Francis T. King (1819-1891) was intimately associated with the work of Baltimore Yearly Meeting for more than forty years. He was born in Baltimore in 1819, where his father, Joseph King, was engaged in business as a shipping merchant. After attending St. Mary’s College, Baltimore, for two years, he became one of the first students at the new Friends’ School at Haverford, afterwards Haverford College.
In 1838 Francis T. King went through an experience which affected the current of his life. In that year, as a young man of nineteen, he was asked to act as guide to Joseph John Gurney, a distinguished English Friend, in a religious visit throughout Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
Joseph John Gurney was an eloquent and convincing preacher; he had studied Scriptures in the original languages and had published many valuable books and essays. There being at this time but few railroads, the journey was made in Joseph John Gurney’s own carriage, so the travelers were thrown into close companionship, and the youthful
Francis caught a glimpse of the joy there is in giving all one’s time and talents to the service of God and the good of others. He entered into covenant with the Lord that if He would prosper him so that he could lay by enough for the support of his family, he would retire from business and devote the whole of his time to religious and benevolent work.
He started business on his own account in 1842 and in 1860 the time came when in accordance with this resolution he sold out his share of the business and invested the money. The next year the South seceded and a large part of the firm’s assets were confiscated by the Confederate Government. Faithfulness to his convictions had saved Francis King from this loss and set him free for the unique service to which he was afterward called.
He was able to use his connections and acquaintances in the business world to help raise money for Quaker relief work. He was a close friend of Johns Hopkins, a Quaker who owned half of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was the executor of Hopkins’ estate, and served as trustee of the new Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University.
At the end of the Civil war, Francis T. King was one of the founders of the Baltimore Association to Assist and Advise the Friends of the Southern States. He saw clearly that Quakers in North Carolina would do better to stay here and rebuild their lives on farms they already owned, than to arrive penniless in the Midwest and be in debt for generations.
Francis T. King was a man of unusual gifts. His was a bright, active mind to notice opportunities for doing good and then to act on them. He was tactful in arranging unity of action, and avoiding opposition; above all he was an excellent judge of character.
He visited Springfield Friends many times and was instrumental in starting and funding the building of schools, the Model Farm, the summer teacher training program and many other activities. He recruited first Joseph Moore and then Allen Jay to serve as superintendents of the work of the Baltimore Association.
A plaque honoring his work is in the colonnade outside the meetinghouse, and Francis Street in High Point is named in his honor.