Cooper: Quakers honor Dr. Larry Ingle

Cooper: Quakers honor Dr. Larry Ingle

June 25th, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

To various Chattanoogans, Dr. Larry Ingle is a retired University of Tennessee at Chattanooga history professor, inveterate letters-to-the-editor writer and irritant of the comfortable.

However, he's better known nationally - at least among Quakers, which he acknowledges is a "small world" - as a Quaker historian.

For Dr. Ingle's scholarly body of work about the faith and to recognize his upcoming 75th birthday, he was honored recently with the publishing - a surprise to him - of a Festschrift, a volume of writings by different authors and presented as a tribute.

The work, "Keeping Us Honest, Stirring the Pot: A Festschrift in Honor of H. Larry Ingle," was presented to him earlier this month at the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting of Quakers in Swanannoa, N.C.

The publication contains a biographical sketch, new or newly gathered works on the faith, reminiscences on the honoree, a group of his shorter works and a bibliography of his work.

Three of the contributors - Will Scott, Robert Sharp and Meredith Terretta - are former students of his and three are former colleagues at UTC.

Becky, his wife of 53 years, was co-editor and hid from him for eight months the process of finding contributors and editing the Festschrift.

The big problem, she said, "was keeping him away from my computer. But it worked out all right. It was a lot of work, but I had a good time. I'm very proud of him."

Dr. Ingle said he'd lived in Chattanooga several years before he learned a group of Quakers even met here. And he had to go to Pittsburgh to learn that.

"I saw it in a pamphlet there," he said of the incident of more than 40 years ago. "I didn't even know it. But Quakers tend to hide themselves."

Dr. Ingle, who'd been attracted to the faith for many years, later met a Quaker colleague in Ghana during a year Dr. Ingle and his family spent there in the mid-1970s and

also attended Quaker meetings in Ghana.

When he returned to the United States, he and his wife joined the handful of Chattanooga Quakers who met once a month in a private home, gave energy to their gatherings and even helped persuade them to purchase the meetinghouse where they gather today.

The faith appealed to Dr. Ingle, he said, because of its peace testimony and mainly because some branches have no clergy.

"It's a very experiential religion," he said. "Each person has to grapple [to] create his own religion. There's no one to tell you what to believe. You tell yourself [with the influence] of God, the [Holy] Spirit, Jesus."

Chuck Fager, director of Quaker House, a peace project in Fayetteville/Fort Bragg, N.C., was editor of the 413-page Festschrift. In its introduction, he praised Dr. Ingle's books and his pursuit of those books.

"Larry's achievement ... goes far beyond simply filling a scholarly vacuum," he said. "He also quietly shamed and, in my opinion, helped reform a field badly in need of a good shaking."

Of his works, Dr. Ingle said he's most proud of "First Among Friends," a biography of George Fox, the English founder of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), and published by Oxford University Press. It's a work he researched in England from original sources.

He's not through writing yet, though. Although he retired from UTC in 1997, he's still got at least one enigmatic Quaker to profile - Richard Nixon.

"I've got about five chapters done," he said, "but I just can't wrap my arms around him. I don't know where to start."