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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: William Henry Bryant
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
January 12, 1985
J: Bishop Bryant is a presiding bishop of the Churches of the Kingdom of God.
The headquarters are located in Eustis, Florida. Bishop Bryant has been
in the ministry since 1937. Good morning, Bishop Bryant.
W: Good morning.
J: How are you this morning?
W: Fine, thank you. And you?
J: Fine, thank you. Bishop, will you please tell me where you were born and
something about your family?
W: I was born in Brookfield, Tift County, Georgia. My parents were Abraham
Lincoln Bryant and Lettie Bryant.
J: Where were they from?
W: Well, my mother was from Newton, Georgia and my father came from Newport,
J: Did he ever share with you how he got from Carolina to Georgia?
W: Yes, he did. He was in turpentine farming, and he came from North
Carolina to Georgia and engaged in turpentine work.
J: Now, how did he get from there? What transportation did he use to get
from Carolina to Georgia?
W: I do not recall that part of his traveling life.
J: Do you know anything else about your parents' background?
W: Well, my mother's parents were farmers, and so were my father's.
J: What type of farming did they do?
W: Well, I think my father said that in North Carolina they raised wheat,
corn, peas, sweet potatoes, etc.
J: Were your parents from large families?
W: Yes, my father was, but my mother had a small family. She only had two
brothers. My father had several brothers and several sisters, but
unfortunately I never was able to meet any of my father's relatives. I
did meet one of my mother's brothers.
J: Being born in Georgia to Abraham and your mother's name was what?
J: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
W: My mother is the mother of twelve sons and four daughters.
J: What number were you?
J: Bishop, share with me some things about your life as a child.
W: Well, the first thing I can remember about my life as a child that really
sticks until now, is that my father, being a farmer, planted some hog's
feed they call chufas. I do not hear of that type of grain today, but
that was a special hog feed and when he would harvest those chufas, he
would take some out for seed for the next year, so those that he would
take out for seed, he would wash them and place them under the bed on a
sheet of something to dry out. So one day, I went under the bed and I got
a handful of those chufas and I started outside to eat them. My mother
was sitting on one side of the door and he was sitting on the other, so as
I attempted to pass them, he asked me, "What is that you have in your
hand?" I said, "Nothing." He said, "Open your hand." I opened my hand
and there the chufas were. He said, "Go with that to your mother." My
mother asked me, "What is that in your hand?" I said, "Nothing." So he
rose and he took the chufas and he took me back in his room and he lifted
me between the heaven and the earth and he put a good lashing on me with a
strap. And on that day I learned what a lie was. I did not know I had
told a lie, but from that day forward, I knew I did not tell the truth.
That was my first rememberance that I can recall from my childhood of
really knowing right from wrong, and from that day until now, I study
before I give and answer, whether it is the truth or not.
J: So that experience has had a lasting impact on your life?
W: It certainly has.
J: Being one of twelve sons, being on a farm, and your father being a
sharecropper, did you all share in that responsibility?
W: Oh, yes we did. One hundred per cent.
J: How do you mean that?
W: Well, my father would send one or two of the boys to the stable to catch
the mules and hook them up to the wagon and put on the plow too. We took
off for the field. And at the end of the year we did what you call
breaking land. We did not have tractors like they have today. So we had
what you call a two-horse plow and a one-horse plow, and maybe while one
was plowing, maybe the other boys who were old enough to work would be
going ahead of the plowing burning the grass off of the surface in order
that the plow could turn well without problems. We shared in that part,
and when it came time to run rows, maybe three or four feet apart,
depending on what they were going to plant we would share in that. Maybe
my father would run the rows, or maybe two or three of us boys would set
the stakes. We had three stakes, one at each end and one in the middle.
And he would set the stakes as perfectly in line as possible so maybe one
of us would be at one end of the row and the other one in the middle to
move the stakes for the wheel to go by that they might see the next stake
to go to. So that was the way we ran straight rows in those days.
J: I see, with stakes.
W: Following that we opened up the rows. We did not have seed planters, corn
planters and cotton planters in those days. Matter of fact, we just could
not afford it because of financial problems, so we would have three boys
again, maybe one at each end and one in the middle, who would supply the
seed for the person who would be dropping the seed. So we would drop the
seed from end to end. When I would give it out to the middle, that
brother would get the seed and take it to the end. When you get to the
end, start there, that brother would give you seed to take you back. We
did that with cotton and corn. After the seed was covered and the plants
came up the field lark were very bad about pulling up the corn.
J: The what?
W: The field lark. That is a bird. So we boys would have to go in the field
sometimes and shoo the birds away until the corn reached a certain height,
and after that period, we had a little short relaxation period for the
smaller boys. The larger boys would help my father cultivate the corn,
cotton, and peanuts. That is, they plowed on either side of it to sow the
grass. With the cotton, we had a method called chopping the cotton, where
we would use a hoe, because planting the cotton, we did not chop that, we
sowed that. So after it reached a certain height, we had to go in there
with hoes and space those stands maybe eighteen inches apart. We would
cut the surplus cotton between those stands to trim it down to a good
stand. And after the cotton started putting on what we called squares,
the boll weevils came, and we had to go in the field and pick up every
square that a boll weevil punched, because when the boll weevil would
punch that square, it would die.
J: Now when you say the boll weevil, are you talking about an insect?
J: And he would eat on the plant?
W: Yes. The boll weevil would puncture that square and leave an egg in it
and that egg would hatch and of course, that would cause the boll weevils
to multiply. So we would go in the field and pick up all those dead
squares because we knew that the boll weevil had punched them. Then we
would bring them into the house and burn them. That was the purpose of
destroying the boll weevils.
J: All this work that you were doing, about how old were you?
W: Well, my first memory of working in the field, I was about five years of
age. And it was cotton picking season. My father made me what he called
a cotton sacker. The adults and the teenagers, they used to use what we
called a burlap bag to put their cotton in, but I was too small to carry
one of those, so my father made me a cotton sack from a flour bag. I
would go out there with the children and I would pick my little flour bag
full and I would got ot the pile just like they were doing, dump it out,
go back, and pick more cotton.
J: Now, your sisters, did they work in the fields, too?
W: Yes. My oldest sister did. My mother only had four daughters, and two
passed away and two lived. So we only had one sister for quite a while.
