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Sanford B. Horton

From Review and Herald, March 17, 1927.

Horton, Sanford Byerly (1858–1927)

By Milton Hook


Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: September 14, 2020

Sanford B. Horton devoted 20 years to leading Adventist advocacy for religious liberty at the conference, union conference, and General Conference levels, and was the first president of the Louisiana Conference.

Early Career

Sanford Byerly Horton was the eldest of five children born to Sanford and Melvina Flanagan Horton. He was born on February 16, 1858, in New Orleans, Louisiana. His younger siblings were Thomas Tracy (b. 1860), Estell (b. 1861) and twins Frederick and George (b. 1870). Their father was a printer. As a young man Sanford, Jr., worked as a clerk in a photo gallery. On March 4, 1882, he married Isabelle or “Belle” Waugh Young in a ceremony at Trinity Church (Episcopalian) in New Orleans.1

Following his marriage Horton studied law at Straight University in New Orleans. The university was founded by the American Missionary Association of the Congregational Church in 1868, during the aftermath of the Civil War, to provide educational opportunity for newly emancipated Blacks. Its Law department specialized in civil rights and admitted students of both races.2 After graduating in 1884, Horton moved to Washington, D.C., aspiring to be a politician. However, he had only managed serving as a doorkeeper in the House of Representatives when, in 1890, he attended tent meetings and in September was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church by Judson Washburn.3

Atlantic Conference Ministry

Horton abandoned plans to enter the political arena and opted to evangelize for his new-found faith wherever that might lead him. He began by canvassing denominational books for several months. In 1891 he attended a Bible Institute in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, this being the only formal ministerial training he received. In the same year, the Atlantic Conference issued him a ministerial license and he entered evangelistic ministry. During the next eight years he teamed with various other evangelists for campaigns in Washington, D.C.; Church Hill, Maryland; Brooklyn, New York; and several locales in the states of Delaware (Wilmington, Middletown, Cheswold) and New Jersey (Paterson, Salem, Millville, Plainfield).4

In March 1894 Horton was ordained in Jersey City, New Jersey, with O. A. Olsen, J. N. Loughborough, A. T. Jones and I. D. Van Horn among the officiating ministers. He doubled as secretary of the Atlantic Conference from 1891 to 1895.5 Covering an extended territory from New York City to Washington, D.C., the conference was small but growing in numbers, surpassing 1,000 members by 1896.6

Louisiana Conference Pioneer

Horton was called to his home state as director of the Louisiana mission field in 1899.7 At that time only a handful of small congregations represented Adventism in the state. By 1901 modest growth brought the number of congregations to seven (five fully-organized churches and two companies). These pockets of believers met at New Orleans, Welsh, Marthaville, Mansfield, Shreveport, Hope Villa and Lake Charles. The Louisiana Conference was officially inaugurated on August 1, 1901, with Sanford B. Horton elected as the initial president.8

The conference statistical report for 1904 recorded seven full-fledged churches with a total membership of 221, nurtured by three ministers.9 That same year Horton published a 16-page booklet arguing against Sunday laws proposed in the Louisiana state legislature.10 During his presidency Belle Horton conducted the first Seventh-day Adventist elementary school in the Louisiana Conference.11

Religious Liberty Leadership

Horton’s legal training and interest in the issues surrounding Sunday laws prepared him for leadership roles in advocacy for religious liberty, a prominent area of Adventist involvement since the late 1880s. In 1908 Horton was elected to be the Religious Liberty secretary for the Southern Union Conference with headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.12 In this capacity he was an ex officio member of the General Conference Religious Liberty Association Board13 and an editorial contributor to Liberty magazine.14 During 1911 he served in the same position at the Atlantic Union Conference. Soon afterwards he was called to the General Conference to serve as assistant secretary of the Religious Liberty Department.15 In that assignment he was also an associate editor of Liberty (1911-1912).16

Soon afterwards Horton’s services were called upon by the West Michigan Conference where he served as religious liberty secretary in 1913 and again from 1916 through 1919. In the interval, 1914 and 1915, he returned to Washington, D.C., for the religious liberty leadership role in the Columbia Union Conference. Between 1920 and 1924 he held the religious liberty portfolio in the Lake Union Conference and finally served in the same role in the East Michigan Conference until 1926. Horton’s leadership in religious liberty departmental work covered two decades, 1906 through 1926.

