Thursday, December 26, 2013

Blog 165: Negro Spirituals

 
(A reprint of blog 30)

AMAZING GRACE

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found:
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that cross appear,
The hour I first believed!

Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has bro’t me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright  shinning as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

Praise God, praise God, praise God, Praise God.
Praise God, Praise God, praise God.
Praise God, Praise God, Praise God, Praise God.
Praise God, Praise God, Praise God.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blog 164: Juneteenth – Its History and Significance



(A reprint of blog 29)
By Vernon M. Herron


What is JUNETEENTH? Is it related to enslavement, The Emancipation Proclamation, Freedom Eve, The Civil War, The Watch Night Service, Independence Day, or Freedom Day? Are the Juneteenth Celebration and June 19th related? There is a tapestry of truth running through all of the above, producing a historic reality.

The name Juneteenth is as old as the fact of enslavement. It is the oldest known celebration of the ending of the same. It was on 19 June 1865 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved were now free.

Noting this time-line, this was two and a half year after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Here are the facts:

September 22, 1862:
                  By Executive Order, President Abraham Lincoln issued an
             Emancipation which declared that on January 1, 1863 all
                 African Americans classified as “slaves” in the Confederacy 
             would be declared legally “freed.”
           


December 31, 1862:
This date was known as “freedom Eve.” On that night,
Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation actually had become law.
           
 January 1, 1863: 
          
          President Lincoln issued an Emancipation Proclamation declaring
          that the War between states had ended and that the enslaved were
          now freed. For two and a half years, this information was delayed
          in getting to Texas and when it did, it had little impact due to the 
          minimal number of Union Troops to enforce the new Executive 
          Order. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, 
          and all enslaved in the Confederate States were declared 
          legally free.

December 18, 1865:
           It was not until December 18, 1865 that the 13th Amendment to the
           Constitution was ratified which ended enslavement in all parts
           of the United States.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the small number of Union troops for enforcement. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April 1865 and the arrival of General Granger’s soldiers, his forces were strong enough to defeat all opposition.

The explanation for this two and a half year delay is uncertain but two popular notions exist. (1) The news was deliberately withheld by the enslaved master to maintain the labor force on the plantations. (2) The federal troops actually waited for the enslaved owner to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
  
“One of General Granger’s first order of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with”:
   
            “The people of Texas are informed that with a Proclamation from
            The Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. 
            This involves an absolute equality of rights of property 
            between former masters and slaves, and the connection
            heretofore existing between them
            becomes that between employer and free laborer”.

Group reaction to this news ranged from a pure “shock” to a full scale jubilation. Memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities will inspire many for years to come. The celebration of June 19TH was coined  ‘juneteenth” and became a time celebration for descendants of former enslaved, making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston.

Juneteeenth is a time of remembrance, festivities, food, affirming one another and prayer. It always focuses one’s education and self improvement.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blog 163: Still Watching



(Published as blog 7 & 45)

By Sheeiness Goss
and Vernon M. Herron




Many of us who grew up in the Black community of a typical city have probably heard of a “Watch Night Service.” It was the gathering of the faithful in Church on New Year’s Eve to give thanks and praises to God for seeing us through another year. But is that the real historic meaning of “Watch Night” service?

I remember two distinct “Watch Night” services which left an indelible impression upon this writer. First, during my adolescent years, often I would attend Watch Night services at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC during the pastorates of  the Reverends P. M. Mayfield, D. W. Gaither and J. F. Wertz. One had to arrive at St. Paul Church before 10 p.m. to be assured of a seat for the midnight service. The worship service basically was “thanksgiving” in substance. It consisted of the singing of meter hymns, moaning prayers of thanksgiving, testimonies, and preaching which must be in progress at the strike of midnight, when all lights would be extinguished and when worshippers shouted and yelled, “thank you Jesus to see another year!” This was a dramatic moment of congregational achievement. The Church’s bell would sound for 3 to 5 minutes after which all lights would return. After the offering, everyone went home with a new year’s blessing for being alive at the beginning of a new year.

