The History of Liberty Baptist Church
Highlights: December 15, 1915 – Present
On December 15, 1915, a band of 136 baptized believers, under the leadership of Rev. Roman J. Johnson, came out from Central Baptist Church and organized as Liberty Baptist Church. In need of a house of worship, Rev. Johnson learned that the membership of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, located on Campbell Street (now James Brown Boulevard), had disbanded. Rev. Johnson interceded, and the Metropolitan building was given to the new Liberty congregation. In addition, approximately 36 Metropolitan members joined with the new Liberty.
The first church officers, along with Pastor R. J. Johnson, were A.J. Smith, Church Clerk and R.B. Turner, Treasurer, as well as six deacons.
The reported income for the year 1915-1916 was $1,320.18. The expenditures were $849.48, with a balance of $470.60.
In 1921, the old Metropolitan Church Building was condemned, and renovations were not feasible because of the enormous estimated cost involved. The Church decided instead to purchase land and build a new edifice. In 1922, the congregation secured land at the corner of Anderson Avenue and Forest Street (the present site). In the meantime, the old Campbell Street Building was razed, and much of the salvaged material was used in constructing the new church building. While the sanctuary was being erected, worship services were held in the Walker Baptist Institute Chapel (high school owned and operated by local Baptist Churches). The new church was dedicated in September of 1922, by the officers of the Walker Baptist Association.
On September 18, 1925, Rev. Roman J. Johnson was claimed by death. He left a legacy of faith, love, and action as evident in the continued growth of the church and construction of a new sanctuary.
In March, 1926, Rev. John Paul Murphy, principal of Louisville Academy and pastor of Bark Camp and Grays Grove Baptist Churches in Burke County, accepted the call to become the pastor. At that time, the church was in a financial struggle with an indebtedness of nearly four thousand dollars. Rev. Murphy worked diligently with the members to retire the large debt, as well as to complete the building (mainly beautification finishing). No additional debt was incurred in this project.
In 1943, the initial debt was retired and celebrated with a mortgage burning. After accomplishing debt-free status, Liberty’s members made plans to renovate the church’s interior, purchase a Hammond Organ, and convert the heating system. On June 25, 1968, Rev. Murphy was claimed by death after serving as pastor for 42 years and three months.
In 1965, the church received notification that Sis. Susie Brown had bequeathed her entire estate to her beloved church. In a special conference, members agreed to use the funds toward an educational building, which would serve as an appropriate memorial to Sis. Brown.
Rev. Roosevelt V. Palmer was elected the third pastor of Liberty in August, 1969. His first major recommendation was to proceed with the building of the education annex. This new addition was completed and dedicated in October, 1970. During Rev. Palmer’s tenure as pastor, the church grew physically and spiritually with large numbers of new converts and restorations, the organization of the Rachel Turner Progressive Club, the reorganization of the Deaconess Board, and the giving of numerous gifts to the church by members. Rev. R. V. Palmer served as pastor for ten years, resigning in August, 1971.
On July 20, 1980, the Rev. Willie R. Rivers accepted the call to serve as pastor. He brought with him a style of fervent energy and enthusiasm. He was instrumental in organizing outreach groups (Ladies Guild and Young Timothy Brotherhood), encouraging the church to support foreign missions on a regular basis (Christian Haitian Outreach), and initially a bus ministry. In addition to purchasing a church bus, the church also completely renovated the sanctuary’s interior, as well as changing the façade. In addition, a long-term fundraising activity (Project 1990) was begun. He also led the church in becoming incorporated and in writing and using a constitution. In June 1989, Rev. W. R. Rivers relinquished the pastorate.
On February 13, 1990, the Rev. Alfred Walker, Jr., accepted the congregation’s call to become pastor. Rev. Walker, a strong proponent of teaching and counseling, organized and taught a discipleship class, targeting persons in leadership roles. To further church unity, he combined adult choirs into one sanctuary choir (Voices of Liberty), furthered training classes for Sunday School teachers and Daily Vacation Bible School Teachers. During Rev. Walker’s tenure as pastor, interior renovations were completed in both the education building and the sanctuary. Also, the Church Constitution was revised, and the responsibilities of church officers were clearly defined. He also established the Youth Ministry. Rev. Alfred Walker, Jr., resigned in May, 1999 to accept a new pastorate in Dallas, Texas.
In the year that the church was without a pastor, the Rev. J.S. Wright, Pastor Emeritus of Macedonia Baptist Church, Augusta, Ga., consented to serve as interim pastor of Liberty Baptist Church. He brought his extensive experience, Christian love, and powerful preaching and teaching to help forge the church’s strength, perseverance, and witness during a trying time. The church continued to grow with renewed vigor during Rev. Wright’s interim tenure.
In January 2001, Rev. Don A. Darden Jr., accepted the call to pastor Liberty while on military duty, serving as a First Sergeant in Waegwon, South Korea. Rev. J.S. Wright served faithfully until Rev. Darden’s return from active duty in September of 2001, and was installed as Pastor on October 11, 2001. During Rev. Darden’s tenure, numerous members were added to the church fellowship, through baptism, by Christian experience, and by letter. In addition, improvements were made to the entire building. A new baby grand piano was purchased; a drum set was added to the music ministry, as a contribution from the Anthony and Vera Butler family; and a new sound system, with drop microphones in the choir lofts, was added.
The church purchased a new van to expand the bus ministry. New ministries, including the Sisters of Eve, the Men of Standards, and the Tribes of Liberty were formed. In 2003, and in addition to the acquisition of the van, a church marquee was erected adjacent to the church on Anderson Avenue -- a $4,000-dollar contribution to the first family from a good friend, Bro. Gregory Jones, which Rev. & Sis. Darden chose to use for the purchase of the marquee.
The church has often pursued opportunities for future expansion through purchasing parcels of property near the church premises. In the 1980s and 1990s, several properties on Forest Street were purchased. In 2002, four additional properties along Forest Street were purchased. In 2007, the glass doors were replaced with new doors to provide for better security. But, perhaps the most significant venture over the years has been the emphasis on evangelism within the Liberty Church community, providing an opportunity for church members to actually go out into the neighborhood to bring the lost to Jesus Christ through sharing the Gospel.
In 2010, the sanctuary was completely renovated and re-painted. All the pews in the sanctuary were replaced with cushioned seats, and the old carpet was also replaced. Along with this, a new Yamaha board was added to the media ministry. Church website was put into effect, and our ability to provide audio and video recordings of the service was upgraded with new equipment.
In 2013, the church added a new Hammond B-3 organ to the music ministry, enhancing the worship experience and sound throughout the sanctuary. In 2015, a state of the art projector system was added to the media ministry with the ability to view the service from the front and the rear of the church, allowing for both pulpit and congregation interaction.
For 101 years, Liberty has continuously marched forward to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ—building a strong Christ centered fellowship. Liberty has been blessed with the leadership of six ministers, each bringing unique talents and leadership styles; their mission has been the same as outlined in Matthew 28:19-20, to “Go into all the world…and teach them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded of you.”