Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Dahlberg Award Winners

Edwin T. Dahlberg (1890-1986) was an American Baptist minister (ordained in 1918) known for his strong efforts for social justice and peacemaking.  A disciple of and sometime secretary to Walter Rauschenbusch, Dahlberg was a pacifist and conscientious objector during World War I and an early leader of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Although his pacifism was controversial during World War II, Dahlberg was elected President of the American Baptist Churches (1946-1947) and later served as President of the National Council of Churches (1957-1960).  His work supporting the Civil Rights movement, ending the Vietnam War, and promoting nuclear disarmament, led to the creation of the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace Award by American Baptists in 1964.  Awarded at the annual (now bienniel) meeting of the denomination, the award has usually, but not always, gone to other Baptists.  The winners of the Dahlberg Award to date follow:

1964    Martin Luther King, Jr.  for his nonviolent leadership for racial justice and for his constructive efforts for peace with justice and freedom.

1965    L. Kijungluba Ao for efforts to end violence in Nagaland, India.

1966    W. Alvin Pitcher, for constructive work for civil rights and economic justice.

1967     Kyle Hazelden, for leadership in opposing the Vietnam War and in race relations.

1968    Leon Sullivan (African American Baptist minister, businessman, and member of Congress), for promoting economic justice and working to end apartheid in South Africa.  (Created “the Sullivan Principles” for investment or divestment in South Africa.)

1969     Zelma George for her leadership in creating and promoting Job Corps.

1970     Frank M. Coffin, for his work in international development assistance.

1971     George (“Shorty”) Collins (Baptist minister and longtime leader in the Fellowship of Reconciliation; one of the first whites repeatedly arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience during the Civil Rights movement; “Shorty” was lean and 6’5″) for a life championing peace with justice and freedom.

1972     Harold E. Stassen (Governor of Minnesota; envoy for peace in the Eisenhower administration; President of the University of Pennsylvania; Baptist layperson who served a term as President of the American Baptist Churches) for his role as the primary author of the United Nations Charter.

1973      William Sloan Coffin (United Church of Christ minister; Yale chaplain; Senior Minister, Riverside Church, NYC) for his leadership in opposing the Vietnam War.

1975       Mabel Martin, as American Baptist representative to the United Nations.

1977       Robert Hingson for his role in eradicating medical epidemics.

1979       James Earl (“Jimmy”) Carter for his role in bringing about the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

1981       Gustavo Parajon (Nicaraguan Baptist minister) for his peace and development work in Nicaragua.

1983       Anna Dorothy Wylie for her role in promoting the nuclear weapons freeze.

1985       George W. Hill for helping to launch a National Peace Academy.

1987       George (“Nick”) Carter (American Baptist minister; now President of Andover-Newton School of Theology) as co-chair of the Coalition for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze and later the first Executive Director of the merged SANE/Freeze, today known as Peace Action, the largest grassroots membership peace organization in the U.S.

1989        Lucius Walker (National Baptist Minister), Founder of Pastors for Peace/Interreligious Foundation for Community, for the work of Pastors for Peace in delivering medical supplies and other humanitarian goods to Cuba, despite the U.S. embargo.

1991        Carl and Olive Tiller (Baptist minister and spouse; former missionaries; longtime members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; creators of the fund that launched the Dahlberg Award in 1964) for their lifetime commitment to peacemaking.

1993        Margaret (Peg) Sherman as American Baptist representative to the United Nations.

1995        Ken Sehested (Southern Baptist minister; now Alliance of Baptists pastor) as the founding Executive Director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (1984-2002).  Rev. Sehested is now one of the 3 founding co-pastors of Circle of Mercy congregation in Asheville, NC, affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the United Church of Christ. (The other two co-pastors are Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested, who is also a chaplain in a nearby prison, and Rev. Joyce Hollyday, formerly of Sojourners.

1997         Marian Wright Edelman (civil rights activist; attorney; one of the first African-American women to obtain a law degree from Yale; early director of Head Start program) as founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, the leading non-governmental organization advocating for children’s welfare in the U.S.

