Conwell, Russell (Herman)(1843–1925) lawyer, Baptist minister, lecturer; born in South Worthington, Mass. Raised on his family farm, which was a station on the Underground Railroad, even as a youth he was an impassioned orator on the rights of all men and women. He volunteered for the Union army and was commissioned as "the boy Captain" at age 19. Severely wounded at the battle of Kenesaw Mountain in June 1864, he was left for dead and later credited the experience with converting him to Christianity. He was admitted to the bar in 1865 and moved to Minneapolis, Minn., where he established a law practice and founded a daily newspaper. Returning to Massachusetts, he became pastor of a moribund Baptist church in Lexington. In 1882 he took charge of the Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia; his enormous Baptist Temple opened there in 1891. In 1888 the night school he founded under the church auspices became Temple College. A well-known lecturer on the Chautauqua circuit, his most famous lecture was his optimistic, platitudinous "Acres of Diamonds," which he delivered some 6,000 times, thereby earning millions of dollars that he left to endow Temple College.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.