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Henry W. Botts Sr.
*Rev. Henry W. Botts Sr. was born on this date in 1875. He was an African American minister and community activist.
Henry Botts was born in Meadville, MO, one of six children of Thomas and Matilda Botts who were enslaved on a plantation in Meadville MO. The children’s names were Thomas, Virginia, Margaret, William, Henry, and Elizabeth. William, Henry and Elizabeth were the first Botts children to be born free on black Botts land. From 1860-1869 the town was called Bottsville after the slave masters who were also the founders of the town. In 1869 the name of the town was changed to Meadville to commemorate the building of the railroad throughout Missouri by Charles Mead the engineer that led the construction the Hannibal and St. Joseph line.
Young Botts always had his sites on becoming a minister. He trained himself from the time he was 8 years old. He would wake up at 4:00 am every morning to study the Bible and meditate. At the age of 13, senior ministers started grooming him to become a pastor. By the age of 19 he was a traveling minister taking the gospel to small communities in Missouri. Soon after began his journey from Missouri to Nebraska.
Around 1920, he was called to Mount Zion in Lincoln; Nebraska and he was their pastor for 8 years. The Nebraska Gazette in Lincoln Missouri followed and reported on his ministry weekly, reporting on the rapid growth of Mount Zion Baptist Church and his influence on community stability and growth in Lincoln. In 1929 Botts began as the pastor of Zion Baptist Church in North Minneapolis Minnesota from 1929 to 1959. He joined a small number of blacks who made their way to Minnesota during the Great Migration. When he arrived, the black population was less than 1% of the total population.
As Zion Baptist Church grew so did Rev. Botts influence and impact in the community of both black and white residents. He was known as a “change agent” because he was compassionate, fearless and had the ability to face the opposition with dignity and set the direction which led to many negotiated agreements which improved the living conditions of black’s in Minnesota. He joined the Board of the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House and the NAACP. Rev. Botts was one of the first pastors to invite the Minneapolis Urban League to hold its meetings at the Zion Baptist Church where they became intricately involved in fighting for inclusion and equity on a local level.
At his retirement celebration from Zion Baptist Church in 1959 there were proclamations and speakers from the Governor, Mayor, City and Council Offices. The National Baptist Convention sent speakers and resolutions from both local and national departments. Rev. Henry Wilson Botts Sr., died on October 1, 1967.
When Destiny Calls
Sharon Botts Garth
Image: Sharon Botts Garth