Wood, Robert. Papers, 1920-2014

Collection Information

Robert Wood Papers, 1920-2014


Wood, Robert Watson

Coulter, Hugh M.

Egan, C. Edward, Jr.




7 boxes (1.6 cubic feet)

Collection ID #:


Conditions Governing Access:

This collection is unrestricted and open to the public.

Physical Access:

Cassette tapes are restricted from being played; digital surrogates are available at the Congregational Library & Archives.

Technical Access:

Digital surrogate audio files must be used on a secured library device.

Copyright: Preferred Citation:

[Identification of item], in the Robert Wood papers, MS4704. The Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, MA.



Processing information:

Processed by Jessica Steytler, 2004.

Revision History:

Re-described by Jessica Steytler, May 2014, using DACS Second Edition.


Robert Wood (1923- ) was ordained as a United Church of Christ minister and is a pioneer in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement. Rev. Wood wrote the book, Christ and the Homosexual, which was published under his own name in 1960. This collection focuses on Rev. Wood's life as an advocate for LGBT rights, particularly regarding marriage equality and military service, more than as his work as a United Church minister. The collection has topics including: materials from conferences and seminars; correspondence; career and personal; publications and writings; audio visual. The collection includes personal papers and photographs of Wood's husband, Hugh M. Coulter.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Robert Wood, 2004.


Creator sends occasional additions, more expected.


Historical Note

Robert Watson Wood was born on May 21, 1923 in Youngstown, Ohio. He served as an infantryman during World War II and, after recovering from battle wound, returned to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received a BS in economics in 1948. In 1951 he graduated from Oberlin Seminary and was ordained by the Congregational Church at Fair Haven, Vermont.

Reverend Wood's life work has been as a pioneer in homosexual rights and advocacy, especially within religious institutions. In 1960 he wrote a ground-breaking book, Christ and the Homosexual, which he not only published under his own name, but included his photograph on the dust jacket and listed the name of his parish. This decision came at a time when few advocates were willing to risk the reprisal, condemnation, or "career suicide" that came with publicly acknowledging their homosexuality.

Wood has been vocal on the topic of gay rights in many different settings: in his own denomination, the United Church of Christ; in the political arena; and on local and national news outlets. Wood's voluminous writings, many of which are contained in a large folder in this collection, demonstrate his dedication and tenacity sustained over five decades of work on behalf of homosexual rights and religious tolerance.

Robert Wood created a family with his life partner, artist Hugh "Buck" Coulter. They met in 1962 and the couple remained devoted to each other until Coulter's death in 1989. For the past several years, Wood has resided in a retirement community in New Hampshire.


Churches served

New York Broadway Church (staff) 1951-1953
First Church Spring Valley, New York 1953-1965
Zion United Church of Christ, Newark New Jersey 1965- 1978
Union Congregational, Maynard, Massachusetts 1978-1986


Scope of Collection

This collection was donated by Robert Wood to the Congregational Library, primarily in 2004, but since Rev. Wood donated the material during his lifetime, researchers should expect the collection to evolve. The majority of the material collected has to do with his writing: speeches, essays, articles, and letters to the press.

A section of the collection has to do with Wood's friend, C. Edward Egan, Jr., a gay Methodist minister. Unlike Wood, Egan did not have the support of his denomination. There is prolonged correspondence between the two men starting in the late 1950s through to Egan's death in 1990, although the majority is between 1957 and 1966. When Egan's health started failing in the late 1980s, he sent Wood some of his writings and their shared correspondence.

Visual material includes photographs of Robert Wood, Hugh Coulter, and their families. Audio material is all on cassette tapes.


Further Searches

Subject Headings

Christ and the Homosexual

Coulter, Hugh M.

Egan, C. Edward, Jr.

Gay military personnel

Gay rights movement--United States

Gay rights--United States--Religious aspects

LGBTQ people

UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns


War diaries

Wood, Robert Watson


Related Materials

Christ and the Homosexual by Robert Wood

Queer Clergy : A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism by R.W. Holman.

UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns collection



Series I: Correspondence, 1940s-2004

Series II: Career, Personal, 1948-1990

Series III: Publications and Writings, 1950-2014

Series IV: Conferences and Seminars, 1965-1989

Series V: Audio-visual, 1920-2005



Series I: Correspondence

Date: 1940s-2004
Extent: 1 box
Scope of Series: This section starts with general correspondence arranged in chronological order. Following are the files to a specific person/subject, mostly to UCC leaders and to colleague and friend, Ed Egan. This is arranged chronologically as well. Greeting cards between Bob and Hugh are in the next series.
      Date Box
Correspondence 1940s-1960s B1
Correspondence 1961-1967 B1
Correspondence 1970s-1980s B1
Correspondence 1990s B1
Correspondence 2000s B1
Greeting Cards from Friends 1960s- B1
Quaintance Art Purchase and Sale [Tom's of Finland] 1953, 1998 B1
Egan, Ed 1957-1990 B1
UCC Leaders 1959-1970 B1
UCC Leaders 1971-1974,
Law, Steven and William Stroud - Marriage 2004 B1

Series II: Career, Personal

Date: 1948-1990
Extent: 2 boxes
Scope of Series: Because there is so little about Wood's pastoral life and it blends in with his personal life so much, these two aspects have been arranged together.

This section includes material relating to his parishes, there is also information about Wood's religious-educational tours in the Holy Land, commemoration of his achievements and retirement, and files about Coulter. Included with the latter material are the greeting cards the couple shared as well as the sympathy cards following Coulter's death.
  Date Box
Certificates, 1934, 1947 1934, 1947 B2
World War II, documents, correspondence, typescript diary undated B2
Playbills and sheet music undated B2
Career History 1948-1986 B2
Installation and ordination certificates, programs 1951-1978, gaps B2
Spiritual Exercises 1950s B2
Pastorate: 1st Congregational Church (Spring Valley, NY) and Union (New York, NY) 1953, 1959, 1989 B2
Pastorate: Zion United Church of Christ (Newark, NJ) 1965-1976 B2
Religious tour programs by Wood undated B2
Achievement recognition letters, certificates undated B2
Year in Review 1952-1955 B2
Retirement 1986 B2
Coulter, Hugh 1938-1989 B2
Coulter, Hugh, framed antiques sign made by Hugh 1986 B2
Greeting cards between Bob and Hugh undated B2
Greeting cards between Bob and Hugh undated B2
Coulter, Hugh, Correspondence, sympathy cards 1989-1990 B2
Coulter, Hugh, Correspondence, sympathy cards 1989-1990 B2

Series III: Publications and Writings

Date: 1950-2014
Extent: 3 boxes
Scope of Series: This is the most in-depth material in the collection. Wood carefully kept as much of his writings, particularly the newspaper and journal articles that he wrote or was mentioned in. Those directly related to Wood or United Church of Christ events have been photocopied onto acid-free paper. There is one file of clippings on the general topic of gay issues, which was left as an indication of Wood's concerns or interests. Not all of the clippings in this section have been preservation photocopied. Please proceed with caution.

There are also folders on Christ and the Homosexual, dating from 1960 and tapering off at the end of that decade.

Wood collected material by or from fellow activists, like Ed Egan and Bill Johnson. Both men have portions within the section. Steven Law, Wood's adopted son, wrote a biography of his father's life. One folder is a manuscript of that work. There is also more general UCC-gay rights literature and non-religious resource material.
  Date Box
Published by and about Wood 1950s-1970s B3
Published by and about Wood 1980s-1990s B3
Published by and about Wood 2000-2014 B3
Writings, reviews 1960s B3
Writings, published and unpublished 1980s-2000s B3
Speeches 1961-1963, 1974 B3
  Date Box
Christ and the Homosexual clips and reviews 1960-1964 B4
Christ and the Homosexual correspondence 1960-1968, 1981 B4
Egan, Ed - Homosexuality and Ethical Responsibility, chapter 3 undated B4
Egan, Ed - The Problem of the Protestant Homosexual 1957 B4
Law, Steven - manuscript of Wood's biography circa 2000 B4
Gay Civil Rights declaration by ministers 1973 B4
Johnson, Bill - ordination-related publications 1972-1973 B4
UCC Gay Caucus and WAVES undated B4
Homosexual resources undated B4
Homosexuality and religion, not by Wood 1960s-1990s B5
Homosexuality, general 1960s-1970s B5

