A few people honk and wave, some stopping to chat with the Rev. Charles Dews as he poses for a photograph in front of St. James Baptist Church in Tyler.
According to a written release about the church’s history, “Some members of the Jackson Spring Hill Baptist Church, feeling that a Baptist church was needed in the area, gathered in a brush arbor on Jackson Street and organized St. James Baptist Church.
“Property on the southwest corner of West Jackson Street and Butler Avenue was donated by the Herndon Estate free of charge, so long as it was used as the church site. The Rev. C.C. Buford was called as the first pastor of this congregation.”
According to the release, in 1946, the church, which was listed as “colored Baptist church” was changed to St. James Baptist Church and added to the tax roll.
In 1948, the congregation broke ground on a new building. That building was destroyed by a fire in 1972, and the current church building was paid off in 1980.
Lewis Fluellen, chairman of the deacons, has been a member of the church for about 60 years, he said. It was there that he learned about God, respect and how to live his life.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without that church,” he said.
Annie Hood, 87, has been a member of the church for more than 80 years — longer than any other member, she said.
Mrs. Hood’s family all attended the church, she said, and she is the last surviving member.
The anniversary celebration will be at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at 1020 S. Lyons Ave. The Rev. Harold Montgomery of Fellowship Baptist Church in Fort Worth will be the guest speaker.
The public is invited to attend. Call 903-595-2064 for more information.
“We’re excited, but we’re more excited about our future,” Dews said. “We’re excited about our spiritual growth. That’s more important than the physical growth. The physical growth will come naturally with the spiritual growth.”