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Wed, 05.13.1885

Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles founded

*On this date in 1885, Second Baptist Church, the first Black Baptist Church in Southern California.

Second Baptist Church was born in the minds and hearts of early Black Baptists in Los Angeles.   They felt the need to have their own church where the free expression of worship in the Black idiom could flow uninhibited.  Of the three persons who started the church only the name of the first pastor is remembered, Reverend S.C. Pierce.

Rev. Pierce organized Second Baptist Church and ministered there for two years.  Reverend C.H. Anderson succeeded Rev. Pierce and served the church as pastor from 1887 to 1907.  He was a man who could be euphemistically classified as "easy on the eye".  He is reputed to have been a man with a commanding voice and a manner to match. He was lauded for his executive ability.  It was written, "He was truly a man called to preach. What he lacked in formal education, he made up in fervency and zeal".

In 1921 Dr. Thomas L. Griffith Sr. became pastor and hired Paul Williams and Norman F. Marsh to develop plans for the new building. Griffith insisted that all of the skilled workmen, including excavators, cement masons, carpenters, and brick masons used in the construction of the church, were from Black-owned businesses.  Second Baptist Church successfully enlisted the entire community in raising the estimated $125,000 to build their new worship facility.  The "church people" and the Los Angeles City Mission Society contributed over $80,000 with individual pledges loyally paid weekly. Debt-free, the congregation planned Three Great Days to celebrate: ground breaking, laying the corner stone and final dedication with scores of famous African Americans from across the country attending the ceremony.

From 1940 to 1963, Dr. J. Raymond Henderson ministered 2nd Baptist Church and expanded its out reach and congregation growth. In 1963, Dr. Thomas Kilgore continued this tradition and since 1987 the challenges of a new century have been met by Dr. William S. Epps. On May 3, 2009 after extensive remodeling, the Second Baptist Church celebrated the rededication of their building.  Recognizing the importance of their historic building, coupled with the needs of a modern facility, the church spent $6 million on a 19-month project for a new roof, electrical and HVAC systems, and ADA compliance. "Important historical elements” of the Williams' and Marsh design were maintained in the up-dated design.

Throughout its history Second Baptist Church has played an important role in the history of the African American community. On a local level the church provided an academic scholarship for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ralph Bunche.  During his career Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. considered the church his "west coast" home, speaking there many times. (USNPS. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 2008) In recognition of its place as the first important nonresidential project in the Los Angeles African American community, this Romanesque-style building was proclaimed Historic-Cultural Monument #200 by the city in 1978. The revitalized Second Baptist Church, considered the most elaborate Baptist church on the West Coast when it was dedicated (remarks by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.), was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 2009.

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