Freeman, James Dillet

From collection Person List

Freeman, James Dillet

James Dillet Freeman was a poet, author, and lecturer who worked in the transcendentalist tradition of Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau. Considered Unity’s “Poet Laureate,” Freeman also had a long career within the Unity movement.

Born Abraham Freedman on March 20, 1912, in Wilmington, Delaware, he adopted the name “James” as a child and “James Dillet Freeman” as a pen name sometime later. The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, when he was 10, and Freeman received his education there. Freeman began writing poems while in college, several of which were published by the time he graduated from the University of Missouri in 1932.

Freeman started working for Unity during the summer of 1929 at the invitation of Myrtle Fillmore and joined the full-time staff in 1933 as a letter writer and telephone prayer worker for Silent Unity. He helped initiate Unity’s first residential ministerial training program in 1945, combining the work of the Silent Unity healing ministry with an academic program, and headed Unity’s ministerial training program from 1950 to 1966. Freeman also served as the first vice president of the Unity School and Christianity and a member of its Board of Trustees. In 1971, he succeeded May Rowland as the Director of Silent Unity, and, like Rowland, Freeman’s focus was on Silent Unity as a “praying organization.” He retired in 1984.

Freeman was a prolific author. In 1948, he wrote The Story of Unity, the first book to describe the growth and development of the Unity movement. His other books include The Hilltop Heart; Be!; What God Is Like; The Case for Reincarnation; Once Upon a Christmas; Happiness Can Be a Habit; Prayer: The Master Key; Look With Eyes of Love; The Case for Believing; Love, Loved, Loving; and The Case for Optimism.

His published poetry received even more acclaim. Freeman had the unique distinction of having two of his poems taken to the moon: “Prayer for Protection,” originally composed in 1941, was carried by Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969; and “I Am There,” written in 1947 as Freeman’s first wife Katherine was fighting cancer, was placed on the moon by James B. Irwin during the Apollo 15 flight on August 7, 1971. (Irwin later visited Freeman at Unity Village.) Freeman’s poems “The Traveler” and “Blessing for a Marriage” are frequently read at funerals and weddings, respectively.

James Dillet Freeman died on April 9, 2003, at the age of 91.