St Paul AME Church celebrated its 112 years of service to the San Bernardino community last Sunday with Pastor Norman Copeland, Senior Pastor and Reverend Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray as special guest speaker.
Leading up to the celebration of the church’s 112 anniversary I decided to do my own research about the church and some of its members. I thought about the popular song of “If these walls could talk” what would they tell us. Well the walls cannot talk but old newspaper articles can tell us a lot about the church and its members’ service to the community.
The oldest article I found in 1915 indicated that Rev. Clark Lockhart was a speaker at a District Institute Sunday School Workshop for several hundred attendees at the Methodist Episcopal Church. His topic was “Sunday School of Today”. It does not say it but this is the white Methodist Episcopal Church in San Bernardino. It demonstrates the churches worked across racial lines.
In 1922 one of St Paul AME’s charter members Ben Inghram was a Chief Chef and owner of the Chocolate Palace Café in downtown San Bernardino. I can say I talked with him on many occasions in his home and he gave me the history of why the lay organization was started and needed. I must say that at the time I did not understand nor appreciate what he and the church meant to this community.
In 1928 the “colored” women of St Paul AME held political rallies for Herbert Hoover when he ran for president. Contrast that to 1988, 1992, and 2008 when the church and members supported Democrats Jessie Jackson, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for president.
Carl Clemons and Billy Inghram won awards from the Lions’ Club in 1937 and Brother Clemons played the saxophone in a School Yule Tide Pagent. He has been and is still active in our church and community. For example in 1946 he was active in the Guy Winton Morris Post of the American Legion where he was an officer. Of course he led off the program Sunday to tell the history of the church.
In 1955 I discovered that the John C. Blakely family gathered around the piano singing hymns at St Paul AME located at 672 Perris Street. It lists all family members including their ages. It documents the activities in the church, school, and community. These family children went on to have a major impact in the region and country. I had no idea that one of St Paul’s pastors, Rev. Edward Williams, was a singer with the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers.
In 1957 Pastor Rev O. David Slacum of St Paul AME was given a prayerful send off to attend a prayer pilgrimage in Washington DC by Rev David Campbell of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Mrs. Lenora Cade, president of the local NAACP branch. New Hope and St Paul have had a long-lasting friendship over these many years. I found many articles with pictures of St Paul friendship and lay day activities.
St Paul’s youth were also kept busy with inter-city basketball leagues of all races and faiths. They also spoke out on issues of the day with the mayor and other elected leaders in attendance.
Mrs. Irene Jacks, one of the first lady’s of the church was also President of the PTA at Muscott Elementary School, while her husband pastor William Jacks was involved with the city establishing the current ward system to elect city council members. Rev. Albert Carter was proud to have Edison donate the pole that the cross hangs on in front of St Paul.
While I found more articles than I can share at this time it is a good feeling to see that the current members and church is carrying on the legacy of community engagement and outreach. St Paul AME Church has produced some doctors, educators, business owners, labor leaders, military officers, and elected officials including the state Assembly. Happy Anniversary to one of our community’s most enduring churches.