Following the leadership of our founder,
Rev. Smith, Rev. Ollie Morris and Rev. N. J. Odneal led the congregation for five years
carrying on to the best of their abilities as God used them.
It was in 1927, that Rev. A. L. McCargo, a strong man of God took over the flock drawing even
more new members with the delivery of his powerful God fearing messages. The existing church
needed to be rebuilt. The “building fever” broke out and became contagious amongst the
congregation. Dollars and cents turned into lumber, nails bricks, and mortar. The new building
was erected as a united effort in the year of 1928. Rev. McCargo pastored for seven years.
Rev. W. T. Grafton of Memphis, Tennessee accepted the charge in 1934 as pastor of Woodlawn.
The nation was in an economic depression. He led the congregation by lifting their spirits with
fiery and inspirational messages from God. His message was to overlook the poverty which
surrounded them and look to the Father who is rich in houses an land. He served for seven years
and was followed by Rev. J. A. Caldwell.
Rev. Caldwell was a man of deep religious convictions and a fearless leader whose character was
above reproach. During improving economic conditions, money began to circulate. Rev. Caldwell
launched a mortgage burning rally defraying the indebtedness incurred in the erecting of the
present building in 1928. In less than two years, the $2000.00 mortgage was burned. It was
during his leadership that the erecting of a monument to the founder, new pulpit furniture, and a
raised choir stand were added to the sanctuary. He left in 1954.
During that year, Rev. B. T. Hopkins was the choice of the Holy Spirit to accept the charge over
the flock. He was a young, energetic man. It was during his wise leadership that a planned order
of service was outlined and the use of envelopes for regular tithes and offerings was initiated. The
annex which had been conceived by the former pastor was erected under his administration. Rev.
Hopkins served for six years until he was called to a church in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1961.
Rev. R. W. McClendon accepted the leadership during the same year. For three years, Rev.
McClendon’s verbal talent would keep his congregation at the peak of interest at all times. During
his tenure, an organ was purchased, new robes were bought, new organizations established, and
many other projects were added for the success of the total program of the church.
The son of a former pastor, Rev. Virgil J. Caldwell, accepted the dictates of the Holy Spirit in 1964
as pastor. There is an old proverb which says that we inherit more than we bequeath. The
accomplishments were really a tribute to the noble line of predecessors, which laid such a good
foundation for the members of Woodlawn. Rev. Caldwell never ceased in giving of his time,
talents, means, and himself to the work of Christ.
The music in the church was enhanced when he played his saxophone, striking the tunes of
“Amazing Grace”, “Precious Lord”, and many more familiar songs. The front of the church was
remodeled and a new air conditioning and lighting system were installed. During his ministry,
many souls were added to the church. Rev. Caldwell left in 1968 after being called to a church in
Rev. William Kelly, Jr., a young man from Mississippi, succeeded Rev. Caldwell in 1969. Under
his leadership, the annex was completed including the updating of the men’s and women’s
restrooms. Deacon Sewell Flagg, Sr., Deacon Vernon Evans, Deacon Johnnie Jarrett, and Mr.
Wiley Reed helped with the carpentry work. This effort added greatly to the physical comfort of
the members. Rev. Kelly left in 1973.
Rev. Bates Bond served as interim pastor from 1973-1975. Rev. Bond was a descendant of
Woodlawn and Oakview, a Woodlawn progeny. He kept the flock together spreading the word of
God in his own interpretation and what he learned from his bible seminary. He was certainly
loveable, as well as loving. He ignited the congregation with his messages each Sunday.
Rev. L. E. McCall began his pastorate in 1975. Rev. McCall brought to Woodlawn new ideas that
were engulfed for the ideal situation to build the oncoming of a new beginning. Oh, how excited
the members were! Many souls were added to the already growing congregation. His sermons
and his melodic voice brought tears of joy during the beginning of his pastorate. However, Rev.
McCall became dismayed and a division occurred during this time forming another Woodlawn
progeny, Community Baptist Church, located in Brownsville.
Rev. Luther Williams accepted the charge as pastor, succeeding Rev. McCall on December 21 st ,
1980. The young people of the church gave him support and encouragement that he desired. He
created a special bond with the youth, thus strengthening the youth ministry. Rev. Williams left in
July of 1983.
In November of 1984, Rev. Kenneth Bonner embraced the pulpit with eloquence every Sunday
morning. He knew the word and executed the word of God with great exclamation. He also used
his melodic voice to embellish and enhance his motto, “Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow”.
Rev. Bonner left in June of 1987.
Woodlawn’s prayers were again answered in Rev. E. W. Williamson of Memphis,
who began his pastorate in 1988. He was a man endowed with great wisdom and capabilities. He was a
“seasoned” minister, who brought forth the word of God in every sermon. Rev. Williamson
brought the members sound doctrine each Sunday. He was a dedicated Christian who believed
that the congregation should be taught, biblically. Under his leadership, a baptistery with
background scenery was installed. The parking lots on both sides of the church were paved. He
initiated the Children’s Hour during the morning worship where the children would approach the
front of the altar to receive relevant messages for their everyday lives. The youth choir was
reorganized and reinstated under the direction of Mrs. Sarah Leigh Doyle, Mrs. Ann Collier and
Miss Elizabeth Barken. The young people began attending a week long Christian summer camp.
