Our church was
organized in 1898, with eight members, who were: Reverend
and Mrs. A.L. O'Briant, Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Broadus, Mrs. Henry
Hicks, Mrs. H.W. McKay, Mrs. T.J. Manghum, and Mrs. N.K.
McClannahan. This courageous little band purchased a lot,
and within six years after their organization, completed their
House of Worship. This church was located on the corner of
First and Sharkey Streets, where the Woman's Club now stands. Four
ministers served the church during these six heroic years.
The pastorate of each of these noble men of God marks a very
definite phase in the growth of the church . Revered A. L.
O'Briant was our first pastor. He helped select a lot, and
started the first church building. However, he didn't get
very far before he was called to another field. Then came
the Rev E. D. Solomon. The church building was finished
under his ministry. He worked on it with his own; he got
the eaves sticking out too far on another man's property, and of
course the eaves had to be sawed off. It was while he was
here that the church applied to the "State Convention
Board' for financial help, and they gave us $40.00 per month on
the pastor's salary. The first deacons were elected during his
pastorate, and they were W. R. Ellis, Sr., Lome Lackey, Lonnie
Walker and W. V. Jenkins. The Rev. J. R. White was our
next Pastor. His pastorate was very short, then came Rev.
J. E. Barnett who stayed several years. While he was here
his home burned and practically everything in it, along with the
church records that he had in his possession. Rev. W. A.
Jordan followed Rev. Barnett. Mr. Jenkins remembered Rev.
Jordan reading long sermons, and using vigorously a palm leaf
fan in the pulpit while preaching. Rev. A. R. Bond came next.
He was a brilliant orator and was well liked by all the members.
Rev. C. T. Kincannon succeeded Rev. bond. He was a good
preacher. It was through his efforts that our first
pastor's home was built. He wrote letters to his friends
in Virginia, Mississippi, and to big business firms in Memphis.
He got the money where it didn't look like it was
"gettable". He was a quiet, unassuming,
consecrated Christian. The church moved forward under his
Outstanding among the
early members of the church during the years 1905-1908 and who
served faithfully were Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Brooks, Mr. and Mrs.
W. V. Jenkins (these two men served as church clerk and Sunday
School Superintendent for 35 years respectively). Mr. and
Mrs. L. B. P. Jenkins, Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Dugger, Mr. and Mrs.
R.R. Sankey, Mrs. T. G. Hughes, Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Jenkins and
Mr. W. R. Ellis, Sr. Following soon were Mr. and Mrs. C.
S. Longino, Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Markham, Mr. and Mrs. J. E.
the pastorate of Rev. Kincannon, the terms of the pastors began
to lengthen. Dr. Martin Ball and Mrs. Ball came in 1913
and left in 1921. They brought their own horse and buggy
with them. The church became clear of debt in 1917 and
just ready for progress when the church building was destroyed
by fire on March the 25th of that year and everything was
completely lost with the exception of one piano. Worship
services were held in the Eliza Clark School, and revivals held
in the Courthouse. Immediately after the church burned a
new $60,000.00 edifice was planned. A hold was dug in the
ground, and a top put over it and worship was held in there
until work on the church was begun. A tent was bought and
put on the lot where the Woman's Club building now stands.
The congregation worshipped there until August of 1920, when we
moved into our present building. The building committee of
the sanctuary where we now worship was composed of J. P. Hill,
Chairman, Louis B. Jenkins, John O'Neil, R. R. Sankey, A.
Webster and Dr. Ball. Dr. Ball was a great soul. He
had long, flowing, snow-white beard reaching down to his waist.
Aristocratic in his looks, gentle in his nature, sound in his
doctrines and untiring in his efforts. It was during his
pastorate that the State Board was asked to discontinue the
$40.00 per month they had been sending.
Rev. Macon Vick came in
1921. He was with us eight years. During his
pastorate, a new $5,500 pipe organ was installed and beautiful
stained glass windows were put in. We had financial worries
caused largely by our debt and interest. Those were the
days of oyster suppers, bazaars, ice cream and strawberry
suppers, rummage sales, circus day dinners, silver teas, baby
shows, and various other means of making money. The ladies
worked hard and deserve a lot of credit.
