Leadership Gallery

The Right Reverend William B. Spofford Jr., 1921-2013

The Right Reverend William Spofford, Jr., c. 1984

The Right Reverend William Spofford, Jr., c. 1984

William B. Spofford, Jr., former Bishop of Eastern Oregon, activist for peace and social justice, and author, was born into an Episcopal family in Brooklyn, NY on January 28, 1921. His father, William Spofford, Sr., was also an Episcopal clergyman and the editor of The Witness, a progressive religious publication known for its unabashed confrontation with the injustices of the times. Educated at the Lenox School for Boys and Antioch College, Spofford completed his divinity studies at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1945, and was ordained that same year. Further studies took him to the Yale School for Alcohol Studies and the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

His early ministry was in parishes in Boston and Detroit, but an interest in serving in rural and small-town settings brought him to Parkville, MO, where he was staff associate at the National Town-Country Church Institute from 1949 to 1953; following this, he took a position as director of the Western Extension Center at the Town-Country Church Institute in Weiser-Payette-McCall, Idaho, from 1953-1956, serving as vicar of the parishes in those communities at the same time.

Spofford returned briefly to Boston in 1956, spending four years as Chief of Chaplains at Massachusetts General Hospital, but in 1960 he was called to be dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise, and the Spofford family returned to Idaho. In 1967, Spofford and another priest became the first men elected to serve as delegates to the Women's Triennial, and he was an early and vocal proponent for women's ordination.

Spofford was elected Bishop of Eastern Oregon in 1969 and by his own account spent the next ten years driving through the state, a distance he approximated at 100,000 miles a year. He resigned in 1979 to become Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Washington, until his retirement in 1984. Though retired, he returned to Boise and spent the next two years as the chaplain of the Rocky Mountain States Tumor Institute. In 1994, celebrating both the 50th anniversary of their marriage, Bill and his wife Polly traveled to Jerusalem, where Spofford served a year as bishop-chaplain of St. George’s College. His time in the Holy Land culminated in a book of poems and meditations, Pilgrim in Transition. In addition to this and his frequent columns for The Witness, Spofford also wrote Brainstorming With A Bishop.

Bishop Spofford devoted his life and ministry to social justice, both within the church in his fight for women's ordination and for greater inclusion of the laity, and in society, as a member of organizations such as the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the Oregon United Nations Association.

William Benjamin Spofford, Jr., died on November 5, 2013. His personal papers are located at The Archives of the Episcopal Church.