During his leadership, the church received a gift of one acre of land deeded to the church by Mrs.
Christine Reid in honor and memory of her husband, the late Dr. E. Leroy Reid. The land is being
used as an addition to the cemetery, extending it on the south side.
In October of 1996, the Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church was placed on the Tennessee and
National Registers of Historic Places for its significance in African-American ethnic heritage,
specifically in the areas of Religion, Music, and Social History. Woodlawn was recognized as the
oldest church of African-American origin in Haywood County, Tennessee.
After nine years of pastoring, Rev. Williamson decided to terminate his pastorate on the 5 th
Sunday in December of 1996. He served the church faithfully.
On the first Sunday in June of 1997, Rev. Rickey Reed, a young minister and a son of Woodlawn
accepted the call of God through the Holy Spirit and accepted the ministry of this great church.
Rev. Reed experienced a God sent blessing by becoming the first pastor of his home church,
since the founder, Rev. Hardin Smith.
Under his leadership, many joined the church family and former members were reclaimed with a
renewed dedication. Pastor Reed had a great determination and had interlaced a concept of
developing a weave that connected the older, middle, and youth age groups in unity.
His infinite ability in music, be it piano or organ, far surpassed and influenced all who admire his
legato style of music. Under his direction, the youth choir grew tremendously. The total ministry
of the young people was improved, emphasizing the importance of Biblical knowledge, discipline,
and a desire to succeed. In 1998, Miss Rhonda Jarrett coordinated a health and awareness fair to
spread holistic approaches to better health within the community.
During this leadership, history was made, April 18 th , 2004, with the Dedication and Ribbon Cutting
Ceremony of the Woodlawn Memorial Bell Tower, dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Gladys Evans
Jones. The project was led by Mrs. Sarah Leigh Doyle and several members of the church that
formed the, “Bell Tower Team”. That afternoon during the dedication services, Deacon Billy
Watkins tolled the bell, while the congregation stood on the front lawn surrounding the tower. The
sound of the bell could be heard for miles around. The church bell encourages us to continue to
use it as an object representing the Voice of God summoning the believers to the service and
ministries of the Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church, reminding us of the love of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ, strengthening our hope, our faith, and a desire within us to serve a loving
During the leadership of Rev. Rickey Reed, the church membership was encouraged and inspired
to embrace God’s vision for this church. Rev. Reed challenged us to “Know the Master, Know the
Manual, and to Know the Mission.” It was the hope of the church to embark on a crusade to
evangelize, to educate, and to empower.
Rev. Rickey Reed decided to terminate his pastorate, Sunday, November 13, 2011.
We press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
On December 3, 2011, Rev. Kevin Barken, a seed of Woodlawn, accepted the position as Interim
Pastor. Rev. Barken was passed the torch of reconciliation and restoration after many
disconcerted and bewildered members left the congregation.
The church body adopted the motto of “Same Gospel, New Direction” and found itself just as
Nehemiah, a people with a mind to work. Several new officers were elected by the church body.
The church looked to the new administration to help move the church into a new direction, trusting
God Almighty to lead the way.
While the parishioners diligently continued working to remain steadfast and to ensure the
livelihood of the church, a native of Brownsville, Rev. James T. Farmer, Jr., was elected as Senior
Pastor. The newly elected pastor began his pastorate, Sunday, July 29, 2012. Rev. Farmer has
ignited the worship setting with sound doctrine; compelling the church body to embrace the “Same
Place, Same Time, Same Message” to enhance and promote the importance of Christian
education, by way of Sunday School, Bible Study, and Morning Worship. Many former members
have been restored and reclaimed as attendance and financial contributions significantly
increased. Rev. Farmer has impressed upon the church body to become discipleship based, not
Believers once again, are enthused and invigorated to continue their journey of Kingdom Building.
A newly formed Hospitality Committee has been placed into function. Improvements are now
complete on the physical grounds. The parking lot was repaved. The ceiling in the sanctuary was
replaced. The walls in the sanctuary were painted. A new PA system, video equipment, and a
new security monitoring system were purchased.
Rev. Farmer created a Financial Capital Plan that would help to eliminate indebtedness that the
church had incurred over the past years. This again affords the members the opportunity to
pledge paid amounts of three tiers for this year’s Homecoming. During Homecoming 2013, the
annual celebration included a Mortgage Burning Ceremony, relieving the church of a 25 plus year
The pastorate of Rev. James T. Farmer, Jr. has brought into fruition a new scholarship effort for
graduating seniors spearheaded by the Hospitality Committee; the purchase of a new 26
passenger Ford Starcraft bus; along with the purchase of a new Kubota tractor to service the
needs of the Cemetery Ministry, and members of the Youth Department served as delegates of
the Tennessee Baptist Convention at Youth Encampment located at the Rose of Sharon
Campground in Burlison, Tennessee. In 2014, additional land was purchased to enlarge the
current cemetery acreage.