The church bought Bro. Vick a Ford while he was here. Bro.
Vick did a good work and was well liked by the congregation.
The next pastor called
was the Dr. W. M. Bostick, who was State Evangelist at that
time. Conditions had improved and his were prosperous years.
He stressed sacrificial giving of your time, talents and money.
It was while he was here that the pastor's home was converted
into Sunday School rooms. The church rented a home for him
on Oakhurst. The church also bought new orchestra chairs
for the choir. the Sunday School, auditorium, and the entire
building was redecorated. The swelling membership demanded
an Assistant Pastor. Mr. Roger Hickman served as Assistant
Pastor and Music Director for several years. We remember
Mr. Hickman played the xylophone. After Dr. Bostick left
us, we called Dr. V. E. Boston. He served during the
depression years. Things were cheap, money was scarce,
unemployment pitiful. Dr. Boston was a good, consecrated
preacher and a good businessman. Holding the church to its
true course was a tremendous accomplishment during those trying
times, and great credit must be given to Dr. Boston as a
On March 1, 1936, Dr.
N. D. Timmerman came and served as pastor until September, 1941.
Under his fine leadership the church reached a membership of
1400, greatly increased its local budget, also increased its
Board of Deacons. Dr. Timmerman was the prime mover and
was very instrumental in organizing our Riverside Associational
Missionary work. His outstanding work was the organized
effort to pay off the $15,000 bonded indebtedness on the church.
Dr. Timmerman was truly one of the greatest pastors this church
Our wartime pastor, Dr.
James Alexander Stewart, began his ministry January 1, 1942.
Upon him fell a greater responsibility than sponsoring any
material expansion - the necessity of inspiring in his people
some faith at any cost. He was a rock of comfort and moral
support to those who went to the world's battlefields and to
those who stayed at home and waited. He took a special
interest in the children of our church. All who were
members during his ministry remember so well his Sunday morning
period of worship he had for the children. Dr. Stewart saw
the culmination of our dreams come true, the last dollar of our
church debt was paid, even to the $800.00 paving debt. So
on January 31, 1943 our church was dedicated in these words of
"This house of God
is dedicated as a place of solemn and sacred worship; as a place
of brotherly love, sympathy and understanding; as a place where
the weak will find strength, the troubled courage and the
F. K. Horton was our next pastor. On March 5, 1944, Dr. F.
K. Horton preached his first sermon to one of the largest
congregations in the history of the Church. Between the
time Dr. Stewart left and Dr. Horton came, the church bought a
new pastor's home at 415 School Street for the sum $8,000.00.
Outstanding among the things that were done during his ministry
were: increasing the offerings to missions and Cooperative
Program; raised church budget to $45,000.00 and installed public
address system. On March 9, 1947 the church authorized the
building of a three-story Educational Building adjacent to the
present building. The building was begun November of 1947
and completed in 1949 at the approximate cost of $115,000.00.
When our congregation outgrew our facilities, it was decided by
our leaders it would be best to divide into two congregations.
Two committees were appointed to work out the division. F.
H. Cannon was chairman of the group which desired to remain with
the Clarksdale Baptist and C. N. Dabbs was chairman of the other
group which wanted to locate a new church in Oakhurst on a site
already owned by the church. Clarksdale Baptist
voluntarily deeded to the Oakhurst Church the building site in
Oakhurst, also the parsonage. Clarksdale Baptist Church
borrowed $25,000.00 from the bank and gave it to the Oakhurst
Church for its building fund. There were also many
individual gifts. When the church divided in 1954, Dr.
Horton elected to respond to a call from the group that became
known as Oakhurst Baptist Church.
In the fall of 1953,
members of the Clarksdale Baptist Church looked forward to the
first service in their own dear church building with happy
anticipation, but also with some anxiety. After the
division our church had 711 resident members, 175 non-resident
members, making a total of 886 members. The big day
arrived and with it the realization that the Clarksdale Baptist
Church was still alive and well. Long before the 11
o'clock service, the crowd began to assemble. The
beautiful velvet curtains which had replaced the old wooden
partition dividing the auditorium had to be pulled. Never
again would they be closed for a morning service. It was
the beginning of new and exciting times in the life of the old
church. A committee was appointed to search for a pastor.
Meanwhile, the "supply committee" called on professors
from Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville to fill the pulpit
in the interim. Each one would come for about a month.
They arrived in Memphis by train on Saturday and traveled back
to the seminary on Monday. Church members considered it a
privilege to meet them in Memphis and take them back. The
people fell in love with each one. Some of the most
popular were Dr. Sabin Landry and Dr. T. C. Smith. Dr.
Estill Jones even came on crutches because of an accident.
Mr. William Hall Preston, was with the Baptist Student work,
came several Sundays from Nashville.
Every church needs an
overseer, however, and it was with much happiness that the
congregation welcomed the Rev. Carman C. Sharp as its new
pastor. He and his wife, Caroline, and their three
daughters moved from Bardstown, Kentucky, into the recently
purchased parsonage on Oakhurst Avenue. He served
from June, 1954 to February, 1961. Because of his ability
and consecration he filled a need in our church at this time and
we grew financially and spiritually under his leadership.
He was an excellent preacher, but he is best remembered as an
ideal pastor. During his time the membership grew to 919
resident members, most of whom were visited at home at least
once by the pastor. We purchased a lot from Mr. Grace
Lawler for $8,000.00 to be used as a parking lot. Before
Rev. Sharp came the church bought Robert Bobo's home for
$21,500.00 to be used as a parsonage. We also adopted
"Fair View Church" as our Mission Church in 1958.
Fair Hays was appointed as superintendent of the mission.
During the interim period between Rev. Sharp and Rev. Marion,
Dr. Ira Everson served as our supply pastor.
Rev. Lucius B. Marion
came to us in May, 1961, from the First Baptist Church of
Tuscaloosa, Alabama with his lovely family... his wife Mildred
Caswell and children Barbara Ann, Carol Jean, Lucius B., III
(Chip) and Charles Fuller. During the years he was at our
church we moved steadily forward spiritually, numerically, and
by the enlargement of our physical plant. In order to
provide space for enlargement, four adjacent lots were
purchased. A large two-story Educational Building was
erected and the remaining space was reserved for parking and
recreation. In 1966 we launched a "construction
program" which consisted of an Educational Building and the
remodeling and decorating the Sanctuary at a cost of
$384,343.00. Total cost of the construction program
was $444,570.14. Architects were Brewer, Skewes and
Godbold. Contractor was B. A. Crawford. On March 13, 1967,
Dr. Glenn Gates, then chairman of deacons, broke ground for the
new educational building. The addition was planned to be
used by the school as well as the church. The large
gymnasium doubled as a fellowship hall. The kitchen was
equipped in cafeteria style. The school assumed the office
space in the old annex, and the church offices were moved to the
new building. A new choir room was provided. Church
services were held in the new fellowship hall while the
sanctuary was remodeled to seat 600. Although the facade
remained the same, the inside was turned around and completely
transformed. New pews, pulpit furniture, choir chairs and
carpet were installed. The three original stained glass
windows were retained on the west side and three matching ones
put on the east at a cost of $60,227.14. A three-manual,
29-rank Wicks organ replaced the old Mohler at a cost of
$40,000.00. The lovely "Jordan River" stained
glass from the door to the old baptistery was placed above the
new baptistery. Dedication services for the new sanctuary
were held at 2:30pm on February 23, 1968.
During Bro. Marion's ministry, the church continued to grow.
In this time there were 657 additions by baptism and 919 by
letter, making a total of 1,576. Total membership peaked
at 1,406 in 1976. Twice during his long pastorate Bro.
