Billy Graham Center

Papers of Tom Skinner - Collection 430

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Since we are migrating our website to a new platform, we will no longer be updating this earlier version our site. Please visit our Archon database for online guide descriptions. In early 2018, look for our new site, currently under construction, linked in the BGC Archives section on the Library and Archives page. (12/11/2017)

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Tom Skinner

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Audio Tapes, Oversize Materials, and Photographs in This Collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes
    Oversize Materials
List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)

Transcript 1 Transcript includes a link to an audio file of the entire interview

Transcript 2 Transcript includes a link to an audio file of the entire interview

Click to listen to an excerpt from this interview. Click to visit the exhibit Web page featuring this and other excerpts with transcripts, visuals and audio links.
Brief Description.
Oral history interview, articles, clippings, newsletters, and other materials relating to the life of African-American evangelist and author Tom Skinner and the work of Tom Skinner Associates. The oral history interview includes discussion of his parents, his youth, conversion to Christianity, meeting Martin Luther King Jr., the founding of the Harlem Evangelistic Association, and his attitude toward preaching.

Collection 430
[October 24, 2016]
Skinner, Tom, 1942-1994
Papers; 1966-1982, 1990
1 box (1 DC: .2 cubic feet); Audio Tapes (.04 cubic feet); Photograph, Oversize Material


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Full name: Tom Skinner

Birthdate: June 6, 1942

Death Date: June 17, 1994 in Norfolk, Virginia of leukemia.

Parents: Alester Jerry Skinner and Georgia (Robinson) Skinner. Father was a Baptist minister
Siblings: Donald Eugene (2 years younger), Jerry Bruce (4 years younger), John William (8 years younger) Diedra Ann (18 years younger)
Marital Status: First wife was Vivian (Sutton) Skinner. Marriage ended in divorce. Second wife was Barbara Williams Skinner
Children: Lauren Skinner, Kyla (Skinner) Rouse

Conversion: October 1956

1963 Graduated from Warner College
1966 Graduated from Manhattan Bible Institute

June 2, 1959 Ordained by the United Missionary Baptist Association of Greater New York and Vicinity
October 1961 Formed the Harlem Evangelistic Association, which held evangelistic meetings in New York City, the Caribbean, and elsewhere
1963 Participated in the formation of the Association of Black Evangelists
1964 Began broadcasting over the radio and incorporated Tom Skinner Radio Crusades to support the work, headquarters in Brooklyn
1966 Corporation renamed Tom Skinner Crusades, later renamed Tom Skinner Associates in 1970. TSA eventually developed a diverse group of programs, including evangelistic crusades, ministry to college students, motivation seminars, publications, and community development.
1967 Skinner began to serve as an informal chaplain for a variety of sports team. He continued this activity into the 1980s and was particularly identified with the Washington Redskins.
1968 William Pannell left Youth for Christ and joined Tom Skinner Associates as vice president
1970s-80s Chaplain of the Washington Redskins
1976 Tom Skinner Associates moved to East Orange, New Jersey
1985 Started Tom Skinner Associates Learning Center to provide spiritual and vocation guidance for inner-city youth in Newark, New Jersey
1992 Moved from Manhattan to Tracey's Landing, Maryland, where he started the Skinner Farm Leadership Institute.

Black and Free (1968),
Words of Revolution (1970),
How Black is the Gospel (1970),
If Christ is the Answer, What are the Questions? (1974)

Death: June 17, 1994, of leukemia at Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia


Often worked with prominent white evangelists, such as Billy Graham; William Pannell was a prominent early associate

Persistent critic of racism in American culture

Exercised great influence through encouraging young black Christian leaders and in serving as a bridge between the black and white Evangelical communities.

[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "folder 5-2" means box 5, folder 2.]

Scope and Content

The collection contains newsletters, correspondence, clippings, articles, and an oral history interview. The material deals almost exclusively with the life of Tom Skinner and the work of Tom Skinner Associates (TSA).

Most of the paper records relate to TSA activities in one way or another. Folder 1-1 contains articles by Skinner about the black church in America and Christianity and racism. These are also the themes covered in the sermons in folder 1-7, which consists mainly of chapel addresses given at various times at Wheaton College. The correspondence in folder 1-5 consists mainly of letters sent to supporters of TSA to keep them informed about the needs of the organization and to ask for their prayer and financial support. However, there are several letters from 1971 dealing with radio station WMBI's decision to drop Skinner's radio program because they felt he was too political. The other files in the collection contain newsletters (folders 1-8 to 1-11), a few press releases (folder 1-12) and magazine and newspaper clippings about Skinner and the TSA (folder 1-4). These also include reports on the activities of other members of the staff, such as William Pannell. An excellent summary of the first fifteen years of the organization can be found in the anniversary booklet in folder 1-2.