1999         Mary Ruth Crook and Roger Crook (He’s a retired professor of philosophy in Southern Baptist circles) for lives of peace and justice ministries.

2001         Gordon Bennett and Mark O. Hatfield for longtime peace and justice work. (For Gordon Bennett, see comments below.  Mark O. Hatfield, 1922- is a retired Republican U.S. Senator from Oregon and former Oregon governor. One of the last “liberal Republicans,” Hatfield was a Naval officer in WWII, but was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and of nuclear weapons.  He opposed abortion before that was a litmus test for Republican politicians, but also opposed the death penalty.  A Baptist layperson, he defended church-state separation by opposing all attempts to reintroduce mandatory or teacher-led prayers in public schools.  Hatfield retired from the Senate in 1996 after 46 years of public service, having never lost an election. He currently teaches political science in several schools in Oregon.

2003     John Lewis (Democratic U.S. Congressman from Georgia; former Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) for his more than 40 years of work for peace with justice that began with his leadership roles in the Civil Rights movement and continues in his work in Congress.

2005 Charles Z. Smith (Retired justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington and former dean of the law schol of the University of Washington) for his work on the Stockhold Accords on Ethnic Cleansing and much else in justice and peace work.

2007 Rev. Dr. DeeDee Coleman, Pastor of the Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, for her work with ex-offenders, substance abusers, and high risk youth.

2009 Thomas J. Adams, of Detroit, MI will receive the 2009 Award at the American Baptist Bienniel in Pasadena, CA this June.  He will receive the award for his work as president and co-founder of Chance for Life, a prison rehabilitation program.


  1. I ran across your website and I notice you did not know who Gordon Bennett is–the Dahlberg award winner in 2001. Gordon is a member of my church, Central Baptist in Wayne, PA (www.cbcwayne.org)–and a long time peace activist and teacher. With Larry Pullen, he is currently co-chair of a campaign for a global wellness treaty.

    Comment by Jeff Draine | May 12, 2008

  2. I was nominated for the Dahlberg Award primarily because of my work in anti-nuclear weapons activism (I wrote a book on the history of Nuclear Free Zones), and my participation with Pastors for Peace in their fourth humanitarian caravan to Nicaragua in 1990. Since my retirement from teaching at Eastern University in 1998 I developed the Global Wellness Fund Treaty, and with several colleagues from Eastern and CBC, made a five-year (rather quixotic) effort to secure backing for it within the United Nations. In 2006-08 I have organized a local group to work for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney and with other activists in Chester County, PA, we have raised public awareness of impeachable offenses and lobbied members of Congress on the issue.

    Comment by Gordon Bennett | July 19, 2008

  3. Excellent Post, thanx for sharing the same.. Will keep on reading the post 😀 Stumbled your post .. cheers

    Comment by Saniya | January 1, 2009

  4. While going through your website,I was deeply touched in seeing the name of L. Kijungluba Ao, on the list of Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace Awardee(year 1965), who is my late Grand father.Since childhood we have heared that he was awarded by American Baptist Church for his contribution to end hostilities during a turbelent time in the history of Nagaland.
    Looking back all those years it makes me realise that he was a man beyond his contemporaries; who was selfless, unafraid of chanllenges, coz he had faith in the Almighty God.

    Comment by Yangertoshi Lkr | August 29, 2009

  5. Thanks for this personal insight into your grandfather. I was only vaguely familiar with his story. If you have further details, I would love to hear them.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 29, 2009

  6. I’ll be honored to provide further information regarding his life.However it would be gratefulf on you if you can forward your mailing address so that we can share regarding his life.As described earlier he was a man of simplicity who put his trust in the Almighty. After the American missionaries left India he was entrusted the responsibilities to carry forward the message of our Creator to our fellow brothers in Nagaland, India. He served in various capacities to spread the message. HIs contribution for peace was recognised by the Govt. of India and was awarded Padmasheree Award by the gov. of India on 3rd April 1976. And also The Golden Key By the Mayor of Alabama, USA.And at the age of 92 in the year 1997 he passed away.

    Comment by Yangertoshi | September 12, 2009

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