F. Garner Ranney, 82, diocese archivist

October 12, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

F. Garner Ranney, archivist and historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, died Tuesday of cancer at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 82 and lived in Mount Vernon Place.

For 40 years, Mr. Ranney oversaw the Maryland Diocesan Archives at the Diocesan Center at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Incarnation in North Baltimore.

The valuable collection of official records, manuscripts and other materials relating to the Church of England in Colonial Maryland and its successor, the Episcopal Church in Maryland, spans hundreds of feet of material from 1676 to the present.

The collection also contains the personal papers of the first six bishops of Maryland - Thomas John Claggett, James Kemp, William Murray Stone, William R. Whittingham, William Pinkney and William Paret - as well as the official records, journals, minutes, correspondence and photographs of the church's later bishops.

"The archives of the Diocese of Maryland are one of the five best in the nation, and they are a model and an inspiration to us," said Julia Randle, professor at Virginia Theological Seminary and president of the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists.

"Any archivist working with scholars would eventually send them to the Diocese of Maryland because he knew his collection so intimately," she said.

"Garner was a remarkably dedicated, loving and unassuming Christian who loved his church, our diocese and its history, and all his brothers and sisters in Christ," said Robert W. Ihloff, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Maryland. "His quiet, humble but strong and vibrant faith motivated all he did and created in him the saint we all knew and loved."

"He was a prince and the grand old man of the Diocese of Maryland who cherished the history of the diocese," said the Rev. William N. McKeachie, former rector of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church and now dean of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The Very Rev. Van Gardner, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Incarnation, said of Mr. Ranney: "He had a passion for his work and was the memory of the community of our faith. His love of church, history and people was an inspiration to all of us."

Mr. Ranney, who lived in Washington Apartments on Charles Street, was born in Chicago, and moved to London with his mother after his parents divorced.

Through his mother, he was descended from the Clagetts of Upper Marlboro, including the Rt. Rev. Thomas John Claggett, who was consecrated as the first Episcopal bishop of Maryland in 1792.

Mr. Ranney was educated in London and at Cambridge University and Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English in 1942. He held doctorates from Nashotah Theological Seminary and General Theological Seminary.

During World War II, he was a naval officer in London, where his top-secret duties included decoding and delivering secret messages sent from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill.

After the war, he returned to Washington, where he was a desk officer in the State Department. He also did library work for the Maryland Historical Society and the Peabody Institute before being named archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland by Bishop Noble C. Powell.

Concurrently, he served as archivist to Allen W. Dulles, former CIA director, from 1962 to 1969.

A quiet, self-effacing man, Mr. Ranney quickly earned the respect of scholars, researchers and theologians.

"He was extremely orderly and not some bushy-haired eccentric," said William Stump, retired editor of Maryland Church News. "He really was a gentleman of the old school. Everything was meticulously arranged, and he had this incredible card system. He could find anything."

David Hein, chairman of Hood College's Department of Religion and Philosophy and author of the recently published Noble C. Powell and the Episcopal Establishment in the Twentieth Century, said, "Garner made the whole research experience terribly fun, and he could make the papers in the archives so vital and alive."

Frederick S. Koontz, a friend and co-executor, said: "He really was a man from another time. He was almost Edwardian in his approach to life and other people. And he subscribed to the theory that gentlemen didn't talk about themselves."

Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Charles and Saratoga streets.

He is survived by two cousins, Francis Springfield Baldwin of St. Louis and Rosa Hall Baldwin Randall of Frederick.

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