Katie Geneva Cannon

January 3, 1950 ~ August 8, 2018 (age 68)

On January 3, 1950 a fourth child was born to Esau and E. Corine Lytle Cannon.  In honor of her mother's sister, they named their daughter Katie Geneva Cannon.  Katie grew up in the Fishertown community in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  At an early age, Katie accepted Jesus Christ and became a member of Covenant United Presbyterian in Kannapolis.

In 1967, Dr. Cannon was salutatorian at George Washington Carver High, Kannapolis. She held a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Barber-Scotia College, magna cum laude (1971) and a Master of Divinity degree (with honors) from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center, Georgia (1974).  Dr. Cannon was the first African-American woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1974 and in 1983 became the first African-American to earn the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Union Theological Seminary (NYC). 

Dr. Cannon authored the following: Black Womanist Ethics (1988); Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (1995); Teaching Preaching: Isaac R. Clark and Black Sacred Rhetoric (2002). She edited God’s Fierce Whimsy: The Implications of Feminism for Theological Education. She co-edited Womanist Theological Ethics (A Reader) with Emilie M. Townes and Angela D. Sims and The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology with Anthony Pinn.

Dr. Cannon lectured frequently to diverse audiences on a wide range of topics relating to African-American social ethics. She presented papers in many different venues on the intersectionality of race, gender, and class, such as Harvard University, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wellesley College, Smith College, MIT, University of  Wisconsin, Marquette University, Emory University, Duke Divinity School, University of North Carolina, Boston University School of Theology, and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley to name a few. In 2006, Dr. Cannon received the Distinguished Professor Award from Spelman College during the Global Conference, “Sisters of African Descent Connecting Spirituality, Religion, and Vocation.” In 2009, Dr. Cannon was the honoree for “The Fifth Annual Black Church Studies Summit” at Emory University Candler School of Theology. Also in 2009, she received the Womanist Trailblazer Award at Union Theological Seminary in NYC and the John Jasper Trailblazer Award from the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.

As a frontrunner in Womanist Theology and Ethics, her essays on living with integrity in situations of oppression have appeared in journals, encyclopedias, dictionaries, newspapers, and magazine including:  The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Encyclopedia of Women and World Religions,  Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories, An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage, Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, Dictionary of Third World Theologies, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vogue and Ladies' Home Journal.

The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon was the Annie Scales Rogers Professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. Prior to being on the faculty at Union, Dr. Cannon served on the faculties of Temple University, Episcopal Divinity School, and Harvard Divinity School.   In 2005, she spent the spring semester as the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion at Davidson College and the fall semester as the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor in Religion and Africana Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In 2010, Dr. Cannon spent the spring semester as a Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York teaching Womanist Theological Ethics and Codes of Ethics in Freedom Narratives.  Dr.  Cannon traveled extensively throughout Africa.

In March 2003, she was elected to serve a four-year term as President of the Society from the Study of Black Religion. Dr. Cannon was the recipient of the 2011 American Academy of Religion Excellence in Teaching Award. In January 2014, Dr. Cannon was awarded the inaugural Sankofa Scholar from the Black Church Studies Program at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. In May 2016, she was the recipient of the UNION MEDAL, which is the highest award of distinction presented by Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 2017, Dr. Cannon was recognized during the Historical Black Colleges and Universities Awards in Winston-Salem. In June 2018, on behalf of Dr. Cannon, her niece Bridgett N. Cannon received the Excellence in Theological Education Award presented at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 223rd General Assembly, St. Louis.

To hundreds, Dr. Cannon was known as my daughter, my sister, Kate, Aunt Kate, Cousin Kate, my friend Kate, Dr. Kate or Sister Kate.  With all her works and accolades, she was an approachable and kind hearted person. Katie was generous in sharing her time, talents, and resources.  She lived the words of the song, “If I Can Help Somebody As I Travel On Then My Living Shall Not Be In Vain.” Kate knew and believed  “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Dr. Cannon was preceded in death by her father, Esau Cannon and two brothers Esau Levon Cannon and James Ernest Cannon, Sr.

Those who will continue to cherish her memories are her mother, Mrs. Emanuelette Corine Lytle Cannon of Kannapolis. Her sisters are Sara Elizabeth (Sylvester Leon) Fleming, Kannapolis; Doris Corine Love of Lawrenceville; and Sylvia Denise (Isaiah) Wynn of Charlotte.  Her brothers, John Wesley (Linda) Cannon and Reverend Dr. Jerry Lytle (Veronica) Cannon. There are twenty-one (21) nieces and nephews, twenty-eight (28) great nieces and nephews and six (6) great-great nieces and nephews. Dr. Katie Cannon had three godchildren. They were Yolanda Reliford Young of Concord, North Carolina, Jerome Stockton Fleming, II of Charlotte, North Carolina and Etta-Marie Katherine Moon of Charlotte, NC. Dr. Cannon planned, arranged and prepared to attend the baptism of her grand godchild, Cora Delta Fleming on June 17, 2018.  There are many cousins, friends, and family. Additional survivals are from childhood through adulthood cousins, Evelyn Cannon Reliford and Jennifer Moore Love of Kannapolis, North Carolina.

The family will receive friends on Monday, August 13, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Covenant Presbyterian Church 5835 Charlie Walker Road, Kannapolis, NC. Visitation and funeral services will be held on Tuesday, August 14, at Bethpage United Presbyterian Church 8701 Mooresville Road, Concord, NC, Visitation  from 12:00 – 1:00PM and funeral service at 1:00PM.

In lieu of floral arrangements, the family asked that donations be made to the organization that she founded. Mail to: Center for Womanist Leadership Union Presbyterian Seminary, 3401 Brook Road, Richmond, Virginia 23227 or (Enter "Center for Womanist Leadership " in the donor designated description box.)

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