The second “Watch Night” experience which left an indelible impression was when I visited the mission field in San Andres Island, Columbia as the guest evangelist of the First Baptist Church. The annual revival was held during the last week of December including New Year Day. There was the popular notion that everybody on the Island must be in Church or on its grounds when the New Year arrives for “good luck” and to ensure blessings during the year. Consequently, the church was packed and its grounds filled as the Islanders had come, not to hear the proclaimed Word but to insure each individual of personal charm and prosperity.

The truth of the matter is that “Watch Night” service is an intriguing  part of the African American cultural tradition yet lacking in full understanding of its historic significance. As stated earlier, the Watch Night service begins anywhere from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and ends at midnight with the entrance of the New Year.

It is assumed that Watch Night was a fairly standard Christian religious service – made a bit more Afro-centric because that’s what happens when elements of Christianity become linked with the Black Church.

Still, it seemed that predominately White Christian churches did not include Watch Night services on their calendars, but focused instead on Christmas Eve programs.  In fact, there were instances where clergy in main denominations wondered aloud about the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year’s Eve services in African-American congregations.

The Watch Night Service in Black communities has historical significance.

Note The Time-Line:

September 22, 1862:
By Executive Order, President Abraham Lincoln issued an Emancipation which declared that on January 1, 1863 all African Americans classified as “slaves” in the Confederacy would be declared legally “freed.”
        
December 31, 1862:
The Watch Night Services in Black communities can be traced to gatherings on this date also known as “freedom Eve.” On that night, Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation actually had become law.
        
January 1, 1863:
President Lincoln issued an Emancipation Proclamation declaring that the War between states had ended and that the enslaved were now freed. For two and a half years, this information was delayed in getting to Texas and when it did, it had little impact due to the minimal number of Union Troops to enforce the new Executive Order. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, and all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free.

December 18, 1865:
It was not until December 18, 1865 that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified which ended slavery in all parts of the United States. When this news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God. Black folks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year.

         It’s been over a century since that first Freedom’s Eve and many of us were never taught the African American history of Watch Night, but tradition  still bring us together at this time every year to celebrate “how we got over.”

WATCH NIGHT SERVICE LITANY
(African American Heritage Hymnal - 104)
O God, as was the customary of our parents and ancestors, we come to this Watch Night vigil to be with you, in your house, as we usher out the old year and welcome the dawning of a new year.

We come, thanking you for guidance and direction. Go before us, O God, and draw us unto the future where you are.

Our enslaved ancestors watched that night long ago for the signing of  the Emancipation Proclamation. Lord, keep us awake and alert as we follow in the light of your Word, searching for the good news of the gospel, and the comforting signs of your love in this world.

We thank you for watching over us and caring for us through the old year, as we walked in the light of your love. We thank you for your promises of peace, healing and justice.

We come, O God, with great expectations and great hope. Keep these fires kindled within us that we may watch and wait, and once more feel your presence. Let us know your power as we embark upon this journey.

You have led us in the past. Guide us now, and always, that we might choose to do your will and follow your way. We are pilgrims in a barren land.

We give you praise, O God, for your goodness and mercy; for life, health and friends, and for the many blessings you always send. Above all, we thank you for Jesus Christ, who lifts our hopes, guides us in the Way in this New Year, and in years to come.

All praise, honor, glory and thanks to you, our God, through Jesus Christ our risen Savior and Lord.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog 162: The Christmas Story



The Christmas Story
(A repeat of blogs 6 & 44)
By
Vernon M. Herron


“SANTA CLAUS GOSPEL”—THE CHRISTMAS IDOL

BASED ON BOOK
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE OF
HALLOWEEN, EASTER , CHRISTMAS

BY
ALLEGRA McBIRNEY


Critiqued
by
VERNON M. HERRON, D. Min.





Christmas is coming! The toy market is appealing to children. Children are persuading adults regarding their choice of Christmas wares and desired gifts. During my early childhood, I was fascinated in a state of expectation because Santa Claus was coming to town. The song text goes like this:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list
And checking it twice,
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Oh! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

The above folk song comes in the form of a Santa Claus Gospel. This Christian idol not only pollutes a sacred story but also corrupts theological and spiritual truths. It has the form of omniscience but its appearance is without substance.

