New York
William White, D.D. Episcopalian 17901209Dec 9, 1790 First Bishop of Pennsylvania
Thomas John Claggett, S.T.D., D.D. Episcopalian 18001127Nov 27, 1800 First Bishop of Maryland
Edward Gantt, M.D. Episcopalian 18011209Dec 9, 1801
Alexander Thomas McCormick Episcopalian 18041107Nov 7, 1804
Edward Gantt, M.D. Episcopalian 18051204Dec 4, 1805
John Johnson Sayrs Episcopalian 18061203Dec 3, 1806
A.T. McCormick Episcopalian 18071110Nov 10, 1807 On October 29, 1807, Edward Gantt was elected but declined to serve.
Robert Elliott Presbyterian 18081110Nov 10, 1808
James Jones Wilmer Episcopalian 18090524May 24, 1809
Obadiah Bruen Brown Baptist 18091205Dec 5, 1809
Walter Dulaney Addison Episcopalian 18101212Dec 12, 1810
John Brackenridge, D.D. Presbyterian 18111113Nov 13, 1811
Jesse Lee Methodist 18140927Sep 27, 1814
John Glendy Presbyterian 18151208Dec 8, 1815 On December 6, 1816, John Glendie was elected but declined to serve.
Sereno Edward Dwight, D.D. Congregationalist 18161216Dec 16, 1816
William Dickinson Hawley Episcopalian 18171209Dec 9, 1817
John Clark Presbyterian 18181119Nov 19, 1818
Reuben Post, D.D. Presbyterian 18191209Dec 9, 1819
William Ryland Methodist 18201117Nov 17, 1820
Charles Petit McIlvaine, D.D., LL.D., D.C.L. Episcopalian 18221209Dec 9, 1822
William Staughton, D.D. Baptist 18231210Dec 10, 1823
Charles Petit McIlvaine, D.D., LL.D., D.C.L. Episcopalian 18241214Dec 14, 1824
William Staughton, D.D. Baptist 18251212Dec 12, 1825
William Ryland Methodist 18261208Dec 8, 1826
Henry Van Dyke Johns, D.D. Episcopalian 18291214Dec 14, 1829
John Price Durbin, D.D., LL.D. Methodist 18311219Dec 19, 1831
Charles Constantine Pise, D.D. Roman Catholic 18321211Dec 11, 1832
Frederick Winslow Hatch, D.D. Episcopalian 18331210Dec 10, 1833
Edward Young Higbee, D.D. Episcopalian 18351223Dec 23, 1835
John Reinhard Goodman Episcopalian 18361228Dec 28, 1836
Henry Slicer Methodist 18370911Sep 11, 1837
George Grimston Cookman Methodist 18391231Dec 31, 1839
Septimus Tustin, D.D. Presbyterian 18410612Jun 12, 1841
Henry Slicer Methodist 18461216Dec 16, 1846
Clement Moore Butler, D.D. Episcopalian 18500109Jan 9, 1850 There being a tie vote (30 for Henry Slicer and 30 for C.M. Butler), Vice President Millard Fillmore voted for C.M. Butler and broke the tie.
Henry Slicer Methodist 18531207Dec 7, 1853
Henry Clay Dean Methodist 18551204Dec 4, 1855
Stephen P. Hill, D.D. Baptist 18561208Dec 8, 1856
Phineas Densmore Gurley, D.D. Presbyterian 18591215Dec 15, 1859
Byron Sunderland, D.D. Presbyterian 18610710Jul 10, 1861
Thomas Bowman, LL.D. Methodist 18640511May 11, 1864
Edgar Harkness Gray, D.D. Baptist 18650309Mar 9, 1865
John Philip Newman, D.D. Methodist 18690308Mar 8, 1869
Byron Sunderland, D.D. Presbyterian 18731208Dec 8, 1873
Joseph J. Bullock, D.D. Presbyterian 18790324Mar 24, 1879
Elias DeWitt Huntley, D.D., LL.D. Methodist 18831218Dec 18, 1883
John George Butler, D.D., LL.D. Lutheran 18860315Mar 15, 1886
William Henry Milburn, D.D. Methodist 18930406Apr 6, 1893 W.H. Milburn resigned, because of ill health, on December 2, 1902, his resignation to take effect when the Senate elected a new chaplain. His letter stated that a friend would take his place until that time and from the records it would appear that F. J. Prettyman was the "friend." W.H. Milburn is listed as the official Senate chaplain until the election of F.J. Prettyman on November 23, 1903.
F.J. Prettyman, D.D. Methodist 19031123Nov 23, 1903
Edward Everett Hale, D.D., LL.D. Unitarian 19031214Dec 14, 1903 Died in office on June 10, 1909.
Ulysses Grant Baker Pierce, D.D., Ph.D. Unitarian 19090618Jun 18, 1909
F. J. Prettyman, D.D. Methodist 19130313Mar 13, 1913
Joseph Johnstone Muir, D.D. Baptist 19210121Jan 21, 1921
ZeBarney Thorne Phillips, D.D., LL.D., Litt.D. Episcopalian 19271205Dec 5, 1927 Died in office on May 10, 1942.
Frederick Brown Harris, D.D., LL.D., Litt.D. Methodist 19421010Oct 10, 1942
Peter Marshall, D.D. Presbyterian 19470104Jan 4, 1947 Died in office on January 24, 1949.
Frederick Brown Harris, D.D., LL.D., Litt.D. Methodist 19490203Feb 3, 1949
Edward L.R. Elson, D.D., S.T.D., Litt.D., LL.D., L.H.D., D.Hum., D.Min. Presbyterian 19690109Jan 9, 1969
Richard C. Halverson, D.D., LL.D. Presbyterian 19810202February 2, 1981
Lloyd John Ogilvie, D.D. Presbyterian 19950311Mar 11, 1995
Barry C. Black, Ph.D., D. Min., D.D. Seventh-day Adventist 20030707July 7, 2003

The 35th Congress (1857-1859) discontinued the custom of electing a Senate chaplain, and extended an invitation to the clergy of the District of Columbia to alternate in opening the daily sessions with prayer. The 36th Congress returned to the former practice.


Denomination Totals:

Episcopalian = 19
Methodist = 17
Presbyterian = 14
Baptist = 6
Unitarian = 2
Congregationalist = 1
Lutheran = 1
Roman Catholic = 1
Seventh-day Adventist = 1

Total: 62

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