J: And she worked in the field also?
W: Oh, yes. We all picked cotton.
J: Children are usually playful and they forget the task. Being a young boy
out in the field, were you ever punished for not doing what you should be
W: We never were punished because my father was positive and when he said do
a thing, he meant that, and we knew if we did not do it, we were in
trouble. So we always avoided trouble by doing what we were told to do.
J: Of all the work that you did in the field with your father and your
brothers, were you paid for doing that work?
W: No. I was not paid and neither were they because it was the
responsibility of the person who was in the work that my father was in.
As a sharecropper he was supposed to furnish all the labor and harvest it,
so the family working together constituted that responsibility.
J: Now I know many times parents do not share details of their business with
their children. Were you aware of how your father was paid, or what he
was paid for his efforts?
W: No more than what he would tell us had happened between him and the
J: How was he paid for doing all this work on the farm?
W: Well, as an example, he raised cotton. There was one other possible
commercial crop, watermelons. Now those two particular crops, we sold the
cotton and sold the watermelons. And the landlord would do the selling
and collecting and he had to tell my father whatever a bale of cotton came
to. If it was seventy-five dollars he would tell him seventy-five
dollars. A carload of watermelons came to, a couple hundred dollars and
he would tell him, and that is the way my father got the information on
the price of the crop. If my father owed the landlord, he would take out
what he owed him. If there was anything left, that is what he had to
share with the family. Sometimes there was nothing left. And because of
that situation, we moved to another farm. So then he would go around,
sometimes he would spend maybe three or four weeks just going from farm to
farm looking for a suitable place to take the family. And whatever
landlord offered him the best deal, that is where he would move the
family. And then we woud try it there and see how things worked and if
things worked out nicely, we would stay there at least two years. I have
never known him to stay on a farm more than two years.
J: Now, was he moving because the conditions were not good or because he was
not being treated fairly?
W: Well, I would rather say because he was not treated fairly. So many times
he was accused of owing more than he actually owed and that was almost
J: I can imagine.
W: Yes, because sometimes he would work twelve months on a farm and at
Christmas time he would not have enough money coming from the farm to buy
the children anything except maybe a few little fruits.
J: How did you all celebrate Christmas back when you were a child?
W: Christmas was kind of a day with us because we did not get fruits and
candies like children get today. For example, we might get candy maybe
three or four times a year, but children today get candy everyday.
W: So it made things more appreciated back then than now, and Christmas was a
time when they would just cook up pies and cakes and baked hams and things
of that sort, so it was a great day for us kids. So much until we
regretted to see night come on Christmas day because we knew that it would
be another twelve months before we would have another feast like that.
So it was actually a haven of rest to speak, sit down, eat and enjoy. But
now, we can eat most anything we want daily.
J: That is true.
W: Also Christmas does not mean as much to us now as it did back then because
there is not anything that we can buy to eat on Christmas that we do not
get now through the year.
J: Why is it that you all were not able to get certain things during the
year? Was it that it was not available or you could not afford it?
W: Well, it was available but since my father did not receive enough out of
the farm to have extra money, we just could not afford it.
J: Now while you all were working on the farm, did your mother help in this
W: Yes. Once in a while when she felt like it, she would go out and lend a
hand, but mostly she stayed around and did the housework. Having a large
family like that, she stayed around and did the cooking and taking care of
J: Back when Henry was a child in school, were you allowed to go to school,
or was there even a school for you to go to?
W: Yes. We lived in the rural areas most of the time.
J: Can you give me some of the names of some of the places?
W: Well, my first recollection where I told you about I learned a lie from
the truth, that place was Eldorado, Georgia. And that is in Tift County,
not too far from Tifton, Georgia. I think we lived there two years. Then
we moved to another place called Four Hundred and Ten I believe.
J: Four Hundred and Ten?
W: Four Ten. A lot of these country places have little odd names like that,
and we moved to that place and he did the same type of farming. My father
was there, until after the harvest time was over. Many times my father
would engage in digging stumps off of people's farm land and they gave
him ten cents per stump.
J: Now when you say a stump, are you talking about the stump of a tree?
J: And he was paid ten cents after he dug it up.
W: Correct. He had to get it out of the ground, and he had to cover up the
hole. And many times we would dig stumps all day and set them on fire and
before we would retire for the evening, he would go around and see how the
fire was doing around all the stumps and see if some of them needed wood
around them to keep them burning. Hopefully they were burnt out by
morning to where you could cover the holes up. So we boys would go around
and push up the stumps, add more wood to the fire to burn them out, and we
kind of got a kick out of that because many times we would steal a few
sweet potatoes, carry them out and put them in the ashes. We would be the
one to go around the next morning and check on things. Our sweet potatoes
would be done. So that was kind of a joyful experience. So after the
stump was burned out, we would cover up the holes. Then that would merit
ten cents. If it was not burned out, we would keep adding fire to it
until it burned out. So it was really rough back then. I think my dad
worked for around seventy-five cents a day.
J: Approximately how many stumps could you all dig out or burn out in a day
W: Well, having a group of boys like he had, it depends on how rooty the
stump was. If there was quite a number of roots, it created more of a
problem. But if there were not many roots, we could take care of maybe
twenty-five or thirty.
J: In a day?
W: Depending on the size.
J: I guess that is one of the reasons why you had so many large families
because if you had a larger family, people could get more done on a field
because I cannot imagine a man with one child trying to plant and harvest
a cotton field. He could not do it.
W: No, most of the time in those days they would have to hire exchange labor.
For example, if you were a farmer and I am a farmer, I would take my crew
and help you pick your cotton and you would take your crew and help me
J: Oh, and did they do those kind of things?
W: Oh, yes. And we did quite a bit of bartering. Exchange food. Give you
some ham for some syrup, some potatoes for some peas, and things of that
sort. Living out in the rural area, we were too far from town to run to
town to pick up things like they do now. So the farmers, they really
J: Where did you go to school? Or did you go to school?
W: Yes, I went to school. My first experience with school was at a place
called Eagle Edge, Georgia. That was about eight miles from Tifton,
J: North or south?
W: I am a little tangled up on what direction it was, but it was not too far.
