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Thu, 04.02.1891

Zema W. Hill, Evangelist, and Businessman born

Zema Hill

*Zema W. Hill was born on this date in 1891. He was a Black evangelist and businessman. He was from Franklin County, in Asia near Winchester, Tennessee. 

Hill joined the Macedonia Primitive Baptist Church and became a teenage evangelist at an early age. In 1916, he moved to Nashville, where he preached and evangelized in Hightower Hall. He was elegant and good-looking and preached a style that enlarged his South Nashville congregation enough to need a giant tent. Three years later, a church was dedicated at Overton and Division streets in Nashville. Hill faithfully served this congregation for thirty years and established the Zema W. Hill Funeral Home.

During this period, no Black insurance companies existed in Nashville, and few Black funeral homes existed. The Hill funeral business expanded as he arranged the funerals and preached and sang at the services. Hill's civic-minded zeal caused him to arrange funerals for the needy, known as his "silver services," The plate collected money from the audiences. The funeral home moved to 1306 South Street and became one of the first black businesses. He purchased a fleet of Packard automobiles in the mid-1930s, despite the economic depression. 

Over the years, Hill left his imprint on Nashville's Black community through his charismatic evangelism. During the thirties and forties, whites and blacks, political leaders, and even some of Nashville's underworld figures came to Hill's Sunday night services. He was known for sermons such as "The Resurrection of the Dead" and "If a Man Should Die, Shall He Live Again." Hill was a moderator emeritus of the Cumberland Association of Primitive Baptists and builder of the Cumberland Tabernacle in 1944.

Zema W. Hill died on February 5, 1970. He was a faithful and devoted minister, a funeral homeowner, and a notable leader in the black community of Nashville.

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