Fifth Bishop of Georgia, 1935-1954
(September 9, 1882-May 6, 1957)
Middleton S. Barnwell was born September 9, 1882 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was graduated from Center College in Danville, Kentucky, with an associates degree and earned his Bachelors in Divinity and later honorary doctorate from the Episcopal Virginia Theological Seminary. Barnwell served as the assistant rector at Christ Chapel in Baltimore in 1909. In 1911, he become rector of St. Andrew’s Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. While serving St. Andrews, Barnwell married Margaret Thorne Lighthall (1889-1960).
He worked at the Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, from 1913-1923. Barnwell then became field secretary to the Protestant Episcopal Church and then was consecrated Bishop of Idaho in 1925. During this time in the late 1920s and early 30s, Barnwell ran St. Margaret’s School, a secondary girls academy in Boise, Idaho. With the Depression, more girls began to attend public school. Bishop Barnwell advocated that the academy become a junior college so that local high school graduates could begin their college education without out-of-state costs. In February, 1932, he began working to form a junior college out of St. Margaret’s. While he found no local support, Barnwell did secure funding from The Episcopal Church. September 6, 1932, Boise Junior College opened its doors to about 75 students and fourteen faculty members (eight of whom were full-time). Bishop Barnwell served as the college’s president from 1932 until 1934. At that time he recommended that Boise Junior College become a public institution. That junior college grew to become Boise State University.
Barnwell had served in as Missionary Bishop of Idaho for nearly a decade when the call for a bishop coadjutor went out from the Diocese of Georgia. At the time of his 1935 election as Bishop of Georgia, there were 16 parishes, 21 organized missions, 13 unorganized missions, five mission stations and one parochial mission. The still segregated church records noted 5,391 white and 1,029 black communicants. During his tenure as bishop, which lasted until 1954 the Diocese grew to 8,156 total communicants with two more churches becoming parishes and four additional missions created. He died in Savannah on May 6, 1957. Bishop Barnwell and his wife Maggie had no children. She died in 1960. The couple is buried at Savannah’s Bonaventure cemetery.
He was succeeded by Albert Rhett Stuart as Bishop of Georgia.