So my first day in school I loved it. As a matter of fact, I always
craved an education. Something I never did get in my opinion. But I
loved school from the first day I attended school until now. I even love
school yet I do not have time to go into the classroom like other people
do in the type of work they do. But I still love education. So I
attended that school. It was in a country church, one room, one heater in
there, and one teacher. In those days, a person with a high school
education could teach in a country school up to the eighth grade. So this
teacher had every class level to deal with.
J: In that one room?
W: In one room. So she might call for primary level, beginning to read, used
what they called a primer. She called for that class, or grade one, grade
two, grade three, grade four, grade five, grade six, grade seven, grade
eight, as high as it went. There were certain periods of time for each
one of those classes to respond.
J: Now while one class was responding, what did the other people do?
W: Well, the other classes were ordered to study their lessons. Because if
we had recited, she would give us another lesson and we were supposed to
study that lesson for the next day.
J: Do you remember if there was a lot of disobedient or mischievous going-ons
in the class?
W: Not too much because the instructors in those days, brother, they would
get your hide. They did not play with you, and we feared them. Plus if
they would report our behavior to our parents, that meant another
punishment. It was not like it is today in the classroom, the instructor
ruled, the children did not rule them. So much so until our instructor
would tell us Friday evening, "When you come back here Monday morning, I
do not want to hear one thing bad about you. If I do, I am going to get
every one of you." Of course, we thought that was a little rude. I
thought when we left the classroom Friday evening, she was supposed to be
free of our behavior, but no. If she heard that any of the students had
done something over the weekend that was immoral or bad she worked on the
whole class and I believe that is the reason we had much better conduct,
and moral principles than we have in this age.
J: Being in school, did the landowner provide the school for you all because
now father was a sharecropper or, who provided the school?
W: Well, the church, which was used as a school, was the community church
that was built by the landlord because he had quite a number of the
sharecroppers who had large families, and of course, it was large enough
to accommodate the community for schools.
J: So actually, the landlord owned the building that the church was in, and
the school was there. Now did he provide the salary for the teacher?
W: No. The parents had to pay the teachers in those days. That was their
J: Did you have very far to go from where you were living to school?
W: Oh, about half a block at the first school I attended.
J: Now, what made the children go to school? Did you have a choice to go or
not to go, or was it required?
W: No, it was not required in those days. It was left solely up to the
parents, and quite a number of children came up without any formal
education because the parents were not interested in them learning. Some
of the parents did not have any education themselves and they just were
not concerned about their children having any.
J: Or you could not afford to go to school if they needed you in the fields.
It was more to their advantage to have you in the fields than to have you
in the classroom. Or did you just have school when you were not
W: Well, yes. That was the way of it. We had school when we were not
harvesting. And to the best of my memory, school started after
harvesting. We had about six months of school, something like that. We
never did have nine months like they have now because the children were
pulled out of school to do the field work.
J: As a child, were you a part of the church with your parents?
W: Yes, in the Sunday school department. We went to Sunday School every
Sunday. That is when we lived close enough to a church, because there
were times moving from one farm to another that we were so far from church
that we were not able to get to church every Sunday. And sometimes the
landlord would kick against the people using the stock to ride to church.
He felt like the animals should rest over the weekend to be prepared to do
J: Let me stop you here. The stock is considered the horse and the mule?
J: And he would not permit you all to use it to go to church?
W: Not at all times, because there were times when the mules needed to rest.
So whenever that would happen we were just stranded. Our transportation
was a wagon or buggy joined by a mule or a horse. Aside from that, we had
to foot it.
J: Did the people that were on the farm, the sharecroppers, live close to
W: Sometimes we did. Sometimes our next-door neighbor may be a couple of
hundred feet and sometimes they might be a mile or more.
J: As a youngster, did you ever have any contact with the landlord?
W: No more than speaking to him, answering the questions he might ask, which
were very favorable, usually not anything that related to trouble.
J: Could you give me, if you recall, the names of your brothers and sisters
in the order that they were born?
W: Samuel Randall Bryant, Abraham Lincoln Bryant, Jr., Charlie Bryant, David
Bryant, Henry Bryant, Joseph Bryant, London Bryant, Arthur Bryant, Grant
Bryant, and James Bryant.
J: Sister's names?
W: Sarah Bryant and Mary Bryant.
J: Are there any brothers and sisters living today?
W: Yes. I still have two sisters and four brothers living.
J: Those living are?
W: Henry Bryant, Arthur Bryant, James Bryant, and Grant Bryant.
J: Are those younger?
W: Yes, they are all younger than I am.
J: Can you share with me when you were born?
W: Oh, yes. I was born December 24, 1909.
J: December 24. Happy Birthday.
W: Thank you.
J: Do you have much communication with Arthur, Grant, and James Bryant?
W: Not too much.
J: Are they in Florida?
W: Arthur is in Pompano Beach, Florida. Grant is in Long Island, New York,
and James is in some part of New Jersey.
J: We have shared so much about your life as a child and growing up. I want
to get to your middle age or teenage years. What about that period in
your life left an impact on your life? What sticks out in your mind about
your childhood with your mother and father and brothers and sisters?
W: Well, the most outstanding fact that sticks in my mind was that first
incident that I told you I experienced about telling the truth. That
stays with me to be truthful and honest in all things, and that has come
to be my life. I do not like to tell a lie. Whatever I say, I want to be
J: I am very impressed with the role that you and your brothers played with
your father as a sharecropper. I find that very interesting, but I do not
perceive how he was able to organize you all in such a way that you would
get out and be able to produce the way that you have. Did you all have
W: Well, my father would have Bible readings and singing and praying among
the family. I might also add that we worked for other farmers too. We
did not try to survive on just what we had undertaken to do because it was
just not sufficient. We would go out and pick cotton for other farmers.
We would pick velvet beans for other farmers and shake peanuts for other
J: When you say shake peanuts, what do you mean by that?
W: Well, in those days a man would go out into the field and he would plow up
the peanuts and we boys would come behind him to pick those peanuts up and
shake the dirt off of them. And turn them over so the sun could hit the
roots. Behind that some others would come and they would stack the
peanuts. They would put a pole into the ground, put a cross near the
bottom, maybe about eighteen inches from the surface of the earth and
stack those peanuts on what you called a stack pole. And let them stay
there until they were dry enough for a thrasher which was a machine that
would come into the field and thrash them and bale the vines, so it was
common to see maybe fifty or sixty people in the field shaking peanuts on
one of those big farms.
