Bishop William Taylor (1821-1902)

Our University’s Namesake

Bishop William Taylor pioneering missionary to Africa (1884-1896)

Bishop William Taylor was an evangelist, author and missionary who served the Methodist Episcopal Church for more than half a century (1842-1896).

Taylor was known for his evangelistic zeal and adamant belief in self-supporting missions and indigenous church leadership. His gift of preaching, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and dogged determination to follow God's call no matter the cost led him far and wide in fulfillment of the Great Commission.

His great heart for the lost, as well as his entrepreneurial spirit endeared him to lay-Methodists everywhere, making him a representative figure for our university.

Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1821, Taylor was admitted to the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Church in 1843, and traveled for more than 50 years as a missionary evangelist. His first stops were in the American West, where he ministered in San Francisco and much of the rest of California to gold miners and frontiersmen.

According to William C. Ringenberg's history of Taylor University, Taylor University: The First 150 Years, Taylor "adapted his sermons to the interests and circumstances of his hearers," attended to sick and broken men, and helped found a hospital to meet their needs—"the first institution of its kind in California" (p. 65).

In his middle age, Taylor began around-the-world mission travels, financially supporting himself in the endeavor. He traveled and preached on every inhabited continent, pioneered independent missions to Australia, India, Latin America and Africa; and was the first American missionary bishop to Africa (1884-1896), a position for which he refused the accompanying $3,000 stipend.

Taylor died in Palo Alto, California, in 1902, after a lifetime dedicated to the Lord's work. He was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California, overlooking San Francisco Bay.

Read more about Bishop William Taylor in Lessons of Infinite Advantage: William Taylor's California Experiences by Robert F. Lay.