Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon was the first African American woman to be ordained into the United Presbyterian USA denomination. Rev. Cannon was ordained in Shelby, North Carolina, on April 24, 1974, by the Catawaba Presbytery.
Katie Cannon was born on January 3, 1950, in Kannapolis, North Carolina. She was one of seven children born to Esau and Emanuelette Corine Lytle Cannon. Her early education began at a local Lutheran church. Whe was the salutatorian of her graduating class from George Washington Carver High School in Kannapolis in 1967. She enrolled at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina and completed a degree in education in 1971. Three years later, in 1974, she received her Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Rev. Cannon earned both a Master’s and Doctor of Philosophy from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1983. Later, she completed a doctorate in ethics, becoming the first African American woman to receive both degrees at the seminary in 1989. She served as Parish Associate to Rev. Henry Pinckney in 1992 at First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rev. Cannon was also the author of Black Womanist Ethics (1988), Katie’s Cannon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (1995), and Teaching Preaching: Isaac R. Clark and Black Sacred Rhetoric (2002). She edited other works including The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology (2011).
Throughout her long academic career, Rev. Cannon served as Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia; Professor of Religion at Davidson College in North Carolina; Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. She was also on the faculty of Temple University, the Episcopal Divinity School in New York and Harvard Divinity School. She served as president for The Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2004 to 2008. She also served as the Executive Director of the Squaring of the Womanist Circle Project at Union Presbytery Seminary and founded The Center for Womanist Leadership 2012. Rev. Cannon received the Excellence in Theological Education Award during the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), held in St. Louis, Missouri in June 2018.
Rev. Katie Cannon died in Richmond, Virginia at the age of 68 on August 8, 2018, of acute leukemia. She never married and is survived by her mother Corine, siblings Sara, Jerry, Doris, John Wesley, and Sylvia. Cannon also left behind 21 nieces and nephews, including author and public speaker Sly Fleming, musicians Joshua Cannon Fleming and Cedric T. Love, and actor/musician Nick Cannon.