J: And about what did they pay for that?
W: Oh, in those days maybe they would pay the boys about fifty cents, maybe
the adults would get around seventy-five or eighty, something like that.
The prices varied according to the economic condition.
J: Now you, after you went out and worked in the day or how ever you went, I
guess it was a daily work, and you were paid, were you required to take
your pay, and give it to your father?
W: Oh, yes. Definitely. No problem. We were glad to do that because he
bore all the responsibilities. We would turn our little funds over to him
to do whatever he felt fit to do.
J: Bishop, did your parents live long?
W: No. My father passed away when he was about sixty-three.
J: And your mother?
W: My mother lived to be somehwere in the neighborhood of the same age.
J: And are they buried in Georgia?
W: No, my father is buried in Micanopy, Florida. That is where he passed
J: How did he get to Micanopy?
W: Well, in 1928 we lived in Micanopy.
J: Do you think you could recall where that place is in Micanopy today?
W: You mean the cemetery?
J: No, the space you lived in.
W: Oh, very well.
J: Now what did he do in Micanopy? Was he a sharecropper?
W: No, we were turpentine workers.
J: Tell me something about that.
W: Well, turpentine farming had to do with dealing with pine trees. I am
quite sure you have seen pine trees with one side glazed and a cup on it.
J: Well, I have seen it in books. I have never seen it actually.
W: Well, that is the type of work we did. From that tree came what is called
the rosin and it would bleed out, very gummy and sticky, and it was
harvested. One man would go along and, you want to know about this?
J: Yes, I would like to know about that.
W: Well, at the beginning, one man would go along with an axe made for that
particular type of work. He would go along and he would glaze some of the
bark off of the tree and he would make a V-like shape on that tree with
the axe and he would put a piece of tin in one of those glazes in V form,
and at the bottom end of that V form tin, they would hang a cup. Then
another man came along and chipped that, and put a streak on it, and that
was called the virgin crop. That was the beginning and every week, he
would come by and put a streak on it and that caused it to go higher and
higher. Whenever it reached the point where it was inconvenient to chip
it, then they would use what they called a cork. That was another
instrument. You would hang it on a tree and snatch it with the weight of
your body. But you would chip that manually. That tool had a big ball
on the left end of it, maybe weighed around three or four pounds, and that
helped you to the job. You did not have to use all manual strength. But
to pull the boxes, we had to use something like a hoe handle with a puller
in the right end of it so it would hook against the tree and you would
pull it with the weight of your body. And that puts a streak on it. So
we would do that until we would reach a certain height of the tree and
maybe we would discard that from there on. We would just stop there.
J: What were you using the stuff from under the tree for?
W: Oh, the stuff that came from the tree, the rosin, was taken into the camp
where they had what you called a turpentine still. And the turpentine
still consisted of something like a whiskey still. Well, they put that
rosin in the tank and they would set it on fire and boil it. When the
steam would go through the worm, they poured it in a big tank of water,
then it would come out spirits of turpentine.
J: Now did this process kill the tree?
W: No. It just got so high until it did not pay to keep going up the tree.
J: Now could you do this to this tree more than once?
W: If it was large enough. Some trees were large enough you could put maybe
two or three, sometimes four cups along the sides of it.
J: So that is what your father ended up doing in Micanopy?
W: Well, no, we boys did that. At that time he had retired.
J: In moving around so much, did any of you all choose to leave the family?
Were you allowed to leave?
W: Well, a young man of twenty-one years of age was considered grown. He was
mature enough to provide for himself and it was optional. He could go if
he wanted to or he could stay there with his family. And many of them
stayed home until they were around thirty years old. There are some boys
in Georgia now, boys and girls, who still stick around the family like
J: When did you leave the family?
W: I left the family in 1929. I got married.
J: And what did you do after you got married and moved out?
W: Well, I moved to Citra, Florida, and I worked a farm there for one year.
Then I moved back to Micanopy and engaged in the turpentine farm again.
J: Now, when you said that you got married, did you have a church wedding?
W: No, we had a family wedding at the house.
J: By a minister?
J: Do you recall that event, when it happened?
W: I believe that was September 19, 1929.
J: Tell me, what time was it?
W: It was late evening.
J: How were you dressed?
W: Well, I will share this with you because it is the truth.
J: All right.
W: I was not able to provide myself a uniform for the wedding, so my pastor
was nice enough to allow me to use his blue serge suit which fitted me
J: So you really did have a wedding at the house. Now did you all invite
other people in?
W: Yes, quite a number of people were invited.
J: Who was the minister that married you?
W: Elder Ira James. He lived at Sparr, Florida, not far from Ocala.
J: Were your parents happy that you were getting married? Did they give you
W: Well, my father had passed at that time, but my mother was a little
disagreeable about it but she let me follow my own wishes.
J: And the person you married was whom?
W: Natalie Bryant. Well, she was Natalie Jenkins at that time.
J: How did you meet her?
W: We met through church activities.
J: Now what church were you a part of?
W: We were a part of the Church of God at that time.
J: Were you a minister?
W: No, just a layman.
J: And did you and Mrs. Bryant have any children?
W: Oh, yes.
J: How many?
W: Six children.
J: And they are?
W: Ruth J. Bryant, William Henry Bryant, Jr., Naomi Bryant, Flora Mae Bryant,
John Calvin Bryant, he is deceased, and Caradel Bryant.
J: And all those are living today?
W: All but J.C. John Calvin passed when he was a baby.
J: We have talked so much about your life as growing up and being married,
and you have been in the ministry for years. When did you become a
minister? When did you turn to this area to get into the work for the
W: When you say work for the Lord, you mean ministry or just all over?
J: I guess when did Christ enter your life and when did you decide to get
into the ministry?
J: Yes, Christianity, if that is the term.
W: Well, I decided to become a Christian in 1927. Right here in Gainesville
on Depot Street, not too far from where we are now. And trouble drove me
to that desire. I had a terrible case of sickness and I do not want to
take up too much time to tell the story.
J: Oh, please do.
