August 14: Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Seminarian and Martyr, 1965

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1939. He was shot and killed by an unemployed highway worker in Hayneville, Alabama, August 14, 1965.

From high school in Keene to graduate school at Harvard, Jonathan wrestled with the meaning of life and death and vocation. Attracted to medicine, the ordained ministry, law and writing, he found himself close to a loss of faith when his search was resolved by a profound conversion on Easter Day 1962 at the Church of the Advent in Boston. Jonathan then entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In March 1965, the televised appeal of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma to secure for all citizens the right to vote drew Jonathan to a time and place where the nation’s racism and the Episcopal Church’s share in that inheritance were exposed.

He returned to seminary and asked leave to work in Selma where he would be sponsored by the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Conviction of his calling was deepened at Evening Prayer during the singing of the Magnificat: “ ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things.’ I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”

Jailed on August 14 for joining a picket line, Jonathan and his companions were unexpectedly released. Aware that they were in danger, four of them walked to a small store. As sixteen-year-old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance, a man with a gun appeared, cursing her. Jonathan pulled her to one side to shield her from the unexpected threats. As a result, he was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.

The letters and papers Jonathan left bear eloquent witness to the profound effect Selma had upon him. He writes, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown … I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection … with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout … We are indelibly and unspeakably one.”

Collect of the Day

O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Proverbs 4:20–27

Galatians 3:22–28

Luke 1:46–55

Psalm 85:7–13

Preface of a Saint (2)

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

19 thoughts on “August 14: Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Seminarian and Martyr, 1965

  1. This commemoration is a worthy addition indeed. The bio sketch could be re-written. It does not read smoothly at all. I would suggest a major rewrite, and not attempt a few word or phrase alterations here or there.

  2. New Hebrew Reading: The Proverbs reading seems to fit the commemoration.

    As an ordinand from the Diocese of New Hampshire myself (just a couple of years behind Jonathan), I feel an especial kinship with him. When I made a pilgrimage to Hayneville and walked in his footsteps it was a sobering experience.

    I was present when General Convention in Phoenix made a ’50-year exception’ to add his name to include him in the calendar. Those who spoke in favor of the motion on the floor of the House of Deputies to include his name, made an eloquent and moving witness to his life.

  3. Daniels’ murder was incredibly shocking to me when I heard it reported on the radio. I am glad that he has found a place in our calendar, first in LLF and now in HWHM.. The propers are the same as LLF eith the addition of a Lesson from Proverbs.

    None of the biographies appear to be literary masterpieces, but they give the neceaary information.

  4. A further thought: Perhaps the lead sentence in the bio could say ‘who he is’ and ‘why he is important.’ That would set the tone for the rest of the information in the bio. That way the reader would understand the spiritual journey described in the bio.

    By the way, the Diocese of Alabama commemorates this day every year with a witness in Hayneville. It ends with a celebration of the Eucharist in the courtroom where Jonathan’s assailant was acquitted by an all white jury.

  5. Proverbs 4: Too bad there’s nothing in the Old Testament about injustice, oppression, rage, liberation, prophetic dedication, murder, hatred, rescuing the victim, God’s having created all things good, combatting a society’s self-serving but evil institutions, repenting of sin, or that sort of thing. Proverbs comes in handy when you don’t know what else to say, it’s just so — safe and generic. And most importantly, nice.

    • Okay John, I see this stirred your ire! What would be your first choice for an OT passage- barring the ones that come around repeatedly in our other lectionaries? Suggestions are appreciated.

      Jennifer Phillips
      Vice Chair, SCLM

  6. Jennifer — THANK YOU! I can stop internally hemorrhaging now. Really — thank you for asking.
    Let me respond tomorrow after considering some possibilities. (I’m sure you’ve noticed, my concern extends to other OT selections, too. Not all, but many.) –John

  7. Jennifer – Here are some possibilities for the OT –
    Isaiah 28:14-18 (Covenant with death will be annulled);
    Isaiah 53:1-8 (Despised & rejected – wounded for our transgressions);
    Or, Isaiah 53:8-12 (By perversion of justice he was taken….);
    Jeremiah 22:13-16 (Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness);
    Zechariah 8:14-17 (I have purposed in these days to do good….These are the things that you shall do…)

  8. Episcopal News Service says that he was killed 8/20.

    The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music says that he was shot and killed 8/14/65, in the biography proposed for “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

    A correction is needed somewhere. On Wikipedia, I note this:

    On Friday 13 August Jon and others went to the town of Fort Deposit to join in picketing three local businesses. On Saturday they were arrested and held in the county jail in Hayneville for six days until they were bailed out. (They had agreed that none would accept bail until there was bail money for all.) After their release on Friday 20 August, four of them undertook to enter a local shop, and were met at the door by a man with a shotgun who told them to leave or be shot. After a brief confrontation, he aimed the gun at a young girl in the party, and Jon pushed her out of the way and took the blast of the shotgun himself. (Whether he stepped between her and the shotgun is not clear.) He was killed instantly.

    That same article has a heading showing the August 14 date, which is probably incorrect. I think that may have influenced the choice of that day for the commemoration.

    I suspect 8/20 is correct. 8/20 honors Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux. Since there is now precedent for two commemorations on the same day, Jon’s date could be changed to 8/20. I note that 8/19 is currently a feria, and thus available.

    If the SCLM wants to leave Jon’s date “as is”, the date of death in the first paragraph needs to be changed, and the words “six days later” should in any case be added at the end of the first sentence in the fourth paragraph.

    • 8/20 is correct I am one of the negros

      James, Thank you for joining the conversation. Next time please give us your first and last name. -Ed.

  9. I have now had a chance to check out the bio in the 2003 LFF. This clearly shows that he was killed 8/20. (Presumably, under the old TEC rule of “one day, one commemoration” 8/14, the day of his arrest was chosen because 8/20 was “occupied” by St. Bernard.)

    Thanks to Michael Hartney, who checked the 2006 LFF, it now appears that someone “corrected” the text of the bio for that edition to show an 8/14 death, and that this text was followed in the preparation of HWHM — and in the Wikipedia entry.

    Originally, there was an effort to bail out Jon (and maybe others), but they reportedly agreed that they wouldn’t leave until they could all be bailed out together. This was hardly “unexpectedly released”. I suggest substituting “released on bail”.

  10. We were unexpectedly release,because other had attempted to bail us all out and fail time after time,then that Friday which was the 20 day of Aug. 1965 they allowed us to be release on our own,without bail,We were so happy we allowed our judgement to get cloudy,their were no people on the street,no traffic passing,just us.That week we knew they were planing something and our joy caused us to drop our guard!

  11. There is a beautiful and very moving set of sculptures depicting the Agony in the Garden , in honor of Jonathan Daniels at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemene, Thomas Merton’s Abbey. A wonderful place to pray and reflect on the life of this courageous, faithful young man.

  12. Today I was in hayneville al for the 50th anniversary of the murder jmd it was a moving event in many ways. The judge that occupys the court that freedom the man that killed jmd spoke about the need to protect the voting rights so hard won. It was a wonderful day and experience . God bless us all

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