Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCWesley Chapel UMC

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Wesley Chapel UMC

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

Our final week of Black History Month celebrates not a person but a place: Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church is the oldest black Methodist church in Arkansas and sits on the campus of Philander Smith College, which happens to be the home of the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church staff offices as well.

Wesley’s history dates back to 1853, when the black members of the Cherry Street Methodist Church, a combined white and black membership church in Little Rock, erected a new church near Eighth and Broadway in Little Rock. They named this new church Wesley Chapel.

After Emancipation, the Rev. William Wallace Andrew, the first pastor of Wesley Chapel, helped to move the church out of the Methodist Church, South and into the Methodist Episcopal Church. The church also joined the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at that time.

A long history of church restructuring happened throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but in 1927, the present structure where Wesley Chapel sits today was constructed.

In 1968, the church became a part of the Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church and changed its name to Wesley Chapel UMC.

Although the church sits on the campus of Philander Smith College, and has been at its current location since the early 20th century, many people may not be aware that Philander Smith College began as a school inside the walls of the church.

In 1863, a school for the children of freedmen was organized in Wesley Chapel by Rev. Andrews, and in 1867, Philander Smith College was organized in Wesley Chapel. The school was called Walden Seminary during the early days of its existence.

The Rev. Ronnie L. Miller-Yow, Dean of Religious Life and Campus Culture for Philander, has served as pastor at Wesley Chapel since 2003.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

We hope you have enjoyed this five-part series, and have learned something from these articles. Please continue to send us the names and pictures of historically important Arkansas black Methodists to cfc@arumc.org

All information taken from Wesley Chapel’s website, wesleychapelumclr.org/our-history/. For more information, please visit their site.

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCRev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

This week, our focus is on a lady whose name many people in the Arkansas Conference might not recognize: the Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott.

The reason that Harris-Scott’s name isn’t well known in Arkansas is that although she was ordained in our conference, she was never given an appointment here.

But her significance in our conference’s history cannot be understated; Rev. Harris-Scott was the first black woman to be ordained in the Arkansas Conference.

Harris-Scott is a graduate of Philander Smith College. She was ordained in 1980 in the former North Arkansas Conference as a deacon — This was during the former 2-step ordination process. Before 1996, deacons were considered provisional elders and did not serve separate roles as we know deacons and elders do today.

Harris-Scott was never given an appointment in Arkansas, and according to Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas 1800-2000 by Nancy Britton, she was “considered unappointable and transferred to the Kansas East Conference shortly after her ordination.

She served numerous churches throughout Kansas and retired in the Great Plains Conference in 2016.

Although we do not have much info on Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott, it is important to remember the “firsts” in our conference, and preserve and reflect on our history.

If you have more info on Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott or personal stories you wish to share, please email caleb.hennington@arumc.org.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCEuba Mae Harris-Winton

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Euba Mae Harris-Winton

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

This week, we are recognizing Euba Mae Harris-Winton a lifelong Methodist spiritual leader and guide for many people during her 95 years on earth.

Euba Mae was born on June 26, 1923, to the Rev. Daniel Haven Edward Harris and Martha T. Hill Harris in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Her father, known as the Rev. D.H.E. Harris to many, was the pastor at Mallalieu Methodist Church in Fort Smith from 1900 to 1907. Strong leadership ran in Harris-Winton’s family, as her father was not only a pastor and a District Superintendent, but also the first black minister to serve on the Board of Trustees of Philander Smith College.

Mallalieu Methodist Church played a significant role in Harris-Winton’s life, and she would return to the church many years later to open the Mallalieu Community Center in 1970, with the mission of strengthening the church’s outreach ministry, with a focus on improving the wellbeing of minority groups and low-income families.

Harris-Winton was the executive director of the Mallalieu Community Center from 1970 to 1997 and was instrumental in helping immigrants from both Cuba and Vietnam during that time adjust to living in the United States.

According to a newspaper article written by Bennie Mae Ware Gunn, printed in the May 2001 issue of The Lincoln Echo (Vol. 8, Issue 12), “Mallalieu Community Center was a multi-cultural center long before the term was commonly used.”

Harris-Winton also worked with people from low-income families to get their college degrees, and helped workers find jobs through the Western Arkansas Employment Development Agency.

Euba Mae Harris-Winton. Photo courtesty of the United Methodist Archives.

Other accomplishments she achieved during her long and impactful life include being the first black delegate elected from the former North Arkansas conference to attend General Conference in 1980; president of the North Arkansas Conference United Methodist Women from 1986-1989; and a 1987-1988 recipient of the Ethel K. Millar Award presented by Hendrix College.

