Marker memorializing Leonidas Polk


Legacies Classification
Memorial Structure
Memorial Type
Memorialized Subject
Marker memorializing Leonidas Polk
Background and Context
In December 1956, the University’s Chancellor called a meeting of the Episcopal bishops of Sewanee's owning dioceses to discuss the completion of All Saints' Chapel in time for the University’s centennial celebration in 1959. Central to the "Centennial Campaign" was raising funds for the completion of the chapel, which had been unfinished for 50 years.

Episcopal Bishop Girault Jones of Louisiana, voicing his unhappiness that Sewanee had no major memorials to Leonidas Polk, the first bishop of that diocese, proposed to “make amends” for this omission by raising $40,000 from his diocese to pay for a major part of the new chapel as a memorial to “Sewanee’s founder and our first Bishop.” Jones’s fellow bishops offered him any space in the chapel he wanted. Jones chose the sanctuary, the holiest part of the church containing the high altar.

Leonidas Polk was the most consequential founder of The University of the South and was also a well-known slave owner. He fought as a lieutenant general for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He was killed in battle in 1864.

Bishop Jones’s determination to erect a major monument to Polk funded by his diocese and at the spiritual and religious center of the University of the South made no reference to the hundreds of Black people whom Polk enslaved over the course of his life or his taking up arms to defend a civilization based on bondage. On the contrary, the Polk sanctuary, including the altar and reredos (the ornamental screen behind the altar) that his parishioners paid for, presented a message of defiance consistent with the Lost Cause and that anyone in the South would have understood. That message conveyed the University’s and the southern Episcopal Church’s defense of the Jim Crow racial order in Sewanee and throughout the South.
Physical Description
The marker, implanted in the floor of the sanctuary, is 11.5" long and wide. It is made of a light-colored marble.
Memorial Inscription
The Sanctuary is Given by Louisiana in Honor of Bishop Polk
Creator/Participating Person(s)
Jones, Girault
Date created, installed or dedicated
June 1959
Funded by
Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
Location: Institution, City, State

Position: 693 (8 views)