In 2016, during the observance of our 150 th Annual Homecoming and Church Anniversary, several
constituents, both past and present, were presented with the Rev. Hardin Smith Living Legend
Award. The recipients included, Mother Opal Virginia Williams Brack, Mrs. Sadie Frank Leigh
Minor, Brother Ben Blue, and Mrs. Lou Della Evans Reid.
On May 5, 2017, a group of parishioners, including Trustee Harold Barken, Trustee Jessie Hunter,
Trustee Kenneth Shaw, Deacon Billy Watkins, Deacon Alfred Perkins, along with Pastor Farmer,
closed on a construction loan, financed by First South Bank, to erect a Family Life Center on the
campus of the church. The construction of the Family Life Center was entrusted to Barden
Construction. May 27, 2017, marked a historical Groundbreaking Ceremony for the expansion
project. This celebration entailed fellowship, music, and the attendance of elected officials, from
the city, county, and state.
While the expansion projection was in process, efforts were made to supply the center with
furnishings and appliances. Delfield Manufacturing in Covington, Tennessee donated an
estimated $10,000 in appliances in memory of Mr. Ricky Watkins, a longtime employee and
frequenter of Woodlawn. Furnishings for the vestibule were purchased and donated to the center
in memory of Mr. John A. Jarrett by his immediate family. Mother Robbie Brack Jarrett King,
worked tirelessly on a memorial hallway, honoring the past and present constituents of the church
with several collages of pictures as a tribute to the labor of love of the parishioners.
On Sunday, March 25, 2018, Rev. Dennis Blalock and the New Saint Luke Baptist Church family
joined us for the Ribbon Cutting and Dedication Service for the newly erected Family Life Center.
Local officials, contractors, and parishioners from the community were present to witness this
milestone in the church’s history. The Rev. Hardin Smith Living Legend Award was presented to
Mrs. Diane Jarrett of Electrolux Manufacturing; Mrs. Tracine Ross of Delfield Manufacturing; Mr.
Patrick Mann, Jr., a community philanthropist; Mrs. Zelda Minor Jones and Dr. Sarah Chatman,
both descendants of our founder, for their contributions towards our Capital Plan.
Through the visionary leadership of Pastor James T. Farmer, Jr., several other ministries have
been added to the church such as our Marriage Ministry, Singles Ministry, a PIT Team (Pastor’s
Intercessory Team), a weekly Prayer and Devotional Call, and the Seniors Ministry. On Sunday,
January 26, 2020, our church was the recipient of a $100,000 gift by way of a donation from the
Lowery Family Foundation. Businessman, Fred Lowery, President of Life Sciences Solutions and
Laboratory Products in Auburn, Alabama planted a seed in the thriving ministry in honor of his
college classmate, our pastor. This gesture of kindness and philanthropic effort was an indelible
financial blessing to the church. His generosity over the past few years has totaled $121, 000.
The year of 2020 presented unprecedented times for our congregation. A global pandemic
wreaked havoc in the land and posed a challenge to our customary and conventional worship
hour and fellowship. Our usual morning worship and church educational studies were halted
because of the risk of contracting the Coronavirus during the COVID-19 crisis. At the time of the
2020 Homecoming celebration, 29 cases were reported and 1 death for Haywood County. Over
1.5 million cases had been confirmed nationwide, with 93,806 deaths. More than 5,014,943 cases
had been confirmed worldwide, with 328, 462 deaths. Yet, 1.909, 701 cases were recovered
during this crisis as of May 21, 2020.
Pastor Farmer has been determined as our leader to remain innovative and creative birthing new
formats for our congregation to remain connected spiritually, emotionally and financially. Our
Sunday morning worship, has appealed to more than 3,000 viewers weekly through our Facebook
and social media live streams. Sunday School, Women of Worth Bible Study and Youth Bible
Study have been made available online to the community and church at large by way of Zoom
Cloud Meetings. Our ministry has been fully engaged in virtual programming transforming our
weekly services to a Cyber Sanctuary. Means of giving of tithes and offerings was increased by
an online donor management system, Givelify.
We are thankful for the leadership and guidance of our current shepherd, Pastor James T.
Farmer, Jr., who has led us wisely through a crisis such as COVID-19. He has encouraged us to
remain faithful in our mission and stewardship during these critical times. We endeavor to remain
healthy and safe as a church family.
On the journey to Canaan…as the Historic Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church, we previously
envisioned having a comprehensive worship facility that would become a beacon of light in the
community. Today, we are blessed to continue to enjoy that addition. As we move forward, we
are entrusting God for the increase, physically, financially, but most of all spiritually.