Rev. Dr. Clarence H. Snelling, Jr.


July 12, 1926 -   April 12, 2018

Clarence was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 12, 1926, the only son of Clarence and Virginia Snelling, and lived there with his parents and sister, Mary, throughout his formative years. Clarence died on April 12, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

He attended Tulane University, initially studying civil engineering. However, he switched to the ministry in hopes of serving as a chaplain in the Korean War. Unable to pass the physical, he joined the Louisiana Methodist Conference and served three churches across southern Louisiana.  He also served as Pastor of Eighth Street Methodist Church and as Campus Minister at Tulane.

He married Margret Lenora Johnson on May 14, 1953 and they moved to New Jersey, where he earned a doctorate at Drew University. In 1964 they moved to Colorado, with their three children, David, Benjamin, and Claire, where Dr. Snelling was appointed to the faculty of Iliff School of Theology. He taught and conducted research into intellectual and spiritual developmental theory and retired as Professor Emeritus of Taught Ministries. After Margret’s death in December 1992 and retirement in 1993, Clarence travelled to Kenya in the early 90’s where he established Kenyan Methodist University, now one of the largest universities in Africa. Later he also founded the Russian United Methodist Theological Seminary, where Clarence was the initial and sole faculty member, teaching the entire curriculum until he could appoint a full staff.  Returning to Denver, he continued his retirement teaching, working as an interim pastor, and serving as a hospice chaplain. He married former student and long-term professional associate, Dr. Shirley Heckman, in September 2000. They lived in Denver until her death in 2016. He is survived by his three children Dr. David Snelling, Benjamin Snelling, Rev. Claire Snelling Nord, his three stepchildren John Heckman, Cynthia Heckman Davis, and Anita Heckman, and half-brothers, Johny Snelling and Peter Snelling. 

At his core, Clarence was about people - people of all classes, races, religions, and persuasions. Defending, at some personal risk, the civil rights in the south; raising money for Dr. King in New York, opening up an ecumenical seminary, cross seminary teaching in Denver; and supporting ministries for the homeless; Clarence always sought ways to make peoples’ lives better. When asked what he taught at Iliff, his answer was always, “Students”, the names of whom were always remembered. As a teacher, he excelled, with the ability to teach things which he could not do himself.

Clarence Snelling loved people and enjoyed life.

Found an issue with this page? Click here to let us know.