The present First Baptist Church is the culmination of the noble achievements and sacrifices of men and women who were willing to give their best for the creation of a world in which all mankind could enjoy the good and beautiful things of life. The cornerstone of this historic church correctly bears the inscription 1812, a span of one hundred and ninety five years of continuous existence. It was through the dynamic leadership of Elder Robert T. Daniel that the First Baptist Church was organized at the State House (now the Capitol) with a membership of twenty-three, nine of whom were white and fourteen Negroes. The membership was interracial from 1812 to 1868, a period of fifty-six years. Today it is again interracial according to GOD's plan for mankind.
Elder Robert T. Daniel was the first pastor of the newly organized church and served until 1815, and at that time the Negro membership had increased to twenty-five. Among other pastors, The Reverend P. W. Dowd, who became the first president of the Baptist State Convention, was pastor from 1827 to 1832.
In 1856 the Reverend Thomas E. Skinner was chosen as pastor, and during his first year as minister the membership increased by eighty. Under his leadership the church purchased the lot on the corner of Salisbury and Edenton Streets for $6,000,00 and erected the present church edifice. Dr. Skinner says in his book entitled "Sermons and Reminiscences," that the site of this church could not have been secured but for the aid of Jim Atkins, a devout Negro member, blacksmith by trade and rent collector for Dr. Cooke, who was the owner of the Salisbury Street property.
The Reverend Thomas H. Prichard, later president of Wake Forest College, was pastor from 1868 to 1874. It was during Doctor Prichard's pastorate that Henry Jett and approximately two hundred other Negroes asked for and were granted on the motion of Peter F. Pescud, permission on June 5, 1868 to move their memberships to their newly organized church located on Salisbury Street. The property for this church was purchased in 1867 for $612.00 and was deeded to Trustees Richard Shepard, Issac Bass, and J. Calvin Strickland.
Elder Robert Daniel became the Pastor of Raleigh Baptist Church and remained with the church until 1815. He would return to the new church in 1822 and serve as pastor again until 1826. The small membership continued to worship and plan ahead. The site of the original church home is at or near where the Salvation Army facility now stands. After Elder Daniel resigned, three pastors followed. The new church home was at Oak Tree, in what is know as Moore Square, but which is still known by Raleigh natives as Baptist Grove.
The first pastor of the First Baptist Church after the separation from the inter-racial church was the Reverend William Warwick of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Reverend Mr. Warwick was an unusually strong pastor, very well educated, refined, spiritual, resourceful, practical, and logical in his interpretation of the scriptures and the general problems of life. He served from 1867 to 1874.
The second and fourth pastor was the Reverend J. J. Worlds who came in February, 1874 and served until 1880. He was called again in 1886 and pastored until 1902. The Reverend Mr. Worlds was born in Harnett County near Lillington, North Carolina. He went to Detroit, Mich., when a boy, attended school there, and learned a trade. After working in Detroit for several years, he went to Toledo, Ohio, married, and later became pastor of a church there. At the close of the Civil War, in company with the Reverend White, an army chaplain, he returned to his native state, preaching first in Halifax County, then in Tarboro; and it was from Tarboro that he was called to the First Baptist Church in Raleigh in 1874. His character, liberal spirit, devoted service, faithfulness and uncompromising stand for righteousness won the respect of all.
The fact that he was called again as pastor in 1886 and served until 1902 is an indication of the congregation's love for him. Under his guidance the members in 1896 purchased for $2000.00 the present site which was deeded to Trustees Allen Lane, Broadie Rogers, Henderon Crosson, Richard Plummer and Booker Hardie.
The Reverend William A. Green was the third Negro pastor of the First Baptist Church. He was born in one of the provinces of the Dominion of Canada-Nova Scotia.
His boyhood days were spent in Boston, Massachusetts, where his early education was completed at Howard University.
He later returned to Boston and was for a short while pastor of the First Independent Baptist Church of that city. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army and was appointed chaplain. He gave his spare time to teaching the men of his regiment to read, write, spell, and the like.
At the close of the Civil War, he was mustered out in Wilmington, North Carolina, and because of a throat ailment, turned his attention to teaching. He had the honor of being the first Negro to hold a first grade certificate in New Hanover County. He also held the position of clerk of the Wilmington city market.
He was called to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina in 1880, and served faithfully until his death in 1886. He was buried in the National Cemetery at Wilmington, North Carolina.
The fourth Negro to serve as pastor of the First Baptist Church was Doctor J. W. Kirby who was called from Farmville, Virginia in 1902. He was a native of Virginia and was educated at Hampton Normal Institute and the Richmond Theological Institute, which in recognition of his outstanding achievements, conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Doctor Kirby could do little for the church in the short time he was its pastor, but his kindly spirit and graciousness endeared him to his congregation as perhaps no other pastor did in so short a time. Among his contributions are the Winnowed Anthems which are still being used by the choirs.
The fifth Negro to serve as pastor of the First Baptist Church was Doctor W. T. Coleman, Doctor Coleman was born in Uniontown, Alabama, October 20, 1867, and was the son of John G. and Mary Coleman. He attended the public schools in his home town, and later entered Selma University in Alabama, and was graduated in 1892. He then entered the Richmond Theological Seminary, and was graduated in 1895. In 1901 he was married to Miss Veola L. Gnerrant of Danville, Virginia. In 1899 he went abroad and traveled very extensively. Doctor Coleman taught mathematics and philosophy at Selma University from 1896 to 1903 and served until 1912. During his stay in Raleigh he completed a curriculum in medicine at the Leonard Medical College in 1909, and thus placed himself in position to render a more effective service to his people.
Doctor Coleman practiced medicine in Baltimore, Maryland for a number of years. His entire life was crowded with good and noble deeds. The present structure stands as a monument to him because it was through his insight and leadership that it was constructed and the cornerstone was laid in 1904. Doctor Coleman instituted the idea of dividing the membership into clubs. The names of some of the members of these groups may be seen on the stained glass windows in the Sanctuary.
The sixth Negro pastor of the First Baptist Church of Raleigh was Doctor C. E. Askew. Doctor Askew was called to the pastorate here from the First Baptist Church of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Doctor Askew is the son of the late Andrew Jackson Askew and Flora Holloman Askew of Harrellsville, North Carolina. He received his literary and theological training at Shaw University. Doctor Askew was married to Miss Mallie G. Beebe, daughter of Bishop and Mrs. J. A. Beebe in 1903. He was graduated from Shaw University with the Bachelor of Theology degree in 1908.
Both Shaw University and Benedict College have honored Doctor Askew with the Doctor of Divinity degrees.
Doctor Askew demonstrated his leadership ability by liquidating the church's heavy debt in a comparatively short time. In addition, the physical and spiritual aspects of the church were greatly enhanced during his administration. For example, it was through his leadership that the present church organ was purchased. Doctor askew served from 1912 to 1921. he resigned and accepted a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and later became pastor of the Third Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan. 5>
The seventh Negro pastor of the First Baptist Church of Raleigh was ,Doctor Oscar Sidney Bullock. Doctor Bullock was called from the First Baptist Church of High Point on August 7, 1921. and was installed in October of the same year. Doctor Bullock is a native of a Vance County community. He was born near Henderson, North Carolina and is the son of the late Horace and Emma Bullock. He completed his college preparatory training at the Henderson Normal School, and his college and theological training at Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylvania. The following degrees were conferred upon Doctor Bullock by Lincoln University: Bachelor of Sacred Theology, and Doctor of Divinity. On may 26, 1947, Shaw University, in recognition of his significant contribution to Christian education and local, state, and national church leadership, conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
The following brief summary of his achievements is an indication of his creative mind, his outstanding leadership ability, and his incessant desire to give his soul to the cause of Christ. Doctor Bullock recognizing the fact that the church is located in the center of the city, far away from a large part of the membership, conceived the pioneering idea of purchasing a bus and giving free transportation to children and many adults (The first Church to do so in the Nation). This service began in 1925, and has continued without interruption. In 1933, cognizant of the inadequacy of the basement Sunday School facilities, he led in the erection of the three story Educational Annex at a cost of approximately $20,000. This building provided adequate facilities for a graded Sunday School program with thirty-two individual classrooms and seven departments. These additions and improvements placed the First Baptist Church in a category where it was recognized as having one of the best Sunday School organizations in the country.
In 1945, it was under the leadership of Doctor Bullock that the adjoining building, now known as the Bullock Building was purchased at a cost of $25,000. However, Doctor Bullock, realizing the inadequacy of this building for Sunday School and Church use, raised and spent $10,000 to adapt it to its present use and service.
In addition to these outstanding achievements, Doctor Bullock led the Church in the purchase of the Matthew Memorial Parsonage on East and Davie Streets at a cost of $9,000, built a parsonage on Bloodworth Street at an expenditure of $7,000. air-conditioned the Sanctuary at a cost of $10,000, renovated the Sanctuary, and furnished it with beautiful pews costing $5,000. He gave Raleigh its first<5> Negro Daily Vacation Bible School5>, and pioneered in the organization of training courses for teachers and officers. Doctor Bullock served as pastor from 1921 to 1958, a period of thirty-seven years, and it may be said that he contributed more to the physical, social, educational, and spiritual growth of the First Baptist Church than any of its other pastors. His unselfish services to the Lott Carey Convention, the Baptists of North Carolina, and Shaw University will forever be remembered as dedicated investments in Christian education and human resources.
The First Baptist Church will never be able to pay Doctor Bullock for the spiritual, educational, and social leadership that he provided for this church, our city, our state, and our country at large. His organizing and administrative genius has made the First Baptist Church an institution to which men and women come from many sections of our state and country to observe a model "Sunday school and a church functioning to the glory of God and the edificationof all of its constituency.
It may be said of Doctor Bullock that he was patient in his daily duties, he strove to conquer the evils that so easily beset us, he awakened sleeping spirits, he encouraged the eager and steadied the unstable, he lighted many candles which are shining back to cheer and comfort him.
(*)The Reverend Charles W. Ward, who come as minister in July, 1959, is the eighth Negro pastor of the First Baptist Church. He is a native of LaGrange, Georgia, and is a graduate of the Depot Street High School of LaGrange. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, and the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Howard University.
The Reverend Mr. Ward came to the pastorate from the First Baptist Church of Macon, Georgia, where he served as pastor from 1954 to 1959.
Through his leadership qualities he has made himself a definite functioning part of the Raleigh community, the state, and many national Baptist and general organizations during the relatively short period he has been pastor. He is a member of the Mayor's committee, President of the Raleigh Ministerial Association, member of the Executive Board of the Lott Carey Convention, Assistant Secretary of the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina member of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, and chairman of the Executive Board of the Raleigh Branch of N.A.A.C.P
The First Baptist Church is moving forward in a commendable manner under his guidance. More than $30,000 has been spent for renovation during the relatively short period he has been pastor.
For example, it has been through the Reverend Mr. Ward's guidance that repairs have been made to the church steeple and entrance to the balcony, the roof of the Bullock Building and that a new heating plant has been installed in the church. In addition, it has been under his leadership that the interior of the church has been re-decorated, banquet tables purchased, the exterior of church painted, and other improvements made.