Voices of Minnesota

Oral History Interview with Curtis Burdette Akenson

DATE: March - April 2000

INTERVIEWER: James E. Fogerty

Curtis Burdette Akenson was born November 2, 1913 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Nels P. Akenson and Amy Dahlgren Akenson, sixth of six children. He attended First Baptist Church of Minneapolis throughout his life, and served there as pastor from 1942-1974.

Akenson graduated from South High School in 1930, and earned several other degrees: Diploma in Bible Studies, Northwestern Bible and Missionary School, 1933; AA, Bethel Junior College, 1936; BS in Social Studies, 1942, MA in History and Philosophy of Education, 1949, and PhD in Political Science and Education, 1962, from University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He was pastor of Groveland Community Church from 1933-35 and of Prospect Park Baptist Church from 1935-39. He worked as a teacher and administrator at Northwestern Bible and Missionary School from 1937-1946 and taught at Bethel College from 1945-52. Akenson married Vivian Edythe Nelson in 1937.

Subjects discussed in the March 21 interview include: childhood; schooling; early experiences at Northwestern; relationship with Dr. Robert Moyer; experiences as minister at Groveland Community Church, attending Bethel College, at Prospect Park Church, as faculty member at Northwestern, attaining his master's degree, and becoming Assistant Pastor at First Baptist; intertwined relationship between First Baptist and Northwestern; serving as Assistant Pastor at a church and Assistant Dean at Northwestern concurrently; impressions of Dr. William B. Riley; becoming Senior Pastor at the death of Dr. Moyer; thesis as first definitive work on redevelopment of Minneapolis Lower Loop; experiences with Billy Graham; live radio broadcasts of Sunday sermons on KTIS, 1949-1974; relationship of church to surrounding neighborhoods; where congregation was actually drawn from; advantageous placement of building with regards to highway system; exposition of beliefs about appropriate uses of pulpit.

Subjects discussed in the March 28 interview include: Northwestern College history; associations with First Baptist as a child; governance structure of Northwestern; experiences as director of Northwestern; impressions of relations between Northwestern founder, Dr. W.B. Riley, and Billy Graham; Billy Graham and then Akenson as head of Northwestern; making First Baptist and then Northwestern debt free under his administration; decisions about whether to accept outside funding; building an endowment; emphasis of school as liberal arts or Bible college; moving Northwestern from Loring Park area to Roseville.

Subjects discussed in the April 25 interview include: World War II and its effect on the school; how welcome African Americans or Japanese Americans were to attend services; Dr. Riley, creationism, and opposition to evolution; defense of Dr. Riley; dismissal of charges of anti-semitism; discussion of thesis paper' relations to community members' rebirth of downtown living; business and church's responsibility towards disadvantaged city dwellers.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEW: 6 hours 18 minutes

TRANSCRIPT: 66 pages