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About Luther Rice
Luther Rice (1783–1836), was a Baptist minister who, after a thwarted mission to India, returned to American where he spent the remainder of his career raising funds for missions and advocating for the formation of a unified Baptist missionary-sending body, which culminated in establishment of the Southern Baptist Convention. He used funds raised for missions to establish The Columbian College (now The George Washington University) in Washington, DC.
Luther Rice was born March 25, 1783 in Northborough, Massachusetts to Amos Rice and Sarah (Graves) Rice. As a young man at Williams College he became part of a group of young ministers and aspiring missionaries who called themselves "the Brethren." (Rice was a leader in this group famous for the "Haystack Prayer Meeting," although he was not present that day). He sailed to Calcutta, India on 18 February 1812 with Adoniram Judson as Congregationalist missionaries and met with English Baptist missionary William Carey. However, after both Rice and Judson became Baptists, Rice returned to America to break ties with the Congregationalists and to raise support for Judson's work from the Baptists. Rice worked to unite Baptists in America to support foreign missionaries and organized "The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in United States of America, for Foreign Missions," (also called "the Triennial Convention") in 1814. Also in 1814, Rice was awarded an honorary doctorate by then Baptist-dominated Brown University in partial recognition for his contributions to missionary work undertaken through his Baptist denomination. He spent the rest of his life garnering support for missionaries and Baptist work, traveling across America by horseback to raise funds and awareness for Baptist missions.
Rice also founded Columbian College in 1821, the original unit of The George Washington University (GW) in Washington, D.C. He served as the treasurer of Columbian College from 1826 until his death. The main administration building at GW, Luther Rice Hall, is named in his honor. He died September 25, 1836 at Edgefield, South Carolina while traveling through the Southern United States raising funds for the missions and seminaries that he founded. He was interred at Pine Pleasant Cemetery, Saluda County, South Carolina.
Although his life was not without controversy, Rice's contribution to the support of missionary work was invaluable in the early years of the Triennial Convention. During Rice's lifetime, the Triennial Convention's membership grew from 8,000 to 600,000, and the convention supported 25 missions and 112 missionaries. By the time of his death, 15 Baptist universities and colleges had been formed. Luther Rice University originally founded in 1962 and located in Lithonia, Georgia, USA, was named after Luther Rice in recognition of his work in the Baptist missions and seminary education