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Clarke, John (08 October 1609–20 April 1676), Baptist preacher and colonial agent, was born in Westhorpe, Suffolk, the son of Thomas Clarke, a man of unknown occupation and middling rank, and Rose Keridge. John Clarke had some college education (possibly at Cambridge) and some medical training (possibly at Leyden). He studied Hebrew. While still in England he married Elizabeth Harges, daughter of John Harges, lord of the manor of Wreslingworth, Bedfordshire. They had no children....

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Dahlberg, Edwin Theodore (27 December 1892–06 September 1986), pastor, was born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, the son of Elof Dahlberg and Christine Ring, farmers. The youngest of four children, Dahlberg was raised on a Swedish Baptist farm until age ten, when the family moved to Minneapolis. He was baptized in the Olivet Baptist Church (now University Baptist Church) and graduated in 1914 from the University of Minnesota, where Rutledge Thornton Wiltbank, pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church and psychology professor at the university, inspired him to enter the ministry....

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Fuller, Thomas Oscar (25 October 1867–21 June 1942), educator, clergyman, and politician, was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of J. Henderson Fuller and Mary Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Fuller’s father was a former slave who had purchased his freedom and later his wife’s with money earned as a skilled wheelwright and carpenter. While a slave, the elder Fuller taught himself to read, and after the Civil War he became active in Republican politics. During Reconstruction he served as a delegate to the 1868 state Republican convention and as a local magistrate....

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Garrard, James (14 January 1749–19 January 1822), governor and minister, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of William Garrard, a moderately wealthy planter and militia colonel, and Mary Naughty. The Garrards descended from French Huguenots. James was probably educated in one of the local schools of the Fredericksburg–Stafford County area. He learned surveying and was an active member of a “Regular” Baptist church. He assisted his father in farming. In 1769 Garrard married Elizabeth Mountjoy; they had twelve children, three of whom died in infancy....

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Hays, Lawrence Brooks (09 August 1898–12 October 1981), politician and Protestant layman, was born in London, Arkansas, the son of Adelbert Steele Hays, an attorney, and Sarah Tabitha “Sallie” Butler. Although his first name was in fact Lawrence, he preferred to go by his middle name, Brooks. His family took its religion—Baptist—and its politics—Democratic—seriously. Later, Hays would write that his early life was a “quadrangle marked by a line from … home to the public school, to the courthouse, to the little Baptist church, and back to the home.” He attended his first Democratic party convention at the age of ten....

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Jasper, John (04 July 1812–30 March 1901), Baptist preacher and orator, was born in Fluvanna County, Virginia, the son of slave parents, Philip Jasper, a slave preacher, and Nina, head servant of the Peachy family. (His father served as a preacher at slave funerals.) John worked as a cart boy accompanying the plantation ox cart and on errands around the Peachy “great house.” In 1825 his master hired him out to Peter McHenry, for whom he worked one year in Richmond before returning to the Peachy plantation. He later labored in the coal mines of Chesterfield County. Jasper’s master sent him to Richmond a third time to work at Samuel Hargrove’s tobacco warehouse. Jasper led a life he later confessed to have been irreligious and riotous. A fellow slave taught him to read and spell....

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Moulton, Ebenezer (25 December 1709– March 1783), Baptist minister and political activist, was born in Windham, Connecticut, the son of Robert Moulton and Hannah Grove, farmers. He had no formal education. Early in his life he developed an interest in religious work. In 1736 he joined his parents in starting a new Baptist congregation in South Brimfield, Massachusetts, for which he was later ordained a regular Baptist minister (1741). He was ordained to the ministry by John Callendar of Newport, an old-order Baptist, which for the time defined Moulton’s theological position as Five Principle Calvinistic, emphasizing redemption for the elect of God. One of Moulton’s first official actions in South Brimfield was to organize a congregational petition to the Massachusetts General Assembly for exemption from the religious tax....

