Our history began with those “saints of old” who, through the years, have passed the trail-blazing torch to us. Because of their journey, today we stand on their shoulders with hands uplifted giving glory, honor, and praise to God.
Formation of the Church in the Latter Half of the 19th Century:
In the late 1800s, a group of Christian families from Aberdeen, Mississippi, settled in Huntsville, Alabama. Within this group were the Herndon, Turner, and Furlow families. Shortly after settling here, they began searching for a Baptist church to unite and begin worshiping. Much to their dismay, they found no Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville. With this discovery, their strong faith in God and the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit led them to secure an old house on West Clinton Street. This house was the first location of the First Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend Robert Green in 1880. It is worth noting that some of the descendants of these first families still live in Huntsville and carry on their family's legacy within First Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC).
In 1881, shortly after the formation of the Church, Reverend Pope Jones became the Pastor. During his pastorate, services were held in the United States Court Building each Sunday at three and seven o’clock P.M. Reverend Jones later started a building program. With assistance from the Muscle Shoals Missionary Baptist Association, the Church purchased a lot on Steele Street to construct a new facility. Construction of the new church began in 1886. The church would be erected under the leadership of Reverend Jones and Reverend M.J. Hooks.
Between 1888 and 1949, First Missionary Baptist Church emerged as a “stronghold” in the community. During these formative years, a plethora of ministers would play significant roles in guiding and shaping its future. The Reverends A. Trampe, A. Jones, J. Hampton, S. Robinson, J. Miller, J. Mastin, C. Perry, J. Butler, A. James, W. Walton, W. House, O. Tucker, Matthews, and E. Drew were among those demonstrating their ability to be strong shepherds for God’s people. Many accomplishments were achieved under their spiritual leadership.
The Church at Mid-20th Century
Through the early 1900s, the Church underwent several adjustment periods as it grew and matured. However, the previous pattern of “brief pastoral stints” would come to an end in 1949. God sent the Church a strong anchor and blessing in the young, gifted, and well-prepared preacher, Reverend Horace P. Snodgrass. Reverend Dr. Snodgrass held the Bachelor of Theology and Doctor of Divinity degrees from the American Baptist Theological Seminary and Selma University. He came to the Church with a “vision” and a “program”. His twenty-four-year tenure would enable the Church to experience a period of true stability.
On July 29, 1973, after serving First Baptist Church for nearly a quarter century, sadly and shockingly, while officiating at a funeral in his beloved pulpit, Reverend Dr . Snodgrass was called from labor to his final reward. After a period of mourning, the Church called its pastor, Reverend Emuel E. Cleaver, who had been serving as Assistant Pastor. During his pastorate, renewed emphasis was placed on the financial responsibility of individual members. The membership responded positively. Because of the positive response, the Church was able to liquidate its indebtedness and begin planning for a new, modern church facility. Reverend Cleaver remained as Pastor until the last quarter of 1975.
Again, the Church was faced with deciding on its leadership. After a long and prayerful search, “the call” was extended to the Reverend Dr. Julius R. Scruggs. Reverend Dr. Scruggs accepted but could not begin his pastorate until January 1977. During this interim period, Reverend Wayne P. Snodgrass (the youngest son of Reverend Dr. Horace P. Snodgrass) served as pastor. A new parsonage was bought and paid for under his leadership. A growing spirituality seemed to permeate the Church and encompass this period as First Missionary Baptist looked forward to the arrival of its new pastor.
The Church in the Last Quarter of the 20th Century
As scheduled, Reverend Dr. Scruggs came to First Baptist in January 1977. He possessed superb academic credentials, holding a B.A. degree from American Baptist College and a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. His seventeen years of pastoral experience greatly enhanced his academic credentials before coming to First Baptist. During Pastor Scruggs’ forty-two years of pastoral leadership, he molded and shaped the church's thrust of Christian Education, outreach ministry, stewardship, physical growth, and spiritual maturity. His conviction to promote a stronger, teaching church resulted in the addition of several classes being added to the Sunday School Department. Likewise, Bible classes for all ages were taught each Wednesday night. As a result of Bible Study, Sunday School, and biblically-based preaching, a consciousness of reaching people for Christ escalated. Pastor Scruggs understood the importance and impact of Christian Education in the early years of a person’s life. With this understanding as the basis, a licensed Child Development Center (FMBC CDC) for children 2 ½ years of age through kindergarten was instituted in 1982. In 1992, the CDC expanded to include an academy (FMBC CDCA) serving children from the first through the fifth grade. The name was later changed to the Julius R. Scruggs Child Development Center and Academy(JRS CDCA ). Under the direction of competent Christian Directors, teachers, staff, and other personnel, the scholars develop spiritually, academically, socially, and morally. At JRS CDCA, academic achievements continue to be recognized and celebrated daily.
The Church in the 21st Century
In 2019, after 42 years of distinguished leadership and ministry, Pastor Scruggs retired as spiritual leader of the congregation. Upon his retirement, the church congregation honored him with the distinguished title of Pastor Emeritus.
Once again, the Church sought new leadership to carry them into the future. The Reverend Dr. Don Darius Butler was called. Reverend Dr. Butler is a native of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. His academic preparation is extensive and exceptional. Reverend Dr. Butler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible and Theology from American Baptist College, a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and a Doctor of Ministry from Duke University Divinity School. As a pastor, Reverend Dr. Butler is passionate about missions and outreach, community engagement, and social justice.
In 2020, a new virus, COVID-19, brought normal activities to an abrupt halt! The rapid spread of this virus around the world created a Pandemic. Schools, places of business and entertainment, and even churches were forced to close their doors. People were advised to “shelter in place.” Pastor Butler and the ministerial team increased the social media presence to ensure the Word of God was taught and preached throughout the Pandemic. When churches were allowed to reopen with minimal attendance, Sunday Church Service and Bible Study continued for those unable to attend in person via FACEBOOK, BoxCast, and YOUTUBE.
During his tenure, Pastor Butler led the congregation to add a Lenten mission project, SO SEND I YOU, Inc. With the addition of this project, the FMBC family has grown in their commitment to missions, giving over $67,000 to SO SEND I YOU, Inc. in the first year. This project serves to help in easing the pain and suffering of needy people around the world.
Pastor Butler’s leadership has challenged the congregation to “think outside of the box.” This type of thinking makes room for ideas that include every disciple member. Changes to our Sunday worship service in the form of “Youth and Pastor Teaching Together,” “Layperson Sunday,” and “Sunday Service on the Lawn” are a few examples of such “inclusion.” As a part of his commitment to community engagement, the Church is extending a helping hand to its neighbors in the surrounding community.
Pastor Butler continues to provide spiritual leadership in all areas of the First Missionary Baptist Church by “Loving God and Loving His People”.