Tom Skinner was interviewed by Robert Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives on June 14, 1990, during a conference at Bryan College in Tennessee. The time period covered in the interview is roughly 1942-1960. The topics are listed in the order in which they were discussed. The "side 1" and side 2" of this description reflects a cassette copy and not the original, which is on reels.

T1 - Side 1 (Click to link to the full transcript of this tape.)
Name and background of parents
Circumstances of birth in Harlem during a blackout
Earliest memory - seeing a man stabbed to death
Conditions in Harlem when Skinner was a child
Father's emphasis on development of the mind and the need for black people to seek education
Segregated baseball
Father combined the philosophy of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington;
mother's responsibilities and beliefs; qualities of character Skinner inherited from his parents
Favorite books as a child; advantages and disadvantages of loving reading
Faith of parents
Reaction against Christianity and being a preacher's kid; attitude toward God
Coached by Roy Campenella; other heroes
Influential elementary school teachers: Miss Mickins [?] and Mr. Levine
Joining the Harlem Lords gang

T1 - Side 2
Overlap from side 1
Contacts with black nationalists
Christianity as a cornerstone of segregation and discrimination

T2 - Side 1 (Click to link to the full transcript of this tape. Or click here to listen to an excerpt from this interview. You can also visit the Archives exhibit with the audio excerpt and accompanying transcript.)

Marcus Garvey, the black nationalist bookstore in Harlem
Listening as a teenager to a radio sermon, on sin as independence from the life of God;
impact of the sermon; putting Jesus' claims to the test through prayer
Quitting the Harlem Lords
Influence of Watchman Nee and a local Bible study group
Reaction of his parents to his conversion
Father's work with pastors of storefront churches
Hearing and meeting Martin Luther King about 1958
Became involved in ministry in college
Manhattan Bible Institute and Edward H. Boice
Billy Roberts and soul saving stations in Harlem
Walter Wittingham and the formation of the Harlem Evangelistic Association
Evangelistic rally at the Apollo theater in the summer of 1962
Skinner's reflections on and attitude toward preaching



The paper records in this collection were given by Lois Ottaway in 1982. The interview was given to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center by Rev. Tom Skinner in June 1990.

Accessions: 82-102, 90-65, 95-135

February 12, 1995
Robert Shuster

Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel; 3-3/4 ips, 50 minutes, one side only. Interview of Tom Skinner by Robert Shuster on June 14, 1990. Topics discussed include his family background and memories of his early life. Interview was originally recorded onto a cassette, then copied for preservation onto a reel.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 38 minutes, one side only. Conclusion of interview of Tom Skinner by Robert Shuster on June 14, 1990. Topics discussed include his conversion experience, early ministry, and attitudes toward preaching. Interview was originally recorded onto a cassette, then copied for preservation onto a reel.

Accession 82-102
Type of material: Oversize Materials

Request by FOLDER TITLES (in bold) at the beginning of each entry.

POSTERS (PC 29, 3rd floor). 1970. Two copies of a poster entitled “Tom Skinner / ...From the Gang to the Gospel” promoting his nightly meetings at the Coliseum in Chicago from April 19 through 26, printed in red and black on white, measuring 12.75" x 16.75". The upper quarter of the poster is a sketch of a fight occurring under a marquee that reads "Harlem Crusade/Tom Skinner.” The remainder of the poster has a stylized picture of Skinner, his hands on an open Bible. (Previously Accession 1996.0169 in the BGC Museum collection.)

Accession 82-102
Type of material: Photographs

The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.

SKINNER, TOM. Close-up of Skinner talking to a group of young people. N.d. 1 b&w.

Box Folder Item
1 1 Articles By; 1966-1974; n.d.
1 2 Booklet: Tom Skinner Associates' 15th Anniversary; 1979
1 3 Brochures; n.d.
1 4 Clippings; 1968-1979
1 5 Correspondence; 1971-1982
1 6 Crusade materials; 1970-1973
1 7 Messages; 1968-1975
1 8 Associate(s) Newsletter; 1977-1978
1 9 The Informer; 1979
1 10 The News in Black and White; ca. 1972-1977
1 11 TSA News Briefs; 1978
1 12 Press Releases; 1968-1974

Send us a message
Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Expiration: indefinite