W: I was a young man about sixteen or seventeen years of age, and I had
planned in my mind that I was just going to enjoy the pleasures of the
world because I did not know anything about the Lord, and I did love the
world because that was all I knew. So, I had planned to stay in the world
until I became an old man, and then before I died, I was going to seek God
for salvation. That was my plan. So in 1927, I was working down at
Brown's Hardwood Mill. I was taken sick, and in that spell of sickness, I
lost my mind. I went completely insane for two weeks. I did not eat, I
did not drink, I did not sleep. I should have been a Chattahoochee
patient, but God just did not allow me to go there. Somebody prayed for
me and through that prayer, the Lord returned me to my rational mind. I
had failed to eat, sleep or drink for two weeks, and the devil liked to
have starved me to death. When I was returned to my rational mind, I was
just a frame of skin and bone. I was too weak to walk. I crawled for
several days, and I could not sit on a stool, on a chair, or anything like
that unless somebody aided me. So while I was crawling, I thought about
the Lord. And I told God if he would restore me back to my rational mind,
health and strength, I would go to somebody's church and I would get
religion and serve him all the days of my life. That was in 1927. He did
not hear me then, but he gradually brought me back to physical fitness.
So I heard that there was a revival going on at Johnson Chapel and
Mission, a Baptist church right across the highway there. I made my way
there and when I got there, they were having a prayer meeting proceeding
the preaching, which was to start the next week. When I walked in church
that night after they finished the prayer service, one of the deacons,
Deacon Refore, who is a resident of this city, asked me, "Young man, are
you converted?" I said, "No sir." He said, "Would you like to be?" I
said, "Yes sir." He said, "Come up and take the moaner's bench." So he
showed me where to sit. I accepted the invitation and I sat there for the
rest of the prayer service week. The next week, the minister came in and
began to preach, and I stayed there until the Lord did something for my
soul. The Lord converted me. He gave me what I call good salvation
because what he gave me then is still with me. And I have been a witness
for the Lord ever since 1927, telling people who would listen to the
story, especially the teenagers, do not make the foolish mistake I made.
I learned through hardship. And I do have a testimony for teenagers and
senior citizens. Because I was a teenager, the Lord kept me in
righteousness. As a senior citizen, the Lord is still keeping me in
righteousness. That was my first step toward Christianity. Johnson
Chapel Missionary Baptist Church on University Avenue.
J: That building is where you received salvation.
W: Amen. And you know they have a new building there now.
W: Well, I went by there a few days ago and I looked at the old spot where
the old church sat and I thank God for that spot where he came into my
J: Now, the church is not on that original spot?
J: Was the original church to the right or the left of that?
W: The original was to the left as you enter into the front door.
J: What a blessing.
W: And I still love the old patriarchs who had patience with me personally.
Deacon Refore, Deacon Gilmore, Deacon Booker T. Lyons, and their families.
I still love them and appreciate them. Some are sleeping but I love those
that are sleeping. Some are still living, like Stanley McKnight and
Reverend A.G. Benson. That group of people was very sweet to my life.
They helped me in every way they could. And as I stated before, I still
love and appreciate them.
J: Now when did you begin preaching?
W: Well, I started ministering in 1937.
J: Ten years after you received Christ into your life.
W: Ten years exactly, I think.
J: Tell me something about your beginning in the ministry, your travels,
where you went?
W: Well, my travels in the beginning were very limited because I worked in
the cities. I lived here in Gainesville. I had my family here and I had
a job at Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house. I stayed there about nine
years. I also had work on the square: I worked for Marcus Edistein, I
worked for a lady by the name of Ada Lanier, and I worked for Marcus
Edistein's brothers. I worked for many people in the square.
J: When you say the square, did they have shops on the square?
W: Yes, they had stores. So my ministry consisted of the local work and
weekend trips. I would go out of town sometimes on weekends to minister.
During that time, I also worked at a mission in Palatka, Florida, and one
in Waldo, Florida. I had a very nice work going in both of those places.
J: When you say a mission, what do you mean by that?
W: Well, some people refer to that as a new church.
J: Now am I to assume that you went to these places and went into a building
and found people there?
W: No, in each one of those places, we rented halls and that is where we
conducted our service. People came and were blessed and there was good
work established in both places. In 1941, I was about to be thrown into
the army, so I went to Camp Blanding, went through the examination, and I
had only two more doctors to pass before I would have been in, so I had to
think up something to tell them that was the truth. I told the second to
the last doctor that I did not believe I could do the hiking that would be
required, and he said, "Do you think you could hike five miles?" And I
said, "No sir, I do not believe I could, not successfully." He said,
"What kind of work do you do?" I said, "Ministry." He said, "Oh,
minister." So he gave me a red mark. And when I got to the last man, he
took up a big stamp and stamped on there reject. Just what I wanted. So
I came back home because I did not want to leave my family. I loved my
family and I wanted to be a father to them and care for their needs. So
later on, I learned that my class was going to be called back and sure
enough, quite a number of them were called back. So I went to the local
board and asked one of the officers about it and he said, "Yes, you are
going to be called back." So I said, "Well, if I were to take a defense
job, would I be exempted from the service?" He said, "Yes, if you take a
defense job and let us know where you are, long as you are there, you will
not have to be inducted." So I went to New York and I took a defense job.
I worked in a defense plant where they made army production.
J: So, if you did that kind of work you would not have to actually serve
during World War II?
W: Correct, because that was a part of the program. We made what we called
tracers, and they had to use those in the army. And of course, I was in
service but not in the field. So I stayed there until peace was declared.
J: So you went to New York in the early 1940s and were there until peace was
W: I went to New York in 1944, and worked in the defense plant. I lost a
brother here, and I came back for his funeral, and I stayed until around
the fourth or fifth of January, 1945, so I went back up to the defense job
and I stayed there until peace was declared.
J: Do you remember that day that peace was declared?
W: I do not remember what day of the month it was but I do remember...
J: Tell me what reaction was when they declared that it was over.
W: Oh, my goodness. When they said Germany had surrendered? The ladies
began to scream and cry because they had relatives in the service. It was
a sad and a glad day. Many of us were glad it was over. Oh, I guess it
brought tears to their eyes to know that their husbands and sons and what
have you would be returning home soon. Peace was declared that day, and
the next morning we went back to get our pay and the plant closed down
J: Immediately? Isn't that amazing?
W: It sure was.
J: Now did you leave New York immediately to come back to Florida?