Christmas is that time of year when the focus should be upon that One for whom the day was  named CHRIST-MASS- the Lord Jesus Christ. But every year that focus seems to shift more and more to  another –and that is to Santa Claus. It is not easy to speak out against Santa Claus, because to attack him is to attack the Christmas idol.

Santa Claus has taken on some of the characteristics of an idol. (Innocence)
God’s Word says:
            “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”
Certain powers are attributed to Santa Claus which belong to God alone,
            Example:  
                            Santa 
                               sees all they do      
                               hears all they say.
          
                               In essence he is
                                    Omniscient
                                    Omnipresent
These are powers that are God’s alone. God’s word says, “I am God and there is none like me.” Yet children are taught that Santa Claus has God-characteristics

The role of Satan in this scenario


Satan is not presented as fiction--. He is presented as fact—real—living—and having involvement in their lives. Children are taught to believe in Santa Claus.

Satan is the Father of Lies

             The Santa Claus gospel strives to make him seem alive and real and
            strives to make the Very Real Saviour seem dead and fictitious.

Satan gets help from parents by:
            Perpetuation of myth
            Hanging of stocking at chimney vs parents’ love
            Claiming that Santa knows child’s behavior
            Claiming that Santa hears and answers specific petitions
            Claim of his coming in person to their home.

Actually, these are mocking imitations of the Lord Jesus Christ—of Christ’s genuine Reality—of his real knowledge of each person’s behavior;  his actual answer to specific prayer petitions and his authentic coming in person, not simply to the home but to the heart of each believer.

Even Santa’s elves seem strangely parallel to scripture’s account of ministering angels. Note the similarity between the words “Santa” and “Satan”.

The “Santa Claus Gospel” indoctrinates children with the idea that if they are “good”, they will get presents from Santa Claus. This doctrine compounds the true Gospel of Grace. God’s presence does not depend on our being “good”. The Bible says “There is none that doeth good, no not one.” Romans 3:12

It does not depend on our goodness; we have none!  But it depends on the perfect goodness, the sinlessness of the Son of God which qualified Him to pay for our badness, our sinfulness. On the cross Christ suffered for that sin as our substitute, died and rose again. By believing and trusting in Him, they will get eternal life as His present---earned by him, not by their own efforts.

Salvation comes by Faith, not by being “good.” Yet the “Santa Claus Gospel” of works has gotten to children and has left them resistant to the truth, that entrance into heaven is not determined by behavior but by trust in Christ and His sacrifice.

Another serious effect of the Santa Claus myth is that it can deter children from coming to Christ in faith. Once they discover that Santa Claus is a liar, they can be hesitant to put their trust in anyone further in whom they’ve tried to believe but cannot see.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Blog 161: Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr.: A Candidate for President of NBC, USA, Inc.


By Vernon M. Herron


     Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr. the eminent pastor of the renowned Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC is a candidate for President  of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. The 134th  annual session of the convention will convene next September 1-5, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana at at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

     Dr. Julius Richard Scruggs, Senior Pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama since 1977 is the current President and has announced that he will not be running for reelection. The President’s term is 5 years.

     Candidate Jones has a vision for the convention; it is a Spiritual Pilgrimage. It is a calling from God because there was no intention of seeking this office. It is reported that God wrestled with him until he finally accepted the calling to seek this noble office.

     His campaign and his presidency will be one that is Progressive, Practical and Principled. He will expand on a foundation already established by former presidents. That expansion will “strategically address the concerns of many, i.e., young and established pastors, small and large churches, ministers’ wives and all women, youth and church leadership, with a plan which will unfold over the next 20 to 30 years.” An example of how this expansion could unfold is his passion. It centers around preparing young pastors to be leaders, establish a leadership institute that Pastors could be involved in for two to three years.

     It is also noted that Dr. Jones intends to set goals which will be addressed from the national level and down to the churches. He plans to challenge the Convention to deal with issues and concerns which are relevant in the lives of its Christian base and “true to the original constitution set forth when NBC was first established.” NBC—are you listening?


     The following is a supportive resolution of the Deacon Service Ministry, and is presented on behalf of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, a Charlotte mega congregation.



