Episcopal theologian William P. DuBose was born at Winnsboro, South Carolina, the son of Theodore Marion DuBose and Jane Porcher, both of Huguenot descent. In 1851 he entered the South Carolina Military College, the Citadel, from which he graduated with first honors in 1855. The next year DuBose entered the University of Virginia and received his M.A. degree in 1859. He then studied at the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Camden, which had opened in 1859. While he was a student at the seminary, the Civil War began, and DuBose was appointed adjutant of the Holcombe Legion. During the war he was wounded twice, captured once, and imprisoned but later released in a prisoner exchange. During a furlough in 1863 DuBose married Anne Barnwell Peronneau of Charleston; the couple had four children. In December 1863 he was ordained deacon at Grace Church, Camden. He joined Kershaw's brigade at Greeneville, Tennessee, and began his ministry there. After the war, he became rector of St. John's Parish, Fairfield, composed of St. John's, Winnsboro, and St. Stephen's, Ridgeway. He was ordained priest on September 9, 1866. In January 1868 he became the rector of Trinity Church, Abbeville, South Carolina.
During the 1870 convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, DuBose received serious consideration for election to the office of bishop. He considered his failure to be elevated to this office a “fortunate escape.” The following year he was elected the first chaplain of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, a new Episcopal university which had opened on September 18, 1868. From 1871 until his death, DuBose's life and the history of the university were interwoven.
DuBose helped establish the School of Theology, which opened as a distinct department in 1878 and served as chaplain of university until 1883. From 1893 to 1894 he was acting dean and from 1894 to 1908 the second dean of the School of Theology. He taught almost every subject in the curriculum, although he was primarily professor of New Testament.
DuBose was arguably the major Episcopal theologian in the United States. He published The Soteriology of the New Testament (1892), The Ecumenical Councils (1896), The Gospel in the Gospels (1906), The Reason of Life (1911), and Turning Points in My Life (1912). DuBose is known as “Sewanee's Doctor,” and he is commemorated in the Liturgical Calendar of the Episcopal Church on August 18. He has been called the most important creative theologian the Episcopal Church has produced.
In April 1873 Anne Peronneau DuBose died. In December 1878 DuBose married Maria Louise Yerger, who opened a school in Monteagle called Fairmont College. DuBose died in 1918.