Series IV: Conferences and Seminars

Dates: 1965-1989
Extent: 1 box
Scope of Series: This small section includes the material collected from conferences and seminars. The topics are all homosexuality and religion and are arranged chronologically.
  Date Box
Special Needs Planning. White Plains, NY 1965-1967 B5
Special Needs Planning. White Plains, NY 1965-1967 B5
National Conference on Religion and the Homosexual 1971 B5
National Conference on Religion and the Homosexual 1971 B5
National Conference on Religion and the Homosexual 1971 B5
UCC Synod 1973, 1976 B5
The Church's Ministry with the Homosexual 1971 B5
UCC Coalition National Gathering 1989 B5

Series V: Audio-visual and objects

Dates: 1920-2005
Extent: 2 boxes
Physical Access: Cassette tapes are restricted from being played; digital surrogates are available at the Congregational Library & Archives.
Technical Access: Digital surrogate audio files must be used on a secured library device.
Scope of Series: In preparation for writing Wood's biography, Steven Law taped several interviews with Wood on topics that needed elaboration for the book. Wood also taped some of his gay history lectures and made record of some seminars and his retirement. The tapes range in age from 1974 to 2002. None of the tapes have transcriptions in this collection. There are also a few objects stored with the cassette tapes.

The second section is of photographs of Wood and Coulter. Most have dates and people identified therein. Each Mylar sheet is labeled and a summary of the photographs is included in the folder list. The photographs are arranged in rough chronological order. The book, Heartthrob, is also included in the photograph section. The front leaf has a letter from Wood to the then editor of the book.

Robert Wood donated a number of his books with his papers. A list of those books are at the end of the guide and the individual monographs can be found with this collection.
Arrangement: The tapes are not in a specific arrangement. A more precise description may be uncovered upon further investigation. Some recordings may be interviews with Steven Law that are not explicitly stated on the original labels.

