An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Demby, Edward Thomas

(Feb. 13, 1869-Oct. 14, 1957). First African American Episcopal bishop in the United States. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Demby studied at Howard University, and in 1893 received his B.D. from Wilberforce University. He was dean of Paul Quinn College in Texas between 1894 and 1896. Demby was ordained deacon on Mar. 16, 1898, and priest on May 8, 1899. He served churches in Tennessee, Missouri, and Florida. In 1907 he became the rector of Emmanuel Church, Memphis, Tennessee. From 1912 until 1917, he was Archdeacon for Colored Work in the Diocese of Tennessee. The 1916 General Convention opened the way for African Americans to become suffragan bishops with responsibilities over African American churches in the racially segregated South. Demby was elected “Negro Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas and other Dioceses and Missionary Jurisdictions of the Seventh Province where he may be asked to officiate by the respective Bishops.” He was consecrated on Sept. 29, 1918. He served until his retirement on Feb. 1, 1939. Demby died in Cleveland, Ohio.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.