Clergyman. McTyeire was born on July 28, 1824, near Barnwell, the son of John McTyeire and Elizabeth Amanda Nimmons. Family members were prosperous farmers and devout Methodists. Educated at Cokesbury Conference Institute for one year before the family moved to Alabama in 1838, young McTyeire underwent a profound conversion experience and felt called to the ministry. He attended Collinsworth Institute in Talbotton, Georgia, before enrolling at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia in 1841.
Before McTyeire graduated in 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church had agreed to separate into two sectional denominations over the slavery issue. McTyeire taught at Randolph-Macon for one year, was admitted on trial into the Virginia Conference in 1845, and was appointed to serve the church in Williamsburg. He was admitted into full connection in 1848 and ordained an elder the following year. Subsequently he served churches in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. He married Amelia Townsend in Mobile, Alabama, on November 9, 1847. They had eight children.
In 1851 McTyeire was one of the founders of the New Orleans Christian Advocate, a church newspaper for the southwestern region, and in 1858 he became editor of the Christian Advocate in Nashville, the foremost publication of the denomination. He remained in that position, increasingly championing the Southern cause until Nashville was occupied by the Union army in 1862. After the Civil War he became a leader in reorganizing the denomination, calling for the 1866 meeting of the General Conference. At that meeting he was elected a bishop, and he increasingly became the chief spokesman for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
McTyeire was a leader in establishing Central University, later Vanderbilt, in Nashville in 1873, and he secured a $1 million gift from Cornelius Vanderbilt, a distant relation. Conditions of the gift included making McTyeire permanent chair of the board of trust, with veto power over its actions. He was designated the sole custodian of the Vanderbilt gift.
McTyeire was the author of books, including Duties of Christian Masters (1859), in which he supported slavery but urged compassionate treatment of slaves within the law. He became the chief authority on the denomination’s government, publishing A Catechism on Church Government (1869) and A Manual of Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1870). His most noteworthy book was A History of Methodism (1884), written to commemorate the centennial of American Methodism. While it covered primarily the period prior to the division of the church in 1844, it was widely recognized as a fair and evenhanded treatment. McTyeire died at his home on the Vanderbilt campus on February 15, 1889, and was buried on the campus.
Tigert, John James. Bishop Holland Nimmons McTyeire, Ecclesiastical and Educational Architect. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1955.