RESOLUTION

Let it be known that Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr. has served as the senior pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church since October of 1982;
Whereas, under the visionary leadership of Pastor Jones, the membership has grown to more than 8,000, therefore expanding mission and ministry of this Christian body;
Whereas, this work and facilities have grown to include: 110 additional acres of land and a new church complex; My Sister’s House, a facility for homeless women, operated by the Friendship Community Development Corporation; Central Children’s Home of North Carolina, Inc. for orphaned children located in Oxford; construction of 10 Habitat for Humanity homes at a cost of $500,000.00; mobilization for catastrophic relief efforts in Princeville, North Carolina from Hurricane Floyd, and in Pamplico County from Hurricane Irene, as well as disaster efforts in Mississippi and Alabama;
Whereas, global initiatives have expanded to include: Jamaica, Guyana, Zimbabwe, Haiti and South Africa through the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention; and Friendship’s International Children’s Outreach Ministry (ICOM) which has brought over 200 student ambassadors from South Africa to the United States since 1998.
Whereas, the Spirit of Christmas has provided for hundreds of homeless children each Christmas season, and the Community Table offering has fed thousands throughout the Charlotte region, as a result of monthly food donations at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.
Furthermore, Dr. Jones has served as President of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Inc., President of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance, and is currently serving as Chairman of the Governance Committee of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Now, this visionary servant of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church embarks on this calling from God and his spiritual pilgrimage, to become the President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Be it resolved that today, October 27, 2013, I, Carl M. Flamer, chair of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Deacon Service Ministry Council, on behalf of the entire membership of Friendship Missionary Church, offer our full-fledged support of Dr. Clifford A. Jones, our First Lady, Mrs. C. Brenda Jones and their entire family as he begins this monumental journey. To God be the Glory and may He offer you continued grace, peace and blessings.
Amen


Contact Information

C Jones NBC 2014
3301 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC 28216
Phone: 704-391-6603

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blog 160: Meet 2nd Lieutenant Fred L. Brewer, Jr.

 

By Leon S. Gill
Guest Writer


     Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African American had ever been a United States military pilot.  The Jim Crow laws, a series of racist laws that enforced the “separate but equal” treatment of African Americans, were used as justification for blocking previous attempts by African American soldiers to become pilots. 

     In spite of these blocking attempts, early in World War II the Army announced the formation of the first all-black Air Corps, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later named the 99th Fighter Squadron. By 1943, the 99th Fighter Squadron was sent to North Africa to attack the Italian Island of Pantelleria in preparation for the Allied Invasion of Sicily. The Tuskegee Airmen were successful in bringing the island to surrender.



     The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps to become America’s first black military airmen.  They accepted the challenge during a time when many people thought that black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. 


     They were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.  From 1941 through 1946 approximately 1,000 pilots graduated from Tuskegee Army Air Field, receiving commissions and pilot wings.  Three hundred and fifty-five of these pilots served overseas in the all-black 332nd Fighter group, which included the 99th Fighter Squadron, 100th Fighter Squadron, 301st Fighter Squadron, and 302nd Fighter Squadron.  During the 332nd Fighter Group distinguished wartime action in Europe, the Tuskegee Airmen were recognized for its outstanding work by earning awards such as Distinguished Unit Citations, Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, and Air Medals. 

     The Tuskegee Airmen came from every part of the country; each one possessed a strong personal desire to serve the United States of America.  There were about 15,000 Tuskegee Airmen in all, which included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, doctors, nurses, instructors, maintenance, and various administrative personnel.

     Fred L. Brewer, Jr. graduated in 1938 from Second Ward High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to the 2007 North Carolina General Assembly’s Joint Resolution, which honored the Tuskegee Airmen for their service in World War II, Brewer was the only Tuskegee Airmen pilot from Mecklenburg County. 

     Brewer matriculated to Shaw University, in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated in the class of 1942. While at Shaw University, he was listed in the 1941-42 edition of Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.  Brewer was editor of the Shaw Journal and Bear during his junior and senior years at Shaw.  He was a student representative at the National Intercollegiate Christian Council at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1941, and was a delegate to the National Conference of Negro Youth in 1942.

