Billy Graham Center

Interview with Herbert Downing - Collection 251

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Herbert Downing

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

List of Audio Tape in This Collection (Location Record)

Audio file and written transcript for T1

Click to visit the exhibit Web page featuring this and other excerpts with transcripts, visuals and audio links.

Brief Description.
Oral history interview in which Downing describes his childhood as a child of missionaries in Kenya, attending Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, a visit of Theodore Roosevelt to the Academy, his father's work as pastor and administrator, Africa Inland Mission's policy on the education of missionary children, and Downing's own work as an educator.

Collection 251
[April 11, 2005]
Downing, Herbert; 1905-1986
Interview; 1983

1 Reel of Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Herbert Downing was born on August 14, 1905, in Kenya, the son of Africa Inland Mission pastor and field director Lee H. Downing. His parents served at the AIM station in Kijabe. Downing was among the first students to attend Rift Valley Academy, the AIM school for missionary children.

Downing married Mildred Sussanna Houk on June 19, 1931. The Downings went out together as AIM missionaries to Kenya, serving as teachers at Rift Valley Academy. Herbert Downing was principal of RVA from 1933-1938, and 1947-1974. The Downings retired from AIM on April 15, 1976. Herbert Downing passed away on December 15, 1986.

Scope and Content

This interview was conducted by Robert D. Shuster on June 14, 1983, at the Billy Graham Center Archives on the campus of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is noted in the margin to the left of the topics discussed. The index is keyed to a cassette copy of the interview, not to the reel-to-reel original. The boldfaced entries correspond with the Cross Reference List at the end of this guide and are intended to highlight the topics covered in the interview. A complete transcript to the interview on tape T1 of this collection is available.

Tape T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Start sound (slow) Sister born 1902, first child born to missionaries on the field
00:22 Normal sound returns. Moved to new station at Kijabe in 1903
01:00 Father, Lee H. Downing, field director under Charles E. Hurlburt
01:20 He and brother (Kenneth E. Downing) born at Kijabe, grew up there; entered RVA (Rift Valley Academy)
02:42 Crossed ocean 25 times in life
03:08 Time on field as happiest in his life; in WW1 difficult to get food in drought. African foods
04:00 Earliest memories of Kenya: Theodore Roosevelt's visit to lay the cornerstone of RVA
06:30 African Game Trails by Roosevelt; interest in the book
06:50 How Hurlburt knew Roosevelt: spoke at churches in Washington, DC; received invitation from Roosevelt for interview
09:45 Roosevelt offered to help the work, helped them get permits to establish stations in the Belgian Congo, stayed in touch
11:50 President's son, Kermit Roosevelt, visited once later on hunting trip
12:30 Early home in Kenya, description of house
14:30 Moved when five to two-story brick house in 1910
15:22 Parents among first missionaries at Kijabe
16:00 Father's diaries burned later, while they were on furlough
16:30 Station included Hurlburt's house, small house for printing press, chapel
17:40 1906 opening of Rift Valley Academy
18:06 Two or three families lived at station, children from other stations came to school
18:30 Difficulty at opening of Academy; Home Council said missionary children's education not the responsibility of the mission but of the parents
20:15 Problem debated for many years
21:00 Mission wouldn't support school; he had assumed he would do school work but Council had no teachers
22:06 Council assigned new missionaries to pinch hit at school; his experience as a student there; constant turnover of teachers
23:25 Hurlburt assigned Josephine Hope to the school; got money for building the school during a furlough; 36-40 students there
24:14 Theodore Westervelt married Josephine Hope; they ran the school
24:45 Downing and wife finally organized a high school; he was principal in 1933
25:30 Parents on field education school board; beginning of regular school
26:00 Benefits of AIM running the school
26:50 Keeps children closer to parents
27:09 Helps them adjust to living with peers
28:30 Why opposition to AIM-run school--he didn't know
29:15 Try to teach children they can serve God wherever they want to; do not need to do what parents had done
30:45 Relationship of Home Council and Field Council in AIM
31:15 Fund raising on faith--individual raises own support
32:00 Must be channeled through Council, legally
32:30 Home Council establishes policy, statement of faith
33:50 Role of general director
34:12 Screening of missionary candidates. Assignment of duties on the field
35:20 Description of father and mother. Father--answers to prayer; story of when they needed support to go home to have third baby
42:40 End side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Start side 2
00:08 Start (sound much softer)
01:40 Arrival home
02:45 Birth of third child
02:55 Responsibilities of father as field director and preacher
04:22 Father as station superintendent, and school director
05:40 Annual reports of station
07:00 Teaching students to read (without books); languages in Kenya
08:49 Inter-Mission Council in Kenya, still in operation
11:00 Misunderstandings over the establishment of churches between denominations. (sound surges)
13:05 Kenyan government asked missions to find a representative for all of them--Kenya Church Council
15:00 Land leases. (Rise in sound)
17:00 Conflict between natives and AIM missionaries over land use, and mediation
17:50 All land leased by mission, not owned
18:00 AIM rapport with government officials
19:20 Language committees his father helped on, cooperative translation work between mission organizations; orthography
20:20 Full Bible translated into Kikuyu languages in 1950
21:00 Father's linguistic abilities
21:30 Mother's responsibilities in home; work with women of the church
23:25 Charles Hurlburt as preacher and his personality
25:30 When Downing became a Christian as a young child
27:15 Mission seemed like going back home
28:45 Beginning of interest in teaching
29:30 Being an MK--independence, travel
31:30 Advice to missionary families about having children in boarding schools; childrens' vacations
34:25 Statistics about success of the school
34:54 End of sound

The audio tape in this collection was given to the Graham Center Archives by Downing in June 1983.
Accession 83-68
January 12, 1989
Lannae Graham
J. Nasgowitz
R. Shuster

Accession: 83-68
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Interview with Herbert Downing by Robert D. Shuster. Recorded on June 14, 1983; reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed. The first few minutes of the tape were recorded at a slower speed. Approximately 90 minutes (one hour, thirty minutes).

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