During World War I, while he was serving in the West Michigan Conference, Horton was a camp pastor at Fort Custer near Battle Creek, ministering to army recruits in training and those who were being demobilized.17

In Service to the End

At the prayer meeting in the Lansing, Michigan, church on Wednesday evening, February 9, 1927, Horton addressed the church members on his favorite topic, religious liberty. That same evening he was struck with an acute attack of Bright’s disease and lingered without much pain until he passed away on February 20. At his funeral service a number of Adventist church dignitaries spoke, as did the superintendent of the Michigan Anti-Saloon League and the president and secretary of the interdenominational Lansing Ministerial Association, all in recognition of the noble work he had done in church and community. Horton’s body was transported to his birthplace, New Orleans, and interred in the Greenwood Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Belle, and their daughter, Anne Melvina.18 Belle Horton passed away peacefully on January 3, 1933, and was laid to rest with her husband in the same Greenwood Cemetery plot.19


Fattic, G. R. “Sanford Byerly Horton obituary.” ARH, March 17, 1927.

Horton, S. B. “Louisiana Conference Organized.” ARH, August 13, 1901.

Horton, Sanford B. Secretariat Missionary Files. RG 21, Record 114921. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD, U.S.A. (GCA).

“Isabella Young Horton.” Find A Grave. Memorial ID no. 89823379, May 8, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2021,

“Isabelle Young Horton obituary.” ARH, February 2, 1933.

“Sanford B. Horton.” Find A Grave. Memorial ID no. 85294704, February 21, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2021.

“Sanford Burly (sic) Horton.” FamilySearch. Accessed June 23, 2021.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 2nd rev. edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Horton, Sanford Byerly.”

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks, 1902-1926.


  1. “Sanford Burly (sic) Horton,” FamilySearch, accessed June 25, 2021,

  2. Sanford Byerly Horton Biographical Information Blank, October 29, 1905, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114921, GCA; “Straight University Is Founded,” African American Registry, accessed November 15, 2021,

  3. G.R. Fattic, “Sanford Byerly Horton,” ARH, March 17, 1927, 21-22.

  4. Horton Biographical Information Blank, October 29, 1905, Record 114921, GCA.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Douglas Morgan, “Atlantic Conference,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed November 15, 2021.

  7. Horton Biographical Information Blank, October 29, 1905, Record 114921, GCA.

  8. S. B. Horton, “Louisiana Conference Organized,” ARH, August 13, 1901, 526. For more on the conference’s history see Rebecca Burton, “Arkansas-Louisiana Conference,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed November 13, 2021.

  9. “Louisiana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1904.

  10. Horton Biographical Information Blank, October 29, 1905, Record 114921, GCA.

  11. “Isabelle Young Horton obituary,” ARH, February 2, 1933, 22.

  12. For Horton’s record of religious liberty departmental leadership see, unless otherwise noted, Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Horton, Sanford Byerly.”

  13. See “Religious Liberty Association,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1910 and in subsequent years of Horton’s service as a union conference religious liberty secretary.

  14. See for example Liberty masthead, first quarter 1910, 48.

  15. “Religious Liberty Association,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1912, GCA.

  16. See the Liberty magazine masthead, 3rd quarter 1911 through 2nd quarter 1912.

  17. Fattic, “Sanford Byerly Horton.”

  18. Ibid; “Sanford B. Horton,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID no. 85294704, February 21, 2012, accessed June 25, 2021,

  19. “Isabelle Young Horton obituary.”


Hook, Milton. "Horton, Sanford Byerly (1858–1927)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 14, 2020. Accessed December 02, 2022.

Hook, Milton. "Horton, Sanford Byerly (1858–1927)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 14, 2020. Date of access December 02, 2022,

Hook, Milton (2020, September 14). Horton, Sanford Byerly (1858–1927). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved December 02, 2022,