     After graduating from Shaw, Brewer enlisted in the US Army on November 1943. On March 12, 1944, he completed pilot training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, graduating in Class SE-44-C, as a 2nd Lieutenant and was awarded his pilot wings.  Brewer soon deployed to Italy with the 332nd Fighter Group’s 100th Fighter Squadron.  

     During a bomber escort mission over Germany on October 29, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Brewer’s P-51 Mustang airplane, which he had nicknamed “Traveling Light,” experienced engine trouble and stalled out, disappeared into the clouds, and was never seen again.  His remains were never recovered.  

     His name is included on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy.  2nd Lieutenant Brewer was awarded an Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart for his military service.  2nd Lieutenant Brewer was the son of Fred L. and Janis Brewer, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and was a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blog 159: Meet Leon S. Gill, Sr.



By Vernon M. Herron

     Leon Samuel Gill, Sr. is a native of Charlotte, NC and was born the same year I finished Second Ward High School, in 1947. He and his wife, Wol, now reside in Madison, Alabama with their two sons, Leon, Jr. and Sean.

    
     In the year 1966, Leon  was drafted into the U.S. States Army, and served honorably for the next 21½ years, retiring as a Sergeant First Class in 1988.  Following his military service he continued to serve his country for another 19 years with the U.S. States Government Accountability Office (GAO), as a GS-14, Senior Analyst. 

     Mr. Gill’s military assignments include a combat tour in the Republic of Vietnam from 1967-1968, where he served as a combat infantryman with the First Cavalry Division.  Other overseas assignments include tours of duty in Saudi Arabia and Korea.  In addition to his combat tour, Mr. Gill served as an Army Drill Sergeant, Army Recruiter, Career Counselor, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Advisor, Army Training Course Manager and Instructor, Army Commissary Officer, and Operations, Plans, Training, and Security Noncommissioned Officer.

     Mr. Gill received numerous awards and decorations during his many years of service to his country.  Among his military honors are the Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, seven Good Conduct Awards, the Air Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Device, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

     Mr. Gill’s civilian awards include the Comptroller General’s Meritorious Service Award, the Comptroller General’s Equal Opportunity Award, the Managing Director’s Meritorious Service Award, the Managing Director’s Distinguished Service Medal and numerous letters and certificates of commendation.

     He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with honors from St. Leo University, in St. Leo, Florida and his Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama. 

     Mr. Gill’s community and other organizational involvements include past membership on the Bob Jones High School Board of Trustees, Executive Committee Member of the Huntsville Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG), Life Member of BIG, Life Member of the NAACP, and a Life Member of the Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation.

     Leon will continue the blogging work of Vernon M. Herron once the goal of publishing the 200th blog is reached. He will have his own format. Vernon will guest write as inspiration leads. For those who have followed my writing on this blog, thanks for your interest. You may continue to “follow” it or not at your option.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blog 158: The Comprehensive Genealogical Services in Action

 
By Vernon M. Herron
Photography by William Youngblood
Proofread by Barbara Hendricks
Edited by Joseph Burton

The Board of Directors of The Comprehensive Genealogical Services honored Vernon M. Herron with a reception on Sunday November 3, 2013 for his service as its founder and first CEO at the Beatties Ford Road Library in Charlotte, NC. The community room was filled to capacity; a delicious meal was served; cards, gifts, signed autograph were received; plaques and memorabilia were given; and many pictures were taken with the honoree. Commending remarks were given by Norman Mitchell and Linda Butler, the first two board chair persons.



Ralph Neely, a former board secretary also gave remarks which follows.
                                                                                     

Thank you, Ms. Beatrice Cox, for inviting me to share in the celebration honoring my friend, Dr. Vernon Herron, as Emeritus Director of the Comprehensive Genealogical Services.

I met Dr. Herron during his search for his ancestors. That search brought him to Steele Creek Community, Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, and to Steele Creek Genealogical and Historical Society. We became friends. In fact, he is loved by many in the community.

The Isaac W. Herron Family lived just across the road from the old Steele Creek Church and were members of that church.  Dr. Herron examined many documents that were available in the church’s vault. He went through the cemetery to see Herron gravesites. Dr. Herron visited the church on several Sunday mornings. I was happy that he sat with my family in our regular seats near the back.

