Antioch was founded in January, 1866, just months after the end of the Civil War by twelve newly emancipated slaves. The organizers were John Wheeler, Henry Styles, Edward Smith, Preston Greenhill, Daniel Riley, T. L. Brown, Sandy Parker, Wash Rhodes, Isaac Williams, Rhyna Moore, Margaret Jones and Cynthia Hill. These individuals were assisted by missionaries from the First Baptist Church and the German Baptist Church. Seven months later, Reverend Israel Sydney Campbell, a black minister and missionary, led the church to erect a “brush arbor” on the edge of Buffalo Bayou.
Reverend Campbell and Reverend I. Rhinehart re-organized the church in August, 1866, and gave it the name Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. During the reorganization, Reverend Campbell was called as pastor of the church. He accepted the call to preach at the church one Sunday each month and appointed Reverend Sandy Parker to preach in his absence.
The following spring, Reverend Campbell conducted a series of meetings, and one hundred seventy new members were added to the church. The increased membership resulted in the construction of a large, box-house-type structure at “Baptist Hill” on the corner of Rusk and Bagby. Antioch became the site of the first association organized and held among Black Baptists in Texas, the Old Land Mark Baptist District Association in 1868. Reverend John Henry (Jack) Yates was ordained by this association in the fall of that year. Shortly thereafter, he was officially elected as the first full-time pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
1868-1891: Reverend John Henry (Jack) Yates
The Reverend Jack Yates was born a slave in Glouster County, Virginia, and came to Matagorda County, Texas, sometime during 1863 or 1864. After receiving his freedom, he settled his family in Houston. Reverend Yates was viewed as an even and mild-tempered man. He was positive in his approach, yet courteous, with a fatherly disposition. He had a good memory and possessed the ability to quote from the Bible or other ceremonial works without difficulty. During his tenure, the membership of Antioch increased more than four-fold. The box house was no longer able to accommodate the congregation adequately. In 1873, a Board of Trustees, consisting of Ed Cravey, Richard Allen and Henry Dotson was elected to purchase land and make arrangements for constructing a brick house. Two lots were purchased and deeded to the membership of Antioch while funds were subscribed from members. The cornerstone was laid on the 15th day of May in 1875. The men of the congregation hand made and laid the brick free of charge, and the women provided the men with a free noon-day meal. Four years later, on the first Sunday in August 1879, the congregation marched from “Old Baptist Hill” to the new brick church on Robin Street, which is Antioch’s present site. This church was designed and built by Richard Allen, an architect, member of the 12th Legislative session (the first Texas Legislative session in which Blacks served), quartermaster for the black regiment of the Texas militia, Custom Collector for the Port of Houston, and superintendent of the Antioch Sunday School. The church, located in the center of Freedman’s Town, was the first brick structure in Houston to be built and owned by African-Americans.
Antioch provided the former slaves with opportunities to learn about God while assisting them in developing educationally, economically and socially. The first educational opportunity for freed African-Americans in Houston began at Antioch. Reverend Yates, with the help of two missionaries, Mrs. Jennie L. Peck and Mrs. Florence Dysart, began the Houston Baptist Academy. The Houston Baptist Academy taught reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as vocational trades. The Houston Baptist Academy later became Houston College for Negroes, and Houston College became Texas Southern University. Additionally, the first African-American college in the state of Texas, Bishop College, began with the vision and support of Reverend Yates and Antioch. Under Jack Yates’ leadership, members were encouraged to buy property, own homes and start businesses. In 1891, Reverend Yates resigned after twenty-four years of service and organized Bethel Baptist Church.
1894-1921: Reverend Fredrick Lee Lights
On January 29, 1894, Reverend Fredrick Lee Lights was called as the second pastor of Antioch. Reverend Lights was the eldest of six children born to Reverend Fredrick L. Lights, Sr. and Mrs. Estelle Lights. He was born July 4, 1859 in Plaquemine, Louisiana. After emancipation, the Lights migrated to Bryan, Texas, where young Fredrick received his early schooling. He was one of the first students to enroll in Hearne Academy at Hearne, Texas. Reverend Lights was converted at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas, in 1875. This church was organized by his father in 1870. His ordination ceremony was held at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church at Edge, Texas, on August 11, 1882. He was officially installed as Antioch’s second pastor on the second Sunday in March, 1894.
