Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818–1902) was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He was educated at Amherst College (1832-34), the University of Georgia (BA, 1838), and Columbia Theological Seminary (1839-41). He married Mary Augusta McConnell in 1841.
After pastoring First Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia (1841-42), Palmer was called to First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina, where he ministered for the next twelve years (1843-55). While there, he received the Doctor of Divinity degree from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta (1852). He also taught in Columbia Seminary from 1853 to 1856, while he was pastoring in Columbia. In 1856, he accepted the pastorate of First Presbyterian in New Orleans, a position which he held for forty-six years. He declined an invitation to the chair of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Seminary in 1860. He was forced out of New Orleans when it fell to the Union forces during the Civil War. He returned in 1865 to the ruined city where, under his leadership his former congregation was rebuilt. In 1870 he received the LL.D. degree from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
Palmer was a proponent of slavery and secession, spending the Civil War preaching to Confederate troops. He was an eloquent and influential speaker whose speech against the Louisiana Lottery is said to have doomed the project. He was also a leader in the reorganization of the Presbyterian Church.
Palmer knew much affliction in his life, yet was a humble, prayerful Christian. His wife died in his arms in November 1888, apparently from gastritis. They had previously lost a son in childhood, and four daughters. Palmer himself was struck by a street car in New Orleans on 5 May, 1902 and died twenty days later from shock, rather than from wounds sustained in the accident. The Palmers are buried in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans.
Palmer’s The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, first published in 1875, was reprinted by the Trust in 1974. He is also known for his books, The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects (1876), The Theology of Prayer (1894), and The Three-Fold Fellowship and the Three-Fold Assurance (1902).[See also The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer by T. C. Johnson, published by the Trust.]