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Rev. John Cross Jr.
*The Reverend John H. Cross, Jr. was born on this date in 1925. He was a Black minister and activist.
From Haynes, Arkansas, he was the son of Margie Ann and John H. Cross Sr. He attended elementary school at Spring Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Haynes, Arkansas, and Lincoln High School in Forrest City, Arkansas. As a teenager, Cross gave his trial sermon and was ordained at Springfield Missionary Baptist Church. After high school, in 1944, Cross entered the United States Army as an Assistant Regimental Chaplain.
After discharge, he worked as a teacher for the public schools of his hometown. Cross attended Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, where he met and married his wife Julia and earned his B.A degree in social science in 1950. He was a counselor for boys and a minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Widewater, Virginia. During this time, Cross returned to Virginia Union University's School of Theology and received his Masters of Divinity in 1959.
Cross was working as pastor of Gravel Hill Baptist Church in 1962 when he was called to pastor the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church became a haven for civil rights organizers and a target for Southern segregationists. On September 15, 1963, the church was bombed, and the explosion killed four young girls and injured many others. This would mark a turning point in the civil rights movement. Cross stayed on as pastor until 1968.
He was appointed director of the Baptist Student Center at Alabama State University, now Alabama A&M, where he taught history and sociology. From there, Cross moved to Decatur, Georgia, where he became the associate pastor of Oakhurst Baptist church for seven years. Cross served as the black church Relations Director of the Atlanta Baptist Association from 1977 until he retired in1989. After retirement, Cross worked part-time with ministries, such as chaplains at the DeKalb and Fulton County youth development centers. He was also a counselor for Green forest Baptist Church Academy and as interim pastor at Divine Unity and Liberty Baptist Church in Atlanta and Green forest Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia
Cross received numerous awards and proclamations for his role in the American Civil Rights movement, his leadership at the Historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and his work to improve race relations, missions, and ecumenism in the United States and Africa.
Cross had four children Michael, Alma, Lynn, and Barbara. Reverend John Cross died on November 17, 2007. He had been in failing health since a series of strokes and died at the DeKalb Medical Center at Hillandale.
Renee Hannans Henry/AJC