W: No. At that time I had a peace-time job working at a novelty factory.
And when peace was declared we were out of a job at Mautam production
plant. So I went right on to this novelty factory where I worked part-
time and then they put me on regular, so I stayed on there regular from
1945 to July 1948.
J: And you call that a peace time...?
W: Peace time when I finished my job at the defense plant. I would go there
and work maybe two or three hours.
J: What were the conditions like for blacks in New York at that time?
W: Well, opportunities were good if you were qualified. They were nice in
giving promotions and so forth. I was promoted. I worked my way up from
sixty cents an hour to a dollar and hour which was very good at that time.
And we all would move up if we were qualified. The next thing was that it
was kind of hard for people to get jobs unless they had a high school
J: Now had you finished a high school education?
W: At that time I had not finished, but I was going to evening classes during
that time. So by having a job, why, I did not have to go through that
J: How did you get from Florida to New York?
W: Oh, I traveled by bus.
J: Was it difficult traveling being a black going to the North from the
W: Well, we had a few experiences that were very unpleasant. It depended on
the attitude of whoever was driving. Now we got on the bus in New York
and rode all the way to Jacksonville, Florida, without being interrupted.
We were just integrated, and we got into Jacksonville and changed drivers.
The next fellow got on and he was very rude. He wanted to know who was
black and who was white because quite a number of Spaniards were on there,
but we just had a rough time. This Spanish brother's wife had taken sick,
and since we customarily sit on the extreme back, long seat, we gave her
that seat for her comfort to lay down on, and we moved forward. So this
bus driver in Jacksonville, he wanted to know who was black and was white,
so he said, "All you colored, hit the back. And all you whites come to
the front." Now we had ridden all the way from New York without any
interruption, so this Spanish fellow, who was the husband of this lady who
was sick, he did not like it. He wanted his wife to stay there and be
comfortable. This bus driver told him she had to move, but she could use
two of these single seats for her to lay on. So he asked him what
difference does it make. The bus driver told him that that is the rule of
the company, and the Spanish fellow said, "I'll punch you in the nose."
Of course there was no punching. We obeyed because we had no other choice.
J: Did you and your wife have any similar experiences?
W: When my wife and my sister had gone to New York, I believe that was in
1944, they were going from here to Jacksonville where they could change
and get a bus to New York. There were two soldiers sitting where we
usually sit, in the back. So we knew there was a lag rule that we could
not sit together. So when we saw that they were sitting where we usually
had to sit, we advanced forward about two seats ahead of them guess.
Between here and Waldo, the driver put on the brakes like he was about
to maybe run into a train or something. We could not imagine what he was
stopping so abruptly for. So he said, "You, niggers, hit the back. You
soldiers, step forward. Come on. Hurry up. I do not mean maybe." Now
he saw our tickets and he knew what our tickets were, so we humbly did what
he said. We had no other choice. Those were about the two worst
interruptions that we experienced riding the bus.
J: You made a statement that you knew you had no choice. How did you know
W: I knew it from previous experience.
J: So you knew to obey.
W: Sure I knew to obey, because our lives were not so valuable that we did
not regard it. From childhood up unil this integration period, people
were treated like boots in some places. Of course I have never had a run
in with anybody. I knew what was required of me and of course, I
addressed myself accordingly. I knew if we did not take the back seat,
and if he had hit us, there would not have been anything that could have
been done about it, so we had not other choice but to take the back seat.
J: Did you ever question why?
W: Why we did that?
J: Why it was understood that blacks had to do certain things. Did you ever
question those things?
W: Well, I was told, I do not know whether it was true or not, that ever
since the blacks were freed from slavery, there has been a prejudice in
the hearts of many slave owners and non-slave owners against the black
people because they were freed by the yankees. I was also told that when
the yankees conquered the South, one of the officers had allowed people to
go into the so-called white people's houses and cook ham and things of
that sort and just eat and carry on. I do not recollect that too well. I
do not know how much truth is in that but I know we have not been treated
J: Did your parents ever talk to you all as chidlren about black and white
W: No, I do not remember our parents teaching us those things or talking
about those things, but we knew through our communications with that class
of people. We learned what we were supposed to do, what we could not do.
There were times when we were forbidden to go to the front door. You
would be kind of like a dog, get around to the back, nigger. You are not
supposed to come to my front door, so we learned those things. We did not
do it. So we did not make trouble because we just knew not to do it.
J: Are you pleased to say you have lived to see a difference?
W: Very pleased. And you ought to know now why my deepest gratitude for the
change is for Christians to move together. I do not have any other
appreciation for out being able to move together, share our Christian
experience, help one another, live like people ought to live. And I
appreciate that because there was a time, I do not like to use these terms
because they are discriminatory expressions, but the white man could come
to the colored church, as many as wanted to come anytime they wanted to
come, stay as long as they wanted to stay, and nothing was said. But the
black man would go to one of their churches and the cops might come and
chase him away.
W: He was not supposed to be here.
J: Did you ever have an experience as a minister being asked to leave a
J: Whether it was black or white, were you ever preaching somewhere that you
should not have been?
W: No. I have never experienced that. Anywhere I have gone and ministered,
I have never had that type of run-in.
J: Are black ministers being invited into the white churches?
W: Oh, yes. I just came out of a convention the latter part of December, in
Lubbock, Texas where there was an integrated convention. Anyone who
wishes to come and take part is free to do so. We had a most wonderful
spiritual fellowship. And of course our doors are open to any child of
God or any people, even sinners. Of course if it is a sinner, as long as
they keep good behavior, he has a right to sin in and listen. Of course,
we do recommend that whoever is going to minister have a sound doctrine
and if he does not have sound doctrine, we would not embarrass him in the
presence of the congregation but I think it would be appropriate to have a
conference with him, and have him understand that we do not appreciate his
false doctrine, or whatever it is.
J: Bishop, being the presiding bishop of the Church of the Kingdom of God,
when were you elevated to that position? How did you get to this position
and what does it entail?
W: Well, first of all, the Lord appointed me, and the people gladly accepted
me. It entails oversight of the whole work and a special point of view.
We try to point out the proper direction according to the word of God.
And the other side as far as building, what have you, they usually check
with me before we purchase or build.
J: Are you the founder of the Church of the Kingdom of God?
