Norman Vincent Peale, acclaimed minister and author, has ties to Highland County. His father, Charles Clifford Peale, was born in Lynchburg and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery there.
Norman was the first-born son son of Charles and Anna Peale. He was born in Bowersville on May 31, 1898.
He spent part of his childhood in Highland County, where his father was a minister at Sugartree Ridge Church. He also lived in Norwood and Bellefontaine. While growing up, Norman delivered newspapers and groceries to help his family.
Norman graduated from Bellefontaine High School in 1916. He continued his education at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, graduating in 1920.
After graduation, Norman worked at the Morning Republic newspaper in Findlay. He also worked at a newspaper in Detroit, Michigan before entering the Boston University School of Theology in 1921.
The following September, Norman, an ordained minister, begin serving at a church in Berkeley, Rhode Island. He served there for two years.
Upon graduating from Boston in 1924, Norman became the assistant pastor at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1925, Norman took charge of the struggling Kings Highway Church, also in Brooklyn. He served the church for three years. While there the congregation grew from 400 to 900.
In 1927, Norman was called to the University Church in Syracuse, New York. He served the church for five years. While serving the University Church, he met his wife, Loretta Ruth Peale. They were married on June 20, 1930 and had three children.
In March of 1932, Norman was asked to be guest speaker at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, a Dutch Reformed Church. The board was so impressed with Norman that they asked him to become pastor. In order for Norman to became pastor, he had to change denominations. He began serving the church in October and continued to serve the church for 52 years.
While serving at the Marble Collegiate Church, Norman and psychoanalyst Smiley Blanton set up a religio-psychiatric outpatient clinic. In 1940, Blanton and Peale wrote the book, “Faith is the Answer: A Pyschiatrist and a Pastor Discuss Your Problems”. In 1951, the clinic was turned into the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry. In 1972, the foundation merged with the Academy of Religion and Mental Health to form the Institutes of Religion and Mental Health. Peale continued to be involved as president of the board and chief fundraiser until his death. Peale is noted for being the pioneer of the merger of theology and psychology becoming known as Christian Psychology.
Peale is best known for his book “Power of Positive Thinking”, written in 1952. The book held it’s spot on the New York Times Best Seller list for 186 consecutive weeks. There have been five million copies sold and it has been translated into 15 different languages, according to it’s publisher, Simon & Schuster.
Peale and his wife, Ruth, are also recognized as the founders of Guidepost Magazine. They founded Guidepost in 1945 with businessman Raymond Thornburg. Guidepost has a circulation of 4.5 million copies. It is the largest circulation of any religious magazine.
On March 26, 1984, Peale was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Ronald Regan for accomplishments in the field of theology.
Peale passed away on Dec. 24, 1993, from a stroke in Pawling, New York and is buried there.
Jackie Wolgamott is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.