Dr. Vernon Herron was the first African American guest minister to fill the pulpit of the 250-year-old Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. That was an historical event. The pews were full! His daughter sat side by side with the enslaved master’s descendants. The press was there and pictures from the event appeared on the front page of The Charlotte Observer the next day. The pictures showed Dr. Herron in the pulpit. There were pictures of the family members in the pews. There was even a picture of me!



Dr. Herron would later use the press on many occasions to promote the Comprehensive Genealogical Services and the genealogical cause. It was a great day for our church. Since that day, several African American pastors have preached at Steele Creek.

Knowing how I like to ride around in my old truck (Ole Blue), Dr. Herron enlisted me to show him the historical sites in Steele Creek community. Here we go, this distinguished gentleman and farm boy Neely in this raggedy truck over hill and dale. We visited churches (McClintock 1865, O’Zion, Mount Olive and Ramoth 1800). We also visited old cemeteries, old schools and old family home places. One time I showed him the creek “Steele Creek” near its source. At this location it was about a foot wide and had just a trickle of water running through it. Dr. Herron looked down at it, and then said, “that’s it?” We laughed and laughed!


After Dr. Herron finished his family history, he wanted to share his genealogical skills and knowledge with others. Comprehensive Genealogical Services was born in Mecklenburg County. I was lucky to serve on the board of this prestigious organization in the early years. I was the biggest board member, the baldest, and the palest! (It was not so much different from today in this room. I am still the biggest, the palest, but after looking at some of these heads, maybe not the baldest!) CGS is a very well run organization, and I learned a great many business skills by being a part of it.

Under Dr. Herron’s guidance, CGS members and associates discovered and saved from destruction, many enslaved person’s gravesites (about one half of known enslaved in the area). This was a huge accomplishment. Many people were involved in this effort.

In my opinion, the greatest accomplishment of Dr. Herron and CGS is teaching others how to find their roots, their ancestry. I know one African American woman who has been able to trace her family all the way back to Africa!  I expect there are many in this room who have done the same thing. I hope that I can do this with my family tree someday.

On a personal note, I received a letter from Dr. Herron which warmed my heart! His pastor at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church suggested to the congregation that they should send a commending letter to three friends. Dr. Herron honored me by sending one of his friendship letters to me. I was greatly appreciative of the sentiments which he conveyed.

Dr. Herron is a great man and a great friend to all. We love you!

I love you, Dr. Herron

With sincere and utmost respect

Ralph Neely



After audience participation, Dr. Herron gave the following remarks:

To the Board of Directors of the Comprehensive Genealogical Services, to my many friends and relatives, I greet you on this auspicious occasion, a reception of appreciation, for the many years of service as its first CEO. Thank you for this experience.

Twenty years ago, in 1993, the Comprehensive Genealogical Services, (CGS) was organized in King of Prussia, PA and sponsored with the support of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Philadelphia, PA. and the Institute for Non Traditional Ministries of Washington, D.C.,  Sixteen (16) years ago, in 1997, here at this library, CGS was organized and incorporated in 1999. So you see, this is a homecoming for an organization which has come full circle and has meant much to black families in the pursuit of corrective history.

The purpose, mission, and program emphasis of this unique organization can be found in its name, discussed in reverse order: Services, Genealogy, and Comprehensive.

CGS is an organization of services including information, collaboration, inspiration and affirmation. The nature of its work is genealogical, i.e., it deals with the scientific study of family life. It recognizes that accurate and historical facts are necessary due to an enslaved heritage, lost and unrecorded records and a period of family disruption.

The scope of its work is comprehensive, assisting individuals, families and other non-profit organizations in research and development including:
            Enslaved genealogy
            Pedigree development
            Family history
            Family reunions
            Family organization
            Family communiqu├ęs

This reception has been eulogistic and gratifying. It does not matter now, that I’ll hear your kind words, like I’ve heard today, to be given at my funeral. But it does matter, to hear my Lord and Savior say at that time, “well done.”

The history of CGS is defined; the present status of CGS is unique; the future of CGS is uncharted. The rest is in your hands. Where do we go?









For more photos from the event, please visit:
(Courtesy William Youngblood)