The Elite News Religious Hall of Fame Museum's mission is to engage communities in a grassroots effort to educate, document, distinguish, celebrate, encourage and showcase the positive efforts, spanning generations made by our society's clergy.
5258 County Road 3110
Campbell, TX 75422
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Religious Hall of Fame
The family that has published an African-American newspaper covering church news for 40 years in Dallas recently opened a "Hall of Fame" to honor leading African-American pastors. Founder William Blair, 82, a former Negro league baseball star, says we have "halls of fame" for sports and other areas of endeavor; why not one for the church and its strong leaders? His daughter, museum director Debra Blair Abron, says, "African-Americans sung and prayed our way to where we are today; that story needs to be told." The museum opened in summer of 2003 and highlights mostly Texas preachers right now, but it is expanding its reach to include black preachers from all over.
African-American preachers serve faithfully despite the many demands and few earthly rewards of the job. It’s not uncommon for ministers of small black churches to serve with little or no pay; many hold full-time jobs in addition to their ministerial duties.
The museum's centerpiece is a photo gallery of 49 honorees -- black preachers named to the Elite News' "Religious Hall of Fame" at annual events beginning in 2000. Among those honored were the Rev. Zan Holmes, one of America's most prominent Methodist ministers, and Pastor J. P. Dennis, a Wichita, Kansas minister who serves as the city’s police department chaplain. Through a partnership with Southwestern Theological Seminary, the Hall of Fame will expand to cover the entire United States in the next few years.
Preachers are chosen based on their contributions and their record of many years of service. The Rev. Ricky Rush of the Inspiring Body of Christ in Dallas helped build a church campus that's a community of its own, with a movie theatre, a basketball court and a grocery store. The late Rev. Charles Lacy Warren of New York, who was awarded posthumously, was the first black superintendent in the Methodist church to serve over a predominantly white membership. Rev. George Pryor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas spearheaded a college scholarship fund that provides thousands of dollars each year to young people in the congregation. Mr. Blair says the behind-the-scenes role of the pastor is equally important: "When your daughter is in the hospital, or your son is in trouble, or your daddy has passed, who do you call? You call the preacher. Preachers are the unsung heroes of the black community. And these honorees are the cream of the crop. These are the ones who made big contributions over many years."
Church history is a big part of African-American history. Says Mr. Blair: "Go to just about any city, and the oldest building or the oldest institution is likely to be a black church. The church was part of the African-American experience from the very beginning."
"Many times, especially during the time of slavery, the church was all we had. It has literally been a lifesaver in the black community,” said Earnestine Cole, the museum's public relations director. "And even today, the heart of the city for the African-American community is the black church."