Reverend Lights was recognized for his qualities of leadership in Baptist circles locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. For many years he was President of the Foreign Mission Convention of Texas and an officer in the National Baptist Convention. He assisted in the establishment of the Western Star, a weekly newspaper, and was chosen President of the Orgen (Negro spelled in reverse) Bank. Reverend Lights served as President of the General Board of Trustees of Missionary and Educational Convention, President of the Minister’s Alliance of Houston, and Treasurer of Old Land Mark Association. Although engaged in a multiplicity of activities, he found time to do community service as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Houston Academy.
In 1912, Reverend Lights used his influence to bring the National Baptist Convention to Houston where Booker T. Washington visited with him and addressed the convention delegates.
Reverend Lights was noted for his keen sense of spirituality, which was frequently manifested in the great revivals he conducted. In one revival, more than four hundred and fifty people were united with Christ. The second floor was added during the first part of his administration and the south and west wings were added near the end of his tenure. Reverend Lights recommended the present semi-circle structure for the sanctuary; installed seven ceiling fans for the comfort of the congregation; and replaced a single spire with four small spires on the tower. A baptistry, pipe organ and electric lights were also installed in the sanctuary. Reverend Lights passed away in 1921 after serving Antioch for twenty-seven years.
1922-1930: Reverend Earl L. Harrison
Reverend Earl L. Harrison was called by Antioch on January 18, 1922, and he began his tenure in April of that same year. He was born on January 23, 1891, about three miles from the village of Alto in Cherokee County, Texas. He was educated in the schools of Cherokee County, East Texas Academy and Butler College. Reverend Harrison graduated from Bishop College with a Bachelor of Theology in 1919, and did post-graduate work at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, New York.
During his administration more than eighteen hundred two individuals were received into the church. He divided the church into twelve circles (after the twelve disciples) to bring about closer contact and fellowship among the membership. The circles came to be known as the Fellowship Council. For most of its active years, the Fellowship Council was under the leadership of Mrs. S. H. Ross. Antioch received its charter of incorporation in 1929. The original signatories to this charter were: Mr. Homer E. McCoy, Mrs. Virginia Miller, Mr. Frank Phillips, Dr. B. J. Covington, Mr. H. B. Washington, Mr. William Drake, Mr. Ray Williams, Mr. J. Alston Atkins, and Mr. Louis Watson, Sr. Reverend Harrison received a call to the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. in 1930.
1931-1945: Reverend Thomas Jefferson Goodall
Antioch’s fourth pastor, Reverend Thomas Jefferson Goodall, accepted the call to pastor Antioch on November 1, 1931 during the great depression in this country. He had been the pastor of The First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia (the oldest black church in North America – established in 1777) from 1915 to 1922. During this administration, the “old red brick church” was completely remodeled. The finance room, choir room, pastor’s study and prayer room were added to the structure. The lot adjacent to the church was purchased. This lot is currently the Antioch Park and is leased to the City of Houston. Additionally, the tower was screened, lights were installed, the sign “Jesus Saves” was placed on the tower, the organ was rebuilt and a beautiful art glass window was placed in the sanctuary. These achievements were remarkable considering they occurred during one of the worst depressions in the history of the United States. Reverend Goodall received and accepted the call from Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, in 1945.
1946-1966: Reverend Earl Ramon Boone
Reverend Earl Ramon Boone became Antioch’s fifth pastor on October 22, 1946. He came highly recommended as an organizer, gospel minister and Christian leader. He was born of humble parents in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he attended elementary and secondary schools. Reverend Boone received a Bachelor of Science degree from Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Arts from Howard University. He did post graduate work at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, New York.