W: No, I'm not. And I'm glad you asked that question because I advocate that
the true church of Jesus Christ was founded by Him and no man is in
authority to found a church pertaining to the righteousness of God, for
Jesus said, "Upon this rock, I build my church." So to me, He is the
founder. So we do not address ourselves as this is the right church
because the church is the people and not the building. And it is my
conviction that whosoever is born of God, they constitute a part of the
church of Jesus Christ. No matter what denominational born again and
being a part of the family of God. And I judge denominations like I do
filling stations. There is good Gulf, Amoco, Texaco, Phillips 66, etc.
They are all supposed to sell gasoline, and all denominational churches
are supposed to present Jesus Christ, and if He is not found there, then
it is a false advertisement, because Christ is what we need. Just like
when we go to the filling station, gas is what we need. So if there is
not gas there, they ought to close up that business. And if a church does
not have Jesus Christ to offer, it is out of business as far as I am
concerned. People who call themselves founders of a church, I feel like
that is a vast mistake. I think they need to go back and read again.
Now a man can found a society, but to found a church? He needs to go back
and read again, because it was founded before we were born. And since it
was, I think we need to deal with that from a more logical principle than
the bishop knows, the pastor and founder, the bishop and founder of the
Church of the Kingdom of God...Well, where does Jesus come in? What did
he found? See? And most times, I hope I can say this without crippling
anyone who would listen to what we are saying, a man who founds a church
establishes his own creeds, doctrines, dogmas, rituals, and he takes
people in as members according to what he has planned, and if they do not
cater to it, many times they say you can get out and go somewhere else if
it is my church. If you do not want to stay here, find someplace else to
worship. Now that is not the leading of Christ. Jesus had twelve
apostles. And Jesus said, "I have chosen twelve of you and one of you is
the devil." But he did not put the devil out. That is true. He let him
stay there, and he killed himself.
J: He sure did. So would we say that you were the organizer of this body?
Is that the right term?
W: No, that would be inaccurate because our former bishop was Bishop G.C.
Sapp. We congregated ourselves together in 1945, I think, and there were
so many people being blessed, we were going about different places
conducting services. People were being blessed and we would just leave
them there in the hands of the wolves and some of them said, "We want to
stick together, we want a place to worship." Well, we did not have
anything. So then we decided that we would charter under the name of The
Church of the Kingdom of God, which had no ties with divine precepts. We
chartered under that name for the sake of having to do with, I call it
J: What do you mean by that, sir?
W: Well, what I mean by that is the world. The world is in power. The world
is in authority. The world tells us what we can do and what we cannot
do. And if we are chartered they will give us some consideration as far
as tax exemptions and things of that sort. Otherwise, it has no bearing
on our tie with almighty God.
J: Being the presiding bishop of the churches, you are located in what
W: Well, we have work in the state of Florida, Georgia, and one work in
Maryland. That is about it in America. Now, I have been affiliated with
a Protestant group in Haiti since about 1964, and the bishop of that group
has about 350 churches, and over 80,000 followers. Because we have the
power and the Lord has blessed our fellowship so greatly, he has gained
the confidence that we should merge together. He offered me two
districts, which comprises sixty-five churches and more than 20,000
followers. He offered me this work graciously. All I have to do is say I
will receive it, and we could have it free of charge, but we have a
language barrier because they speak French, and it was impossible for us
to do business with any of the head officials or laymen or whoever,
without having an interpreter.
J: So could you not get an interpreter or one of your parishioners to become
that for you, that you could completely confide in?
W: Well, if the Lord will provide that we would be grateful, but as of now,
we do not have anyone among us that speaks French. And we would need
someone who could speak it fluently enough that we could transact business
or any type of communication that we would need to have. So we turned
those districts down because of the language barrier and so forth, and yet
I say that if it is in the will of the Lord that we should accept that, he
will work out something.
J: As the presiding biship, what do your obligations or our involvement with
the church entail? Do you travel? Tell me what it is like being the
bishop for a day?
W: Well, I will tell you. There is plenty of work involved both day and
night. There is not a place that I go that I am not constantly contacted
shortly after I get there. If I go someplace for a rest, and I do not
mean a vacation, just to get a rest, they know where I am. The telephone
just rings and rings, so we have pastors in Douglas, Georgia, and Albany,
Georgia, as of now. But it is our duty and privilege to travel wherever--
our work is and admonish the followers and so forth as much as possible.
J: Do you see an increase in people coming to Christ?
W: In some places. Other places are very slow.
J: Do you think eventually it is going to change?
W: Well, yes I do because, I believe according to the scriptures, all that
the father has given to Jesus will come. And I do not believe all have
come yet. I believe there are more yet to come.
J: It is constantly said that the black man has turned his life to God and
that he looks to God to do everything for him, to thank, to educate him,
to feed him, to take care of him. And the white man out there is living
the life, he is doing the work, and he is benefiting from it. Is that a
true statement or do you think white society is also turning to
Christianity like the black man has?
W: Well, I have observed today more of them turning to Christ than they used
to years ago.
J: What do you think is the reason for that?
W: I believe the word of God is being fulfilled because Jesus said to his
disciples when he was here, "Other sheep that I have, not of this fold,
(or words to that effect) them also I will bring." So I feel like he is
just bringing those who have not been part of the fold.
J: This is going to be a question that you might not want to answer for me,
but I am going to ask it. We have many churches now that are becoming
integrated. And I have read several places where blacks feel that a white
minister cannot share with them the true knowledge of the Bible just
because of the way you were treated as a child. Would you have a
difficult time sitting under a white minister?
W: Not at all, because I believe this: that the Christ in you and the Christ
in me will agree, and if he is bringing forth some truth, that is all any
person can do. And I do not address myself to colors. I address myself
to facts and principles. So God is not a color. He is a principle of
righteousness. And if he exists in whoever, there is God.
J: Here in Gainesville, we have the Methodist Church, which has become the
United Methodist. The church has been here since the late 1800's and
there is talk now of putting a white minister in that church. I guess
that could happen. Do you think it will ever be that black ministers will
replace in white churches?
