February 1941: The passing of Hand of the Cause Hyde Dunn -- “Australia's spiritual conqueror”

Hyde Dunn was born in London on 5 March 1855. His father he was a pharmacist and interestingly, he had childhood contact with Charles Dickens. In early adult life he engaged in business in Great Britain and Europe before emigrating to the United States. On arrival in America he came in contact with the Baha'i Faith and quickly accepted it. He maintained close contact with such outstanding Baha'i teachers as Lua Getsinger, Thornton Chase, and Helen S. Goodall. As a traveling salesman for the Borne's Milk Company he moved around the country teaching the Faith, but his real confirmation came with his meeting with 'Abdu'l-Baha in San Francisco in the autumn of 1912.

Fanny, his first wife, had become a Baha'i but died in 1911 before the visit of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Shortly after Hyde's meeting with the Master he married Clara Holder Davis (Dunn), a Baha'i who had settled in San Francisco, where their "open house" became a center of Baha'i teaching and hospitality. The couple were reading one of 'Abdu'l-Baha's messages to America in 1918 (Tablets of the Divine Plan) when, as Hyde later wrote, "His appeal was so penetrating and thrilling it pierced our hearts. . . . Mother [Clara] looked up and said, 'Shall we go Father' [Hyde]?' 'Yes' was my reply, and no further discussion took place."

They decided to "open" Australia to the Faith and set sail in early 1919, stopping en route for two months in Honolulu; they disembarked in Sydney on 18 April 1919. Hyde was not in good health, and Clara was the first to obtain employment, but after five months Hyde applied for and was given employment with the Bacchus Marsh Milk Company (later acquired by Nestle). This allowed him to travel throughout Australia and New Zealand and while doing so to share the Baha'i message. The position finally paid sufficient income for Clara to leave her job and travel with him. They lived for various periods in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland. They were responsible for the foundation of several local Spiritual Assemblies and witnessed the formation of a National Spiritual Assembly in 1934. When he died in Sydney on 17 February 1941, the National Spiritual Assembly's obituary contained many tributes to "Father" Dunn, which included the following:

"It was not alone the great message of which he was the bearer that arrested attention but in addition, the unearthly light that suffused his whole personality when giving the message, endowing him with a quality which set him on a spiritual plane to which others were blindly groping, a height reached only through the surrender of personal will and ambition."

In his cable to America, Shoghi Effendi wrote, "I share your sorrow in the loss and participate in your rejoicings for the triumph of beloved Father Dunn. The magnificent career of this veteran warrior of the Faith of Baha'u'llah reflects the purest lustre of the world historic mission conferred upon American community by 'Abdu'l-Baha. . . Advise hold national memorial gathering . . . befitting the rank of Australia's spiritual conqueror."

To the Australian National Spiritual Assembly Shoghi Effendi wrote on 19 April 1941 that the community had "lost a great leader. . . . The influence he has exercised will however continue to live, and the example he has set will inspire the rising generation to perform deeds as great and brilliant as those which will ever remain associated with his name. Our dear friend, Mr. Hyde Dunn, will, from his exalted station intercede on your behalf, and you should, on your part strive to emulate one whom Baha'i historians will recognize and acclaim as Australia's spiritual conqueror.”

When, in February 1952, Clara Dunn was appointed a Hand of the Cause of God, Shoghi Effendi, in response to an inquiry from Australia, cabled, "Hyde Dunn regarded as Hand." (Adapted from the ‘Historical Dictionary of the Baha’i Faith’ by Hugh Adamson)