Robert Burns Eleazer (1877-1973) was born in Bellsburg, Tennessee. He attended Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, TN and received his B.A in 1898 and his M.A. in 1899. In 1910, he married Ethel Fleming; they had three children.
After college, Eleazer tried several occupations that were to prepare him well for his later work. In 1900, he became a candidate for the Prohibitionist Party and, soon thereafter, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. After becoming a journalist in Clarksville and editing several small local newspapers, he was asked, in 1907, to join the Tennessee Anti-Saloon league as a Field Worker and editor of their official paper The American Issue. In 1909, he moved to Nashville to work as Office Secretary for the Laymen’s Missionary Movement, an agency of the Southern Methodist Board of Missions. For the next thirteen years he worked for the Mission Board of the Methodist Church, editing their official magazine The Missionary Voice. This period also saw the beginning of his anti-war activism, as he opposed the US entry into World War I. Due to his involvement in the Methodist Church’s Movement for Revision, an effort to limit the power of Bishops and make the church more democratic, his contract was not renewed in 1922.
Eleazer was then asked by his friend Dr. Will Alexander to move to Atlanta to work as Education Director for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. He worked tirelessly for the CIC for twenty years until 1942, when the organization was restructured into the Southern Regional Council. Mr. Eleazer then returned to Nashville where he spent the next seven years as “Special Worker in Race Relations” for the Methodist General Board of Education until his retirement.
The Robert Burns Eleazer Papers (1877–1973) include correspondence and writings by Eleazer as well as newspaper clippings, course and program outlines, press releases and pamphlets. There are several autobiographical writings as well as a transcription of Mr. Eleazer being interviewed by historian John Egerton shortly before Mr. Eleazer’s death in 1973. Writings by others include reviews, articles, pamphlets and student papers.