Episcopal Bishop of Alaska Installed in Raleigh, 1948

On May 18, 1948, William J. Gordon Jr. was consecrated Episcopal bishop of Alaska. At the time, he was youngest priest in the United States ever elevated to such a post. The ceremony at the Church of the Good Shepherd was only the third consecration to take place in Raleigh.

Since 1943, the native of Rockingham County had served as a missionary in Point Hope, Alaska. In 1949 Gordon earned his pilot’s license and became known as the “Flying Bishop of Alaska.” Before he got a plane, Gordon had traveled about 6,000 miles by dogsled to minister to the Arctic Coast villages. His journey to visit all of the churches in his diocese was 3,500 miles long and took 3 months to complete by boat. Once he began flying to visit his churches he logged over a million miles in the small plane purchased for him with monies raised by the women of the Episcopal Church.

The Bishop was a strong believer in rights of Alaskan native people and fought for the development of native clergy. He is buried in Point Hope, Alaska, where he first ministered, in a grave marked with whale jawbones, a high honor in the Arctic.

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