Passing of John Wolfe Lindley


Fourth of the Immortal Six and junior John Wolfe Lindley might have shared this about himself if he were speaking to us today.

“I was born in Fredericktown, Ohio, in August 1826. Even though my humble place of birth lay between what was to become Ohio Beta at Ohio Wesleyan University and Ohio Delta at The College of Wooster, I decided to attend Miami University in the fall of 1846. I was a third cousin to Robert Morrison, so perhaps Robert had no choice but to include me in this great brotherhood experiment. When the six of us gathered that day after Christmas in 1848, I was the youngest of the lot.

I completed my studies in 1850 and began teaching Latin and mathematics at an academy in Tennessee. Later, I moved on to Charlestown, Indiana, where I graciously accepted an invitation to become a member of the Masons. However, Phi Delta Theta was always closest to my heart. Founding Father Morrison and I were known to have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning at the 1898 Convention banquet and 1899 Semi-Centennial debating our Fraternity’s direction and the news of the day. Robert could probably be credited with my fluctuation in political views as he was a Democrat. I was a Whig, a Republican, and even a “know-nothing” for a time. I wrote copies of The Bond of Phi Delta Theta until the year of my death in 1907, some still in use today. As it turned out, I outlasted the rest of my Immortal Brothers.”

Seen as a gentleman, tender, professorial, teacher, and eventual college president, John Wolfe Lindley had an open, responsive, and wide-ranging mind. A man of mild manner and balanced judgment, he always thought before he spoke. He seems to belong to the fireside on a winter night, and we can picture him now, making his points in deliberate, well-chosen words while the firelight plays on the faces of his friends. Lindley had a fruitful life.

For more than fifty years, he held offices in colleges and churches in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. The longest-lived of the founders, he laid the cornerstone of the Memorial Chapter House at Miami on the day before Thanksgiving in 1907.