W: Well, I really believe that would depend on the condition of the heart,
because if the heart has been purged from the prejudice, which is deep-
rooted on both sides, and it should not be, God does not always accept the
person. But out of every nation, he who fears God in doing his will is
accepted again. And unless we come to be of that same nature, I do not
like we can fit in God's plan one hundred per cent. Well, Jesus died for
the world, not just for the Jews, Italians, or Greeks. He died for the
whole world. And as much as Jesus died for the whole world, I feel that
it is His will that His children address themselves to the whole world and
not to a color. I despise that because it is destructive, detrimental,
and it is out of the divine order. Now if we wanted to address ourselves
to a biblical example, when the eunuch was returning to the place aboard
after He had been to Jerusalem I believe it was, God sent, Philip to
join himself to chariot that the eunuch was riding in. And when Philip
obeyed the spirit, he heard this eunuch reading Ethiopian. And he asked
him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I
expect some man to guide me." And Philip ministered to this Ethiopian
the truth of fifty-third Isaiah or whatever it was, that he was led as a
lamb to slaughter and the sheep before the shearer was dumb and opened not
his mouth. But the eunuch did not understand. Who is this person talking
about? Himself or some other character. So Philip had him to understand
that he was talking about Jesus. So as they moved on, evidently the word
was affecting this Ethiopian so Philip said to him, "Here is water to be
baptized if you believe." He said, "Well, I believe that Jesus is the son
of God." So they stopped the chariot and Philip baptized him. The
eunuch went on his way, rejoicing, and the spirit caught up, Philip had
carried him elsewhere. Now they tell me that Philip was a Jew. And you
know the Ethiopian was a dark man. So that was broken down. Another
episode happened with Philip and Cornelius. Now Cornelius was a Gentile.
If you remember the story, Peter went to Simon's home and while they were
preparing food, he went up on the housetop and was relaxing and went into
a vision, and he saw a sheep bow down before him in the manner of four
footed beasts and creeping things, and he heard a voice say to him, "Rise
Peter. Slay me." And he said, "Not so Lord, for never has anything
common or unclean entered into my mouth." And I know Peter was a Jew and
could not eat all that stuff he saw in the vision. So God had him
understand what he had envisioned was that common. So in the meantime
there were three servants sent from Cornelius inquiring for Peter, and
while Peter was sitting up there trying to figure out what that vision
meant, they called for him. He wanted to know why they had come. So they
explained to him and I think they spent the night. The next day they went
on, and when they got to Cornelius' house, Cornelius had gathered his
relatives and other friends there to hear what Peter had said. So Peter
had him understand that according to the law, now these are my words, it
is unlawful for a Jew to be mingling with Gentiles. But I happen to see
that God respects a person out of every nation. So he went on to minister
to those people, and while he ministered to them, the Holy Ghost fell on
all of them with glee and they began to speak in other tongues and one of
Peter's companions so Peter said now here is water. So he baptized them,
and that broke down the barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles, and the
barriers were broken down between the Jews and the Ethiopians. So we have
no reason to hold up these barriers and these lines of separation. It
is unfounded according to Scriptures, and if we are going to serve Jesus
Christ, we going to have to follow in his footsteps, and if we follow
in his footsteps, we are going to need to treat others as he treated us.
J: But isn't it difficult for people to forget things that have happened to
them in the past?
W: Well, it depends. Now if a person wants to hold to that which is
improper, it is his privilege to hold it and he can hold it, but if he
wants to be redeemed from that, he can be redeemed from it. I believe it
was Paul who said that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom
I am chief, and you know what kind of attitude Paul had toward
Christianity. He became one of the sweetest and greatest apostles of all
time. One born out of due season, but the greatest of all of them. He
had the experience of ascending into the third heaven and he saw things
that were unlawful to talk about here on earth. We do not find that about
any of the other apostles. Not that I say that he was so special, but
apparently, when the Lord changed him, he could not go back into darkness.
He walked in the light, and I love his epistles.
J: In your role as the bishop, you have to come in contact with all types of
people, all levels of people, and all ages of people. I assume that
because the church is growing that you are an effective administrator. Do
you feel that God has given you a blessing or a special talent that the
average man does not have, and if so, how?
W: Well, I think I can say this without exulting myself.
J: All right, sir.
W: I know God most definitely chose me for this ministry.
J: How do you know that?
W: Because he ha told me that. My gift, my job, is to reach out and rescue
the perishing. He has given me that in visions. I urge my people to get
up and confess. I am the one was drowning. I attended a convention in
Lubbock, Texas, and the Lord told me to attend that convention. Somebody
was drowning, and I had to rescue that person. I am not a swimmer. I do
not swim well enough to trust myself to walk out in it unless the Lord
helps me. Well, I went out into that deep water and I rescued that person
who was drowning. So I went to that convention, I ministered, and I told
them why I was there. I said, "I do not know whether the songs that I
sang or the words that I delivered rescued the person who was drowning,
but this is what God told me. That is why I am here." Now after this
service a young man came to me, and he said "I am that person who was
drowning," and he said, "You have rescued me, and I am going on from
here." He was the son of the president of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
W: Yes, and I have seen him since, and he said his daddy had a mansion in
Atlanta, Georgia, that was fabulous. But he had reduced himself down to
live on the low level that he might keep a better life.
J: And that gave you the assurance that you are...
W: Sure it gave me more assurance because we do not follow God by
imaginations. We must have a revelation because no man can know that
Jesus is the Christ except by revelation. No man knoweth the father but
the son, and he to whom the son revealeth himself. And no man know the
son save he to whom the father reveal him. Remember when Paul was blessed
on the Damascus Road, he addressed a group of the Galitians I believe it
was, and had them understand when it pleased God, who separated him from
his mother's womb, that he might save him and reveal his son in him.
Immediately, he conferred not with flesh and blood. No man did not teach
him that. And if you know his background, he did not go to the elders, or
anybody to receive instruction as to how he should minister. God revealed
it to him. I feel like that is one of the reasons that he did such
wonderful works because of the revelations of Jesus Christ. And we today,
we have as much right to revelation as any of the saints in the days of
old or the apostles. But now we have to separate ourselves from the
world, and that is what happened to Paul. He was separated from that
class and the evils that he had in his heart, and he fully gave himself
forward to Christ, so much so that he said, "Follow me as I follow
Christ." A man who was a chief of sinners, said you follow me as I follow
Christ, that is an evidence that he had changed.
J: The church for the Pentecