CENTENNIAL COMMISSION CONVENTION HISTORY
How do you capture 100 years of history in a single document? You write about certain individuals and some of the milestones. Of course no convention of our tenure could function without the devoted work of the pastors, preachers, laymen and women who have served admirably. We cannot list them all, but we thank God and remember their work amongst us in carrying the banner of our Lord.
The year 1911 is a quiet year in the United States of America. New Mexico is on the brink of becoming the 48th state in 1912. Woodrow Wilson is elected at the 28th President, the Mexican Revolution is occurring on the southern border and Wonderful Smith, an Afro American comedian, is born. The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and New Mexico A and M (now known as New Mexico State University have been in established for over twenty-five years. The railroads have made their marks on every New Mexico town. The 1920 Census shows that there were 5,733 blacks in New Mexico.
The early formation of the Black Baptist churches in New Mexico was under the auspices of the Southern Baptist Convention. The convention was founded by Reverend. J. B. Bell, missionary under the guidance of the Northern Baptist Board to New Mexico and Arizona, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of those present were Reverend Jones of Gallup, Reverend Bellamy, pastor at Albuquerque, Dr. J. H. May, Kelly Foster at Roswell, Reverend W. M. Young, then a licentiate, Deacon Gilstrap, Las Vegas; Deacon F. Eubanks, Deacon F. K. Oliver of Raton, Reverend W. D. Proffit, Reverend Thomas Collins of Blackdom and Professor Francis M. Boyer of Blackdom. There were others also whose names have disappeared into annals of eternity. Great spiritual outburst characterized this first meeting. The organization was named Mt. Olive for the church with the then largest membership, Mt. Olive of Albuquerque. It was agreed that the body would affiliate with the New Mexico State Baptist Convention, which was under the Southern Baptist Convention. Aid was promised by Dr. P. W. Longfellow of the SBC to churches in Albuquerque, Gallup, Roswell, Raton, Blackdom and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The total membership of the member churches was 200. Members voted to meet in 1912 in Albuquerque. Later we hear of the organizations of the Bethel Second Baptist Church, Corinth, Mt. Olive in Carlsbad, Bethlehem in Clovis, Ebenezer in Hobbs, Antioch in Santa Fe, Valley Grove in Vado and Mt. Zion in Clayton. Some of these churches are no longer in existence, and some are not participating with the state convention. During this time records indicate that there were four district associations and they were combined to be the Mt. Olive State Association, but after 1934 the name reverted to the Mt. Olive State Convention. The present two affiliated District Associations are Jerusalem (Organized 1948) and New Hope (Organized 1941).
The year 1915 brought a great split amongst black Baptist, and we hear of no other churches in the National Baptist Convention of America until the organization of the Pleasant Green Baptist Church of Hobbs and Macedonia Baptist Church of Albuquerque. Therefore, the majority of the black congregations in New Mexico have remained with the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. Early records of the Southern Baptist Convention have revealed that the Convention met with the Southern Baptist Convention, but records are sketchy as to the involvement and when exactly the young convention ventured out on its own. However, representatives were sent to preach and give aid and direction to these young churches.
Formal records indicate that Dr. J. B. Bell was the first president followed by E. F. Jones, A. B. Mellon, M. D. Ware, C. R. Brewster and O. F. Dixon. In the early 40’s, Reverend J. S. Patten, then pastor of Mt. Olive Church in Albuquerque, established a new church, the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Albuquerque. He became president. Rev. Patten was followed by Reverends F. R. Williams, L. E. Hightower, and J. R. Shiner. Reverend James E. Forney now leads the Convention.
The records indicate that our Vado property was purchased in 1924 to be the home of the Mt. Olive Academy which would be a training school for boys and girls. Reverend C. T. Hughes of Valley Grove Baptist Church in Vado, was the headmaster. Camp Patten in the Manzano Mountains was originally given to Reverend J. S. Patten, who then donated it to the convention, and thus the Camp is named after him. Both properties remain under convention control.
Our earliest auxiliary is the Women’s movement (under separate cover). Their history unfolds with Mrs. A. J. Clayton as president. She was also known in the national ranks of women.
The Congress had early leadership under Bro. A. E. Jackson. In the early 50’s, a young Reverend Wilson Holly assumed leadership. By the 60’s the Congress was certified through the tenacious wills of Reverend B. J. Choice (Dean), sister Willie Mae Harris and sister Delores Williams. Today Josie T. Greene is the first woman and non-preacher to hold the position of Dean. Prior to the name change it was the Sunday School and Baptist Young People’s Union Congress.
The work of building a Camp has always been a dream. Early supporters are Stella Jones and her sister, Gladys Richards, Wilson and Willie Lou Holly from Tucumcari and Essie English who put on rallies, and other funds raisers for the camp. The convention usually went in August for picnics and ball games. Brother Zollie Williams was instrumental in early work at the Camp, as well as the Laymen under the direction of Glen Chelf. The present work at the camp began with the leadership of Reverend James E. Forney and the assistance of Dr. Charles Becknell. Persons instrumental in present overseeing of the building of camp are Glen E. Chelf, Shirley Ragin, Robert McBeth and Zollie Williams.
The Ushers’ Auxiliary was organized under the leadership of Reverend F. R. Williams, convention president. Mr. A. E. Jackson was instrumental in the organization of the ushers. It has only had three presidents in Willie Lou Holly, Delores Williams and Ruby C. Dudley. The Music Auxiliary was last to be organized in 1986 under the leadership of Dr. L. E. Hightower. The organizers were Mary R. Lewis, Joycelyn N. Lewis and Andrew L. Trotter. They brought in the noted Herman Finley to conduct music workshops and most recently the Reverend S. Royce Mosley as clinician.
The convention met annually in October and had two board sessions in March and August. Under the leadership of Reverend James Forney, prompted by changes in the economy, we moved to one board meeting and combined our annual Congress and Convention meetings in the month of July. July was the original meeting date for the Congress.
The Mount Olive Baptist State Convention of New Mexico, Inc. is a New Mexico non-profit corporation that was first incorporated December 4, 1934 in New Mexico, with a fifty (50) year life. The Mount Olive Baptist State Convention New Mexico, Inc.’s corporation status expired effective December 4, 1984. Prior to the expiration of the Mount Olive Baptist State Convention of New Mexico’s corporate status, the corporation merged into a new corporation with a slightly different name, Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention of New Mexico, Inc.
On February 6, 1998, under the leadership of Reverend Jimmie R. Shiner, the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention of NM, Inc., or (M.O.M.B.S.C. of New Mexico Inc.) and its auxiliaries, was incorporated with the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission as a non-profit corporation.
While under the leadership of Reverend James E. Forney, a Petition for Declaratory Judgment was filed in December 2006 stating that “Mt. Olive Baptist State Convention of NM, Inc” and “Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention of NM, Inc.” were the same corporation. The Declaratory Judgment required because the Camp Patten property warranty deed listed the Mount Olive Baptist State Convention of New Mexico, Inc. as its legal owner. Due to his involvement in the convention, Brother Glen Chelf signed a sworn affidavit validating that the two entities were one in the same. All legal documents are on file with the appropriate state and county government agencies.
In early 2003, Shirley Ragin, Financial Secretary completed the application for the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention of New Mexico or M.O.M.B.S.C. of New Mexico, Inc and its Auxiliaries to file with the Internal Revenue Service for exemption from federal income tax under section 505(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501 (c) (3). The convention was granted its 501 (c) (3) status on June 26, 2003.
Dr. L. E. Hightower is the first New Mexican to serve on the staff of the National Congress as an instructor. Dr. J. W. Williams was the first vice president of the National Moderators Auxiliary. Glen E. Chelf has served as the interim president of the National laymen’s movement and has been promoted to treasurer of the World Baptist Alliance Men’s Department. Jeane B. Spencer is presently a writer for the Women’s Quarterly and advisor to the editor. Ruby Dudley serves as the Ways and Means Chairman of the National Ushers. Shirley Ragin is the Assistant Financial Secretary for the National Ushers and brothers Meron Wilson and Andrew L. Trotter service in capacities with the National Laymen. Reverend Forney serves on the Board of Directors of the Convention and Dr. Richard Gorham and Andrew L. Trotter are on the Congress Board of Christian Education. Dr. J. A. Hopkins served on the Foreign Missions Board and Dr. W. C. Trotter was in charge of the Evangelism Department. Lurline Trotter and Lovie M. Hightower served in capacities in the Women’s Auxiliary.
