Celebrating Native American Heritage Month in the WNCC: Thomas Queen

November 10, 2022

By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian

Thomas Queen (1932 - 1992)

Tom Queen was an outspoken advocate for ministries with all people, especially for ministries with Native Americans. He demonstrated this through his many years of service at all levels of the church, from his work for many years as a Church and Community worker in his hometown of Cherokee to being a strong voice for Native American ministries in the global church.

A life-long resident of Cherokee and member at Cherokee UMC, Tom served as Chair of their Council on Ministries. He also served as Director of the Cherokee Mission from 1973 until his death in 1992, operating the many ministries of the church for the local community.

Tom Queen represented the WNC Conference as a member of the General Board of Global Ministries 1972-76 and as a member of the General Commission on Religion and Race 1984-88. In the WNC Conference he served on the Conference Board of Global Ministries 1976-80, Vice-Chair of the Conference Council on Ministries 1980-84, Vice-Chair of the Ethnic Minority Coordinating Committee 1983-84, on the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry 1984-92, Vice-Chair of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race 1984-88, and on the Conference Missional Priority Coordinating Committee 1984-88. Tom traveled far and wide to promote ministries and missions with Native Americans, and was a regular speaker at mission saturation events, always an advocate for the needs of the Native American local church.

Tom served in the UMC as a delegate from the WNC Conference to General Conference in 1980, 1984, and 1988. He was elected to serve as a delegate to the 1992 General Conference, but his health would not allow him to attend. When he was first elected to serve in 1980, he was one of only three Native Americans elected to serve, the other two being the two elected delegates from the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. (North Carolina Christian Advocate, April 15, 1980) He served on the Board of the National United Methodist Native

American Center, then located at Oklahoma City University. Tom was the Chair of SERNAC (Southeastern Regional Native American Caucus) and was Vice-Chair of SEJANAM (Southeastern Jurisdictional Association for Native American Ministries) at the time of his death. At his funeral the Rev. Patrick Freeman stated, “Tom was connected; he knew the connection and utilized the connection to serve and to enable service. . . . If ever there were a person connected and able to use the connection for ministry, it was Tom.”

“In 1991 Tom became certified as an Indigenous Community Developer of the National Division of the Board of Global Ministries. The senior citizens he served so faithfully, the work teams he coordinated, the vibrant touching prayers in Cherokee, the interpretation he provided across the nation, the leadership he gave to organizations, the jurisdictional and general conferences to which he was elected since 1980, the larger Native American community throughout Methodism, all of this and all of us who were touched by the life of Tom Queen, yield him up to the Christ he loved and served.” (Manuscript memoir for Tom Queen)

Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:

Jeremiah Wolfe, the first Native American to be elected a delegate to General Conference from the WNCC in 1976.

Rev. David Ortigoza, the Director of Hispanic and Latino Ministries for the SEJ in 2003.

Rev. Diana Wingeier-Rayo, the first Hispanic/Latina woman to be received into full clergy membership in the WNC Conference.

Raul Adriano, the first known person of Hispanic/Latino heritage to be elected by The WNCC to serve as a Lay Delegate to General Conference.

Rev. Carlos Alberto Rodriguez, a key figure at the Board of Missions Office of The WNCC in 1961.

Rev. Dr. Abraham Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a clergy delegate to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. Karen Miyoshi Kagiyama, the first Asian-American women to be ordained an Elder in the WNCC.

In Muk Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a delegate (clergy or lay) to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. M. B. Lee McCrary, the first woman to become a full clergy member of the Western North Carolina Conference. 

Rev. Dolores Barus Queen, the first woman to serve as District Superintendent in the Western NC Conference.

Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer, the first (and to date, the only) woman to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Jettie Morrison, a key figure in the Women's Society of Christian Service and the integration of The United Methodist Church in 1968.

Bishop L. Scott Allen (May 4, 1918-September 18, 2004), the first (and to date, the only) African-American to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Effie Miller (September 17, 1930-September 1, 2008), a leader in the Western North Carolina Conference and the United Methodist Church, especially with regard to the United Methodist Women.

The Rev. Dr. J. C. Peters (July 10, 1925- July 2, 1998)the first African-American to serve as a District Superintendent in the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mr. Clarence Winchester,  a leader in the North Carolina Conference (Central Jurisdiction) and in the WNC Conference.

Dr. Isaac Miller (September 26, 1920-November 1, 2008), a leader in Higher Education and in the United Methodist Church.

#BeUMC Personal Reflections