Born in Mineville, New York, King entered the Divine Word Seminary at Techny, Illinois, in 1909. He was professed in the first class of the American Province of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in 1916 and was sent as a seminarian in 1919 to replace expelled German missionaries in Yenchowfu, China. He and Robert Clark were the first American SVD priests ordained there in 1921. When the Japanese invaded China in 1941, King escaped to the Philippines. After three years of hiding while the Japanese occupied the Philippines, King returned to Techny. From 1944 to 1960, he was secretary to the exiled archbishop of Peking, Thomas Cardinal Tien. At 72, King volunteered for work at a leprosarium in Papua New Guinea. He returned to the United States six years later and died at Techny.
King is best remembered for his part in founding the Catholic Students Mission Crusade (CSMC), begun while he was a seminarian in 1918 at Techny. Influenced by the Protestant example of the Student Volunteer Movement and by reading stories from Maryknoll’s Field Afar, the CSMC leadership organized thousands of seminarians and college and high school students nationally for study, prayer, and participation in missions.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Clifford J. King, I Remember (1968); the CSMC Golden Jubilee Booklet of the Catholic Students Mission Crusade (1968) features King’s work, along with the extended program for a pageant chronicling U. S. Catholic mission work. One section of the pageant highlights King’s life.