New Mexico has hosted many national figures. Early visitors were Reverend J. Mass, and Dr. T. T. Lovelace from the Home Missions Board, Ms. Willie Layton (Women), Mrs. Whitfield a representative of the National Training School for girls, and Mrs. Mapp (Vice President of the Women’s Auxiliary). Dr. L. K. Williams who was the president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. made a site visit in 1934. We were fully introduced to the National Convention by Dr. and Mrs. W. C. Trotter. We have hosted Dr. J. H. Jackson, Dr. Henry J. Lyons, Dr. W. J. Shaw and now Dr. Julius R. Scruggs (presidents); Women’s Auxiliary – Mary O. Ross, Cynthia Ray, Rosa Cooper and Hugh Dell Gatewood; Congress Amos Jones, and Brenda Holland; Laymen – Jerry Gash and Harold Simmons, Walter Cade, Jr.; Ushers – Sallie Titus, Mamie Lucky, Dr. O. K. Patterson; and Dr. James Adams of the Moderators. The Bethel Second Baptist Church of Las Cruces has hosted more National Officers than any church in our convention.
Our convention’s first centenarian was Willie Mae Harris of Alamogordo; the second is Exerlona Clayton Bramlett of Albuquerque, and Norine Patten Williams. The longest presidential term was under the leadership of Dr. L. E. Hightower for twenty five years.
Secretaries of the convention have been Professor Francis M. Boyer, S. T. Richards, Reverend J. H. Horton, Glen E. Chelf, Reverend B. J. Choice, Joycelyn N. Lewis and Andrew L. Trotter.
Treasurers have been C. Eubanks, D. A. Austin, F. R. Williams, James E. Forney, J. A. Hopkins, Winston Lee and Ruby Dudley.
Financial Secretaries: Mrs. Clayton Brown, Merdest Bradford, Isaac Jones, Thomas Spikes, J. R. Shiner, Willard Avery, and Shirley Ragin.
Congress Presidents: The first areas of Christian Education where called the Sunday School and Baptist Young Peoples Unions (changed to Baptist Training Union, Nurture for Baptist, and now back to BTU) Those leaders were Reverend G. B. Oliver, P. M. Walker and C. T. Hughes. The later leaders were A. E. Jackson, Reverend Wilson Holly (under his leadership it was renamed the Congress of Christian Education to get in agreement with the National Congress), Reverend J. T. Wilson, Dr. Richard Gorham.
Women’s Presidents: Mrs. I. B. Foster. Mrs. D. A. Austin, Ella Boyer, Anna J. Clayton, Florence Napoleon, Stella Jones, Lurline Trotter and Jeane B. Spencer.
Laymen’s Presidents: A. E. Jackson, Will Wynn, Glen E. Chelf, Meron J. Wilson
Usher Presidents: Willie Lou Holly, Delores Williams, Ruby C. Dudley
Churches: These churches were at some point part of the Convention but are no longer active. Ebenezer (Hobbs), Antioch (Santa Fe) Valley Grove (Vado), Mt. Zion (Clayton) First Baptist (Blackdom), Mt. Calvary (Tucumcari), New Zion (Alamogordo) New Light (Farwell), Mt. Calvary (Albuquerque), Grace Temple (Albuquerque), New Beginnings (Carlsbad), Mt. Carmel (Las Cruces), Greater Jerusalem (Roswell), Mt. Pilgrim and Second Baptist (Raton) and Peoples (Roswell). Records indicate that in the early years there were congregations in Las Vegas (Shiloh), Gardner (Mt. Zion) Silver City, Lordsburg and Weed, New Mexico
A Role Call of deceased ministers are as follows; Troy Young, F. R. Williams, J. W. Williams, J. A. Hopkins, L. E. Hightower, W. C. Trotter, J. R. Shiner, O C. King, Theodore Holly, A. W. Willis, R. L. Parramore, M. D. Ware, O. F. Dixon, A. D. Burton, W. C. Miller, J. C. Nolly, J. H. Horton, I. S. Swisher, J. S. Patten, J. M. Carr, J. H. Hansen, A. A. Franks, C. E. Mangram, Robert Brown, L. L. Zanders, C. T. Hughes, J. J. Hayden, Clemmitt Shannon, W. W. Williams and W. H. Bland.
This is our initial attempt to garner information about our convention. Names have been inadvertently left out due to our inability to complete all information. We solicit any input from those who have information to accurately state our history. Thanks to Jeane B. Spencer, Glen E. Chelf, Zachary Hightower, Barbara Williams, Exerlona Bramlett, Emily Mangram, Mary R. Lewis, Vernice Brown, Azzie Emerson and Andrew L. Trotter for completing this history