Marion was so seriously ill that members feared for his life,
but the Lord restored him and he was able to continue his work
with renewed vigor. However, on November 29, 1981, health
problems forced him to tender his resignation. On February
7, 1982, a day of appreciation for him and his ministry was
observed by the church with services beginning in the morning
and lasting through the afternoon. The members voted him
special privileges, including the title of "pastor
emeritus" and the lifetime use of the parsonage on
The Church School was
another great accomplishment of Bro. Marions. The
Clarksdale Baptist School opened its doors for the first time in
September of 1964. That's when it all began. Well, not
really' it all began a long time before that as an idea and then
a dream in the heart and mind of one man. That man was our
pastor Rev. Lucius B. Marion. Bro. Marion served as
headmaster of the school from 1964 until its closing twenty-two
years later in 1986 and without additional salary. The
first school board consisted of only three members:
Charles Sullivan, chairman, Bro. Lucius Marion, headmaster, and
Betty Lou Stribling, secretary. In time a seven-member
board was established. Those early years were not without
some dark days, however, as the fledgling school struggled for a
strong and firm footing while climbing steadily, albeit shakily,
toward its eventually won pinnacle. One night in
particular the trustees of the school met and were informed
by the headmaster that there was no more money available
and that it must be considered whether or not to open the
following year or close the doors. After a lengthy
discussion and a secret ballot, the chairman, Mr. Sullivan,
counted the votes, all of which were in favor of remaining
open. The headmaster said that he would attempt somehow to
raise the necessary money and raise it he did. In fact,
over the years, Bro. Marion raised over $35,000 for the school. The
next chairman was Mr. George Lyon, whose term was 1968-69 and
the school profited greatly from his expertise as a certified
public accountant. He was followed by Mr. Walter Lucas,
1970-71, who guided the school smoothly through the difficult
years of expansion when the seventh and eighth grades were added
and the trustees and headmaster met almost every day or night
for weeks as momentous decisions were made.
The school was
fortunate over the years in obtaining the services of the
following men who, without remuneration, kept the books and
acted as treasurer: Mr. Joe Montgomery, Mr. George Lyon, Mr.
Walter Lucas, Mr. Leland Gough, and Mr. Roy Scheider. Mr.
H. S. Wilson succeeded Mr. Lucas as chairman of the
trustees in 1972. He was followed by Ellington Massey,
Corley (Sonny) Luckett, and Jerry Gillespie. As the
school changed, so did the principalship. In 1971, Mrs.
Lavenna Wright became the first full-time principal. All principals
prior to 1971 were teaching principals. Mrs. Ann Garland
Russell served as the first teaching principal from 1964-65,
followed by Mrs. Sherard Shaw, who filled the position for two
years, 1965-67. Mr. Arthur E. Nute became the first
assistant principal in 1973. Mrs. Nina Campbell, church
secretary, served as school secretary as well from 1964-69 and
was followed by Mrs. Rose Edlin. By 1974 the enrollment of
the school was 426 students and the school earned "AA"
accreditation. Bible was a major subject, taught by
each teacher, except in grades seven and eight, where one
teacher taught all students and where the students received on
full period of Bible instruction five days a week.
The program was compiled in such a way that if the student
started in grade one and finished grade eight, he or she would
have completed a study of the Bible three times. Chapel
services were held twice weekly and conducted by the headmaster.
The decision to close the school was made by the members of the
church in March, 1986 upon recommendation of the school's board
of trustees. A program honoring the old school
in a remembrance service was held on Sunday morning, May 18,
1986. The Rev. Lucius B. Marion, pastor emeritus of the
church at the time preached the sermon. Seating
was reserved for the then current faculty members and their
families who were introduced to the congregation by Mr. Ray
Huckaba. The students provided the music. Dr. S. M.
Henriques, Jr., announced the establishment of the
Clarksdale Baptist Church School Living Memorial Scholarship
Fund, which was made possible by members of the Dr. Henry
McCrory family. The interest generated by the fund is to
be used as a scholarship by members of the Clarksdale Baptist
Church who will be enrolled in seminary education. A
special love offering was taken to be given to the
faculty members. Since 1964 the school had a total
enrollment of over 7,000 in its elementary and junior high
school curriculum. "Though we are extremely saddened by the
closing of the school, we want to celebrate the difference
Clarksdale Baptist School has made in the lives of so many
through the years." Dr. Henriques said.
When you remember that over 7,000 students went through
Clarksdale Baptist School in its twenty-two years of existence,
you must conclude that the influence of Clarksdale Baptist Church
School on all who were a part of it will be far-reaching.
As each generation passes down to the next the lesson learned,
its legacy will be a perpetual blessing and never forgotten.