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Murray, Orson S. (23 October 1806–14 June 1885), Baptist minister, editor, and radical reformer, was born in Orwell, Vermont, the son of Jonathan Murray and Rosalinda Bascom, farmers. Murray grew up impoverished on a hardscrabble farm in Orwell, obtaining only a few years of schooling. His parents were devout Free Will Baptists, and as a teenager Murray felt called to the Baptist ministry. In 1828 he married Catherine Maria Higgins; the couple had nine children. Determined to have a classical education, he returned to school at the Shoreham and Castleton academies, completing his studies in 1832....

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Paul, Thomas (03 September 1773–13 April 1831), Baptist minister and African-American community leader, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. The names of his parents are unknown. Converted and baptized at age sixteen, Paul began preaching when he was about twenty-eight and conducted an itinerant ministry. In 1804 he settled in Boston. He was ordained on 1 May 1805 at Nottingham West, New Hampshire, and later the same year married Catherine Waterhouse. The couple had three children....

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Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Photograph by James J. Kriegsmann. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-38826).

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Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr. (29 November 1908–04 April 1972), minister and congressman, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and Mattie Fletcher Shaffer. The Family moved to New York City in 1909 after the senior Powell became minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, then located at Fortieth Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. In 1923, at the elder Powell’s urging, the church and the family joined the surge of black migration uptown to Harlem, with the church moving to 138th Street between Seventh and Lenox avenues....

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Randall, Benjamin (07 February 1749–22 October 1808), clergyman and one of the founders of the American Freewill Baptist sect, was born in New Castle, New Hampshire, the son of William Randall, a sea captain, and Margaret Mordantt. Some scholars spell his surname Randal. Young Randall often accompanied his father to sea and learned the trades of sail making and tailoring, skills he later used to provide income while an itinerant revivalist. His travels and apprenticeship did not allow for formal schooling, though it is reported by an early biographer that he took great interest in the study of religion....

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Smith, John (1735–30 July 1824), minister, merchant, and U.S. senator, was born in Virginia. Nothing is known about his parents, and very little is known about his early life. Smith appeared in the new settlement of Columbia (just east of Cincinnati) in May 1790. He had traveled from the forks of the Cheat River in what is now West Virginia, where he had been a Baptist minister. Apparently, he had had no education, was relatively poor, and was looking to improve the situation of his household. Described by contemporaries as large, handsome, and dark complected, he had as his only assets a talent for public speaking and a winning personality that expertly balanced seriousness and gregariousness. But they were enough to win the confidence of a small Baptist congregation who engaged him as their pastor. In 1791 Smith established his wife, Elizabeth Mason Hickman, and seven children in Columbia. With characteristic enthusiasm, the new preacher went to work to spread the gospel: he helped to design and construct the first Protestant church in the region in 1793, ordained other men as Baptist preachers, and led in the formation of the Miami Baptist Association in 1797....

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George Washington Williams. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Williams, George Washington (16 October 1849–02 August 1891), soldier, clergyman, legislator, and historian, was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Williams, a free black laborer, and Ellen Rouse. His father became a boatman and, eventually, a minister and barber, and the younger Williams drifted with his family from town to town in western Pennsylvania until the beginning of the Civil War. With no formal education, he lied about his age, adopted the name of an uncle, and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. He served in operations against Petersburg and Richmond, sustaining multiple wounds during several battles. After the war’s end, Williams was stationed in Texas, but crossed the border to fight with the Mexican republican forces that overthrew the emperor Maximilian. He returned to the U.S. Army in 1867, serving with the Tenth Cavalry, an all-black unit, at Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory. Williams was discharged for disability the following year after being shot through the left lung under circumstances that were never fully explained....

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Williams, Hosea (5 Jan. 1926–16 Nov. 2000), civil rights activist, minister, and politician, was born Hosea Lorenzo Williams in Vilence, Florida, to Lecenia Williams and William Wiggins. After his mother died when Williams was ten years old, he was raised in Attapulgus, Georgia, by his grandparents Lena and Turner Williams. During his teen years he dropped out of high school and moved to Tallahassee, Florida for work. Shortly thereafter he entered the US Army during World War II and earned the rank of staff sergeant, receiving the military decoration of the Purple Heart during his military tenure. After his military service he returned to Georgia and finished Hutto High School in Bainbridge, Georgia, at the age of twenty-three....