One of her five children, Jonathan D. Keaton, was ordained as a United Methodist bishop in 1996. Bishop Keaton is a retired bishop who served as episcopal leader of the Ohio East, Michigan, and Illinois Areas of The United Methodist Church.

Shortly after her death on March 11, 2019, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas honored Harris-Winton’s extraordinary life on the floor of the United States Senate Chamber.

Boozman said, “I was honored to know Mrs. Euba and will personally miss her example, kindness, advice, and willingness to help others. She was a rare individual who never stopped fighting to improve the world.”

At the time of her death, Euba was a member of Mission UMC and participated in St. Paul UMC’s United Methodist Women.

Thank you, Euba Mae Harris-Winton, for your dedication to improving the lives of those who need our help the most.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCRep. John Walker

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Rep. John Walker

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

John Winfield Walker: attorney, state representative, and a devoted United Methodist

This week, we are recognizing the achievements of former Arkansas State Representative John Winfield Walker (June 3, 1937 – Oct. 28, 2019).

Walker was born in Hope, Arkansas. In 1954, Walker had the distinction of being the first African American undergraduate student admitted to the University of Texas after the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. However, because of lingering racism following the Supreme Court decision, Walker was not allowed to attend the University of Texas. Instead, he returned to his home state and graduated from Arkansas AM&N — now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff — in 1958 with a degree in Sociology. Walker had the unique privilege of hearing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at his graduation ceremony.

Walker would go on to receive a master’s degree from New York University in 1961 and a law degree from Yale University in 1964.

Walker returned to Arkansas in 1968 and set up a general practice of law in Little Rock with an emphasis on civil rights cases. That same year, he opened one of the first racially integrated law firms in the South, Walker and Chachkin.

Throughout his career as an attorney, Walker was involved in a majority of reported cases that involved racial discrimination in the state of Arkansas. One of his landmark cases was the Pulaski County school desegregation case. The federal lawsuit, which first came up in 1982, said that three school districts in Pulaski County were unconstitutionally segregated. Walker fought tirelessly on behalf of black students and parents in this case until his death in 2019.

Walker also had a nearly decade-long career as a state politician, elected as the representative for District 34 since 2011.

Walker’s focus was on education as a state representative and was known for his smart, detailed questioning of other members of the Arkansas legislature. Upon his death, many people commended his bipartisanship and ability to work with all people.

But above all, Walker was a man of faith and was a devoted member of his United Methodist Church, Wesley Chapel UMC in Little Rock, for more than 50 years. 

Wesley Chapel’s pastor, the Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow, had this to say about the life and legacy of Walker:

“Brother Walker would often tell me this: ‘Reverend, you don’t have to come from a big place to make a big impact.’ He would say that to me as a young pastor. I met him when I was 29. I believe his point to me at the tender age of 29 was simply to serve God. It’s not about the biggest steeple, but about participating in the work of Jesus Christ on each. The work found in Luke 4:18-19 that says, ‘…to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ This is the Life that brother Walker tried to live and he inspired others to join him in that quest.”

Thank you, John Walker, for your service to your city, your state, and your United Methodist Church.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCRep. John Walker

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Theressa Hoover

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

This month, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

Theressa Hoover

Our first focus in this series is on Theressa Hoover, a well-known name in Arkansas, nationally, and globally in the Church.

Theressa Hoover was the first African-American woman to become a top staff executive for the United Methodist Church, serving as the chief executive for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the corporate body of the United Methodist Women, from 1968 to 1990.

Hoover grew up in Texas and Arkansas and studied business administration at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. After graduating from Philander in 1946, Hoover helped form the Little Rock Methodist Council, a group of 19 black and white Methodist congregations that helped to change a former turkey farm into what is now Camp Aldersgate. The camp was dedicated in 1947 for African-American youth but now serves children and young adults with special needs.

Hoover was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000, and continued to mentor young women of all races until her death on Dec. 21, 2013 at the age of 88. Her funeral was held at Sequoyah United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, where she was a member.

In 1990, the United Methodist Women established the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award to honor Hoover’s service to the UMW, the church, and the ecumenical world. According to the UMW website, “It recognizes her interest in community service and public policy and the way in which she expanded on her early experience to encompass a global view of reality and human possibility.”

Hoover’s lasting legacy can be found all over Arkansas, but most visibly at Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock. The church was chartered in 1981, and serves the community of Little Rock with a number of programs aimed at helping the homeless of Little Rock as well as individuals suffering from addiction in all its forms.

Thank you, Theressa Hoover, for your wonderful contributions to not only Arkansas, but the entire global United Methodist Church!

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.