Reverend Boone was active in religious, social and civic organizations, locally, statewide and nationally. He believed in the education of black youth and encouraged the membership to provide financial aid to college students in need. He was a minister to all people, and the membership continued to increase. Reverend Boone resigned after twenty years of service in 1966.
1967-1972: Reverend Edward W. Brown
Reverend Edward W. Brown was the sixth pastor to grace the pulpit of historic Antioch. He was called from his post at Antioch Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, on November 9, 1967. Reverend Brown was installed as pastor of Antioch on Sunday, February 25, 1968. He was a dedicated pastor and possessed a keen biblical insight born of the training he secured at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, Oberlin, Ohio. He began to revitalize the membership through a teaching ministry, and was actively involved in the cultural, religious and civic life of the community. He maintained a profound interest in the growth and development of children, resulting in a vibrant youth program. During his administration the main sanctuary and lower auditorium were remodeled. In 1972, he accepted the call to his former church in Beaumont.
1973-1977: Reverend Henry Beecher Hicks, Sr.
Antioch’s seventh pastor was Reverend H. Beecher Hicks, Sr. He was called to serve Antioch in 1973. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he was a third generation preacher and an honor graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees were conferred upon him by Colgate Rochester Divinity School. He immediately began to embark upon programs involving the total community, making Antioch available during the week to the senior citizens of Houston’s Fourth Ward. The Antioch Credit Union was established during his tenure. Membership surged from over three hundred active members to more than eight hundred active members. On July 31, 1977, Reverend Hicks left Antioch to become the pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, D. C.
1978-1983: Reverend John Hill Westbrook
Reverend John Hill Westbrook was Antioch’s eighth Pastor. He was born November 11, 1947, in Groesbeck, Texas, and was a fifth generation preacher. He received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Baylor University and a Master’s from Southwest Missouri State University. In 1966, he became the first black student to play varsity football in the Southwest Conference. Under his administration, both balconies, aisles and downstairs were filled to overflowing. The Antioch Park was dedicated and renovation of the downstairs auditorium began under his leadership. Reverend Westbrook died December 17, 1983.
1984-1986: Reverend Michael Patrick Williams
Reverend Michael Patrick Williams became Antioch’s ninth Pastor in 1984. He was born in St. Louis Missouri, and was a third generation Baptist preacher. He received a Bachelor’s degree in History/Political Science from Westminister College in Fulton, Missouri. Additionally, he received a Doctor of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School. He completed the renovation of the downstairs auditorium and added speakers and microphones in the sanctuary. He left Antioch and found Joy Tabernacle in 1986.
1988-1989: Reverend Benjamin Stanley Baker
Reverend Benjamin Baker became Antioch’s tenth Pastor in 1988. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, he attended the University of Louisville on a NCAA football scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology. He received the Master of Divinity, Master of Religious Education, and Doctor of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reverend Baker was a dynamic teacher and added great depth to the Noon Inspiration Hour on Wednesdays. He accepted the call to the New Light Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, in 1989.
1991-2004: Reverend Nathan Johnson
Reverend Nathan Johnson became Antioch’s eleventh Pastor in November of 1991. He was born March 16, 1955, in Brazoria County, Texas. Reverend Johnson earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Education from Southwestern University and received additional training at the Southwestern Theological Seminary. In 1994, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from St. Thomas Christian College and Seminary. Reverend Johnson established Antioch Project Reach and led Antioch in helping to build a church in South Africa. The Haitian ministry was implemented during his tenure. In August 2004, Reverend Johnson accepted the call from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.
2005 – Present: Reverend Otis B. Winkley, Jr.
Reverend O. B. Winkley, Jr. is the current pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. He is the son of the late Rev. Otis Winkley, Sr. and Myra Winkley Thomas. He is married to the former Janet (Lee ) Miles of Waco, Texas. Rev. Winkley is a graduate of the Kilgore public schools; attended Bishop College in Dallas, Texas. He received his Master of Theology Degree from American International Bible Seminary in Killen, Texas.