First Baptist Church in Laurinburg was founded in 1878 with five members, ten others later joined this group. Their letter failed to arrive in time to join the first five members officially. The Rev. William T. Jordan presided as the first pastor and conducted early morning services in Laurinburg’s Masonic Hall, and on a part-time basis. He also pastored Rockingham’s Baptist Church.
The first Church building was erected in 1879 at the intersection of Cronly and Everett streets. The building’s steeple stood 88 feet high and the dimensions of the building were 40×70. The cost to build this first building was $2,300.
Several pastors served on a part-time basis until 1908 when the church, with a membership of 69 people and an annual budget of $666, called Rev. J. W. Williams as its first full-time pastor.
With an active Sunday School flourishing and a Women’s Missionary Union, founded in 1895, First Baptist began a period of growth and Christian service that continued until the Great Depression of 1930. During the six years of Rev. Williams’ pastorate, membership jumped to 157 and the church promoted the opening of the first Mission Church in 1912 called: East Laurinburg Baptist Church.
George W. Goodwyn, a charter member, was a leading layman at FBC for many years. His service did not end until his death in 1933. Mrs. Make McKay and Mrs. Goodwyn were early leaders as well. Mrs. McKay was instrumental in establishment of the WMU. Among other lay leaders were: D.J. Rivenbark, J.A. Folstead and William G. Quakenbush.
Perhaps the church’s most dynamic lay leader was W.H. Weatherspoon, who opened a law office here in 1907. His leadership contributed greatly well, into the l920’s when he led the campaign to raise $42,000 for construction of a new church on East Church Street. Other pastors who served the church well up until its move to East Church Street included James Long, Charles Berry Austin and Earle V. Babb.
As did other institutions and businesses, First Baptist Church struggled during the depression years. Members sacrificed and worked long hours to pay off the $20,000 debt on the new church.
Members who not only led, but were there when needed were: W. E. Matthews, Claude Stewart, Myra Jordan, Mrs. W. C. Barrett D.J. Sinclair, Mrs. Henry Mcl.aurin, Mrs. E.D. Creech and J.W. Hollis. Mr. Hollis served continuously and devotedly for nearly 70 years.
Aubrey Tomlinson was one of the youngest pastors in FBC’s history to accept the call to serve First Baptist during the middle of the depression. He helped bring the church into better times only to resign soon after the beginning of World War II. He joined the army and served as a chaplain until the end of hostilities. James B. Turner, who succeeded him proved to be the right pastor at the right time. A devoted pastor equipped with overwhelming charm and personality, he soon became acquainted with “most everybody in Laurinburg”.
During 1953 E. Norfleet Gardner became pastor and it was under his leadership that First Baptist experienced new vigor and growth. He also led in the establishment of Stewartsville, North Laurinburg and Laurel Hill Baptist Churches.
Mildred Jennings (later Mrs. Donald Jordan) came to Laurinburg in 1946 to serve as educational director.
During the l960’s, a three-manual pipe organ was given to the church, and a new three-story educational wing was added. It was during this time that Richard E. Price became pastor. He guided the church through a period when civil rights and integration of the races into public institutions was tearing some communities apart and at best, straining others.
T. Robert Mullinax succeeded Rev. Price in 1969. Although his stay was brief, he is remembered for his excellent sermons and church leadership. Both Rev. Mullinax and Rev. James L. Powell, who succeeded Mullinax, accepted positions with the Baptist State Convention.
Lamar J. Brooks became pastor in 1973 and served for nearly a decade. His pastorate was highlighted by his scholarly sermons and strong leadership. He advocated and encouraged the beginning of the television ministry which continues today. Kemp Stewart and James Graham spearheaded the campaign to raise the necessary funds and get this program started. It was during Dr. Brooks’ ministry that Nancy (Mrs. Eugene) Smith became the minister of education and Helen Adams was elected the first woman deacon of First Baptist Church.
Dr. Mack Thompson became pastor in 1983. During his ministry the church established a daycare center and named it the WEE (Weekday Early Education) Care Center. Jean Millard served as the first director of Wee Care and Mrs. Katherine Gibson, the first teacher. For many years these two members led this center, which cared for hundreds of infants and small children.
Jean Hollifield (later Baucom) was called as minister of education during Dr. Thompson’s pastorate. She later became the first woman to be ordained into the ministry of First Baptist Church.
Lawrence (Larry) Coleman succeeded Dr. Thompson in 1990 as pastor and served the church for eleven years. In l993 a major renovation project of the sanctuary was completed and outreach ministries expanded during his term of leadership.
The years following Rev. Coleman’s ministry were turbulent years for FBC. Nearly one hundred members, the interim pastor, and two staff members left FBC to found Sandhills Community Church in Laurel Hill, NC. In June of 2002 Dr. Luther (Drag) Kimrey accepted the church’s call and commenced a ministry that has injected new life into the church family.
A brief history of FBC would not be complete without some mention of how FBC began in the nineties to move away from the Southern Baptist Convention and take a more active role in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Today, FBC fully supports CBF and CBF of North Carolina. On August 17, 2003, FBC made another landmark decision by voting to accept Christians of other denominations into full membership without the requirement of baptism by immersion.
Reverend C.F. McDowell, III was called as Senior Pastor, following Dr. Kimrey. First Baptist sponsored and built a Habitat for Humanity house in Laurinburg during his tenure. May 18, 2013 marked the beginning of Dr. Wayne D. Wike’s ministry as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist.
What will the future hold for FBC? Only time will tell. In the meantime, the church will continue to move forward with strong determination for:
“Serving God … Serving Others.”
With appreciation to John Henry Moore,
(w/assistance from Drag Kimrey, Heather Clark. Sylvia Stewart, & Helen Adams)