(901) 525-2017


600 N. Fourth St. Memphis, TN 38107

(901) 525-2017


600 N. Fourth St. Memphis, TN 38107

Our Church History

The building that would be St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Saffarans and N 4th St. was previously owned by the Seventh Day Adventists. In addition to being a place of worship, it was also the first public school for colored people of the city. Reverend Leslie Reid, a white man, was the first principal. He was an Adventist preacher who also taught and preached. The Adventist Church ceased to operate, and the school was eventually moved to Auction Avenue. A proposition for sale of the property was submitted to the A.M.E. Church of the State of Tennessee for $4,000. The Conference, presided over by Bishop James A. Shorter, voted unanimously to accept the proposition. In 1866, Rev. Breckenridge was named the first pastor of then St. James Chapel.

In its early years, the church suffered from a fire and financial hardships. During the pastorate of Rev. Parrott, the church faced foreclosure unless $450 could be paid. Several clergy members stepped up with financial contributions and the situation was eventually resolved.

In1917, under the administration of Rev. M.T. Cooper, the old frame building was torn down. The new proposed building would be two stories and would cost $60,000. During construction, worship was held at Chickasaw Hall for several months. Later, worship was moved to Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

Under the pastorate of Rev. I.T. Jefferson, the basement walls were erected, and bricks were laid. Ultimately, the church returned to its site and worship was held in the basement. Construction, however, halted. In the coming years, fundraising continued for the building program. After 14 years, building started again under the pastorate of W.E. Pruitt. Under Rev. Powell, the interior of the church was completed along with the balcony and cornerstone.

Beginning in the 1940s, the church’s physical building improved significantly. The administration of J.W. Hall funded these improvements to the church through fish fries, ticket sales, dinners, and other entertainments. Additionally, Reverend Hall passionately encouraged tithing. This administration also purchased and furnished the parsonage, and added new stained-glass windows, new pews, pulpit furniture, an altar, and choir rails. The pastorate of H. McDonald Nelson oversaw the installation of the carpet, banisters, a concrete walk, and the cross that hangs in the church. The Pastor’s Study was refurnished. The church purchased two organs, a piano, a water fountain, and a Coca Cola machine. St. James became the first A.M.E. Church in Memphis to be air-conditioned.

Rev. Henry Logan Starks served the church as pastor from 1960-1985. Rev. Starks marched with Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement and was the first black theologian to teach at Memphis Theological Seminary. He is nationally recognized for his motto “You are somebody”. Under his stewardship, St. James was completely renovated, and an educational building was constructed with 14 Sunday School classrooms, offices, library, restrooms, kitchen, and a handicapped-accessible door. Interior and exterior improvements included cushioned choir chairs, pews, and pulpit chairs, altar kneeling pads, carpet, railings for the balcony, and a parking lot. A Day Care and Kindergarten were also founded. This administration started a radio ministry and several church-affiliated sports teams. The church purchased a minibus, glass entrance doors, and a drum set. Several choirs including the Henry Logan Starks ensemble were organized.

In 1985, Rev. Charles A. Jones was assigned to St. James.  Rev. Jones purchased and furnished a parsonage. Under his leadership, the C. A. Jones Senior Organization was formed for seniors to gather for information, crafts, games, fellowship, and out-of-town trips. A new church bus was purchased, and a new water fountain, offering tables, hymnal boards, and copying machine were all donated. The Girl Scouts was organized, and the Boy Scouts was reorganized.

During the tenure of Rev. Harry Wilson, a scholarship fund was established. The church underwent a massive renovation during his administration. Some of the members bought new pews and were duly recognized by a plaque at the end of each pew with their names.

Rev. Walter W. Reid, Jr. served as pastor from 2001-2013. His administration reduced the church’s outstanding debt, formed the Assessment Team and the $1000 Club, purchased a 15-passenger van, acquired five lots of adjunct property, founded the Jesus and Me Ministry and the W/B Reid Singers, and started a Wednesday noonday Bible Class.

For more detailed information, both past and present, about St. James AME Church, refer to this document ( here) and the catalogue of pastors.


Catalogue of Pastors

Rev. Breckenridge (1866-1868)

Rev. Raymond Tally (1868-1869)

Rev. J. A. Jones (1869-1870)

Rev. P. Tyler (1870-1872)

Rev. J. Bowman (1872-1880)

Rev. J. W. Clower

Rev. J. W. Merriweather

Rev. J. M. Jackson

Rev. R. Crumley

Rev. L. D. Cook

Rev. Joe Thomas

Rev. H. C. Bryant

Rev. D. Allen

Rev. J.A. Johnson (1892-1895)

Rev. W. A. Parrot

Rev. J. W. Thompson

Rev. John Grant

Rev. J. W. Smith

Rev. T. S. Johnson

Rev. J.A. Johnson (1909-1914)

Rev. E. M. Moore (1914-1917)

Rev. M. T. Cooper (1917-1921)

Rev. I. T. Jefferson (1921-1922)

Rev. T. J. Young (1922-1925)

Rev. S. L. Howard (1925-1926)

Rev. D. H. Butler (1926-1926)

Rev. J. S. Kelly (1926-1932)

Rev. W. E. Pruitt (1932-1934)

Rev. W. L. Powell (1934-1940)

Rev. J. W. Hall (1940-1947)

Rev. J. B. Dove (1947-1948)

Rev. H. M. Nelson (1948-1957)

Rev. R. M. Alcorn (1957-1960)

Rev. H. L. Starks (1960-1985)

Rev. C. A. Jones (1985-1990)

Rev. H. L. Wilson (1990-2000)

Rev. E. L. Williams (2000-2001)

Rev. W. W. Reid, Jr. (2001-2013)

Rev. M. D. Broadnax, Sr. (2013-2016)

Rev. Robin Henderson (Interim 2015-2016)

Rev. Walter Henry (2016-present)