Announcement & Obituary for T. Vail Palmer Jr. (1927-2021)

We want to honor the life and legacy of T. Vail Palmer, Jr. who recently passed away. Vail was very active in the Quaker Theological Discussion Group, wrote numerous articles for QRT and served as Quaker Religious Thought editor.

Here is his obituary and an invitation to join us for his memorial service.


Thompson Vail Palmer Jr. was born on June 9, 1927, in West Chester, PA, the eldest of three children of Thompson Vail Palmer Sr. and Esther Lamborn Palmer. The Palmers were members of Concord (PA) Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Vail Palmer graduated from George School, a Friends school in Newtown, PA. He earned a B.A. in philosophy and mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. He married Ruth Candida Heine in England in 1952.He was twice prosecuted for refusing to cooperate with the Selective Service (military draft), and has been active with the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.

After serving as pastor at the Gonic Friends Church in New Hampshire, he returned to graduate study at the University of Chicago Divinity School. While studying and writing his doctoral dissertation, he worked for the American Friends Service Committee. He received his Ph.D. in 1965, after which he taught religion and philosophy at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, KY, and Rio Grande College in Rio Grande, OH. He moved to Oregon in 1980.

In in 1999 Vail Palmer married, Izzy Covalt, co-founder of Izzy’s Pizza Restaurants, at Reedwood Friends Church in Portland, OR.
He has been a recorded minister in New England Yearly Meeting and Western Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting), Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Friends General Conference), Northwest Yearly Meeting (Evangelical Friends International), Freedom Friends Church in Salem, OR, and most recently Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends. He was a longtime member of the Quaker Theological Discussion Group and an editor of Quaker Religious Thought. At Reedwood he taught adult religion classes. Lately he had published two books on Friends and the Bible, “Face to Face, Early Quaker Encounters with the Bible” and “A Long Road, How Quakers Made Sense of God and the Bible,” and was working on a third. One of the proud moments in Vail’s life was his participation in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream . . .” speech.

Vail Palmer died at his home in Albany, OR, on February 5, 2021, at the age of 93. He is survived by his wife Izzy and her six children and thirty-some grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Clarkson Palmer; two children from his first marriage, Logan and Crystal Palmer; daughter-in-law Terry Blecher, and granddaughter, Anabel Palmer.

Donations in Vail’s honor can be made to the American Friends Service Committee, Barclay Press, Quaker Religious Thought, or Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends. Because we are in a time of pandemic and social distancing, the memorial for Vail will be held on Zoom on March 13th at 11 am. If you wish to attend you must* register so that the Zoom meeting link can be sent to you and you can access the event. 

☑️ Click here for registration information

Please Wess Daniels (danielscw@guilford.edu) with any questions you have.

Message shared on behalf of Alivia Biko
Freedom Friends Worship Group
Salem, Oregon

Announcement & Obituary for T. Vail Palmer Jr. (1927-2021)