Regarding Photographs: the first section features just Hugh Coulter, and is approximately chronological. The second section is just Robert Wood, also approximately chronological.  The final section is Hugh and Robert's life together. Numbering indicates page number, not photograph number.
  Date Box/Tape
Interview with Steven Law, Relationship with Roger between college and seminary; transient nature of life; rejection etc; NYC 1950, Village; Donald Welster Cory (?); Spring Valley; Robert Norris Wilson; Story of Cong. Leader fired; George Henry; Donald Corey, Westwood 1991 October 22 B6/T1 ;
Book, Christ and the Homosexual undated B6/T2 ;
Fire Island 1950 In Love with Roger; Oberlin Seminary; Lake Placid; War and what I learned covers 1948-1951 (?) B6/T3 ;
Last service and sermon as pastor 1986 April 27 B6/T4 ;
Ed Egan: "A theology of Homosexuality" Church's ministry with the homosexual person, NJ Association retreat 1974 October 21 B6/T5 ;
Military (transcribed?) undated B6/T6 ;
Interview with Steven Law:
Rings Conference Minister; Hugh – Gay Issue- Why silent- they chose to be silent; spirituality; illness and alcoholism- friendships and co dependence; mother's feeling about Hugh; process for writing explained
1991 December B6/T7 ;
The relationship; Hugh and Bob's ministry together. Love beyond sex; Portugal described; King Mchail (?) and Jimmy; Pilgrim press 2002 B6/T8 ;
Interview with Steven Law:
Theol.- Childhood- Seminary- Lake Placid calling- stray of 90 more years- stewardship- leather- more seminary- post war years- Theology- son- ret- greatest sin (not being with Hugh enough- sin vulnerability inadequacies
undated B6/T9 ;
Sermon Digests by Wood undated B6/T10 ;
Interview with Steven Law:
Christmas- first stroke 1985, second stroke, hospitalizations; Hugh's death; special gift after mother went to bed; pictures; when police came; B. Ruben Sha??- transcribed, but transcription not in archive collection
1991 December (part 2) B6/T11 ;
Presentation on gay history with Q&A after 1993 September 16 B6/T12 ;
Interview with Steven Law and Ed Egan undated B6/T13 ;
Retirement party in Maynard, Mass. 1986 April 27 B6/T14 ;
Interview with Steven Law, George and Joe undated B6/T15
Wood's 50th anniversary of ordination, sermon 2001 June 17 B6/T16 ;
Hugh Coulter's memorial service 1989 January 21 B6/T17
Gay history  and Community Sunday at Emanuel Church, Concord NH 1974, 1989 B6/T18 ;
Steven Law interview with Wood on first job, Broadway Tabernacle undated B6/T19 ;
Steven Law interviews Kay Mitchell in preparation to write Bob's biography undated B6/T20
"Christianism is not Christianity" Robert Wood sermon 1985 July 14 B6/T21
  Objects Date Box/Envelope
Enameled dish, 15 cm, by Hugh Coulter 1953 B6
University of Philadelphia Class of 1948 pin with ribbon 1998 B6
Sketches by Hugh Coulter of cross made for Wood, Includes cross 1984 B6/Env1
Hugh, "10 years" - Sunday School attendance, Methodist undated B6/Env2
  Photographs, Hugh Date Box/Page
Hugh as a baby and child, including birth announcement 1920-1933 B7/P1
Hugh as a soldier 1942-1944 B7/P2
Hugh as a soldier 1942-1944 B7/P3
Hugh, portraits, including personalized stamp book circa 1940s, undated B7/P4
Hugh, portraits, including personalized stamp book circa 1940s, undated B7/P5
Hugh, portraits, including personalized stamp book circa 1940s, undated B7/P6
Hugh, portraits, including personalized stamp book circa 1940s, undated B7/P7
Hugh, cowboy outfit 1952, undated B7/P8
Hugh, cowboy outfit 1952, undated B7/P9
Hugh, cowboy outfit 1952, undated B7/P10
  Photographs, Bob Date Box/Page
Basic training portrait, Texas 1943 B7/P11
with brother, Harold Jr. circa 1924 B7/P12
at camp (group shot) 1940 B7/P12
with his parents at Wood's ordination 1951 June 17 B7/P12
Wood with his parents 1950s B7/P12
Portrait of Wood in clerical dress, 2 copies each 1958 B7/P13
Portrait of Wood in clerical dress, 2 copies each 1958 B7/P14
Portrait of Wood in white t-shirt 1958 B7/P14
Group photo with Wood on extreme right - Provincetown 1958 B7/P14
MA 1960 B7/P16
John Peters, Bob Wood, E. C. Wood. Spring Valley, NY. 1962 B7/P16
  Photographs, Hugh and Bob Date Box/Page
Bob and Hugh 1964 B7/P16
Wood at the beach 1963 B7/P17
Wood in front of paintings by Hugh, a Christmas present that year 1962 Summer B7/P17
Wood on the Grass undated B7/P17
New York World's Fair, 3 images 1964 B7/P18
Reading Comics 1964 B7/P18
Wood at the beach 1964 B7/P19
Hugh, Florida 1967 B7/P19
Wood, Florida 1967 B7/P19
Bob on Sea of Galilee, Israel Taken by Hugh 1968 July 25 B7/P20
Bob and Hugh, 2 separate pictures in front of the same gate in matching denim outfits 1969 B7/P21
Bob and Hugh together on steps, Glen Head, NY, possibly an anniversary picture 1972 B7/P21
Interchurch Center Chapel, NYC. Bob behind alter at first National Conference on Religion and the Homosexual 1971 March 25 B7/P22
Portrait of Wood with prominently worn wedding ring 1971 March 25 B7/P23
Hugh 1975 B7/P24
Hugh 1973 B7/P24
Hugh dressed as Lincoln for Presidents Day for Zion UCC event 1976 B7/P24
Hugh undated B7/P25
Hugh, One man show of oil paintings, Shirley Ctr., MA. undated B7/P25
Hugh portrait with one of his paintings undated B7/P26
Hugh and Bob in the holy land 1975, undated, 1981 B7/P27
Hugh and Bob in the holy land 1975, undated, 1981 B7/P27
Portraits of Bob and Hugh, (2 versions of Hugh) undated B7/P29
Bob and Hugh in front of Maynard, MA parsonage (other people not identified) 1979 B7/P30
Hugh and un-named female friend undated B7/P30
Bob and Hugh's 20th anniversary 1982 August 22 B7/P30
Anniversary invitation 1982 August 22 B7/P31
Anniversary cake 1982 August 22 B7/P31
Hugh and Bob with Bill Johnson 1982 August 22 B7/P31
Leo, Rita, Hugh, Bob 1982 August 22 B7/P32
George and Leo 1982 August 22 B7/P32
Bob and unnamed friend 1982 August 22 B7/P32
Bob's retirement from Maynard 1986 B7/P33
In Greece - ready to climb Mt. Olympus, with Hanns Ebstien (pointing at map) 1990 B7/P33
Wood in Concord, NH 2003 B7/P34
Wood in Philadelphia 2001 B7/P34
Wood at Philadelphia Class Reunion 1998 B7/P34
Wood 2001 B7/P34
Wood and Steven C. Law 2001 B7/P35
Wood and Steven C. Law in Philadelphia 2001 B7/P35
Wood and Barbara Gittings 2001 B7/P35
Wood and Steven C. Law 2005 B7/P35


Books included in Robert Wood's personal collection

Bailey, Derrick Sherwin. Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. London: Longmans Green and Co. 1955.

Batchelor, Edward. Homosexuality and Ethics. New York: Pilgrim Press. 1980.

Carpenter, Edward. The Intermediate Sex. The Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women. London: Geroge Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1908. 

Ebensten, Hanns. Volleyball with the Cuna Indians and Other Gay Travel Adventures. New York: Penguin Books. 1993.
  ** Note with book: "Pages 184, 185 - The "Pastor" referred to is the Rev. Robert W. Wood."

Gearheart, Sally and William R. Johnson. Loving Women/Loving Men. San Francisco: Glide Publications.  1974.

Grecian Guild Pictorial, summer 1956 (has some pages missing)

Harper's Magazine, Centennial Issue, 1850-1950

Harvey, John F. The Truth about Homosexuality. The Cry of the Faithful. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1996.

Is Gay Good? Ethics, Theology, and Homosexuality. W. Dwight Oberholtzer, ed. Philadelphia:The Westminster Press. 1971. (missing)

Jones, Clinton R. What About Homosexuality? Nashville, New York: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1972.

Jones, H. Kimball. Toward a Christian Understanding of the Homosexual. New York: Association Press. 1966.

Nelson, James B. Embodiment. An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology. New York/Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press. 1978.

Reuter, Donald F. Heartthrob.  New York: Universe Publishing, 1998.

The Same Sex. An Appraisal of Homosexuality. Ralph W. Weltge, ed. Philadelphia/Boston: Pilgrim Press. 1969.

The Treasure Chest. A Digest of Personal Aids to Successful Living. Tribute To The Boy Scouts Of America. New York: George G. Calkins. February, 1906.

Westwood, Gordon (pseudonym for Michael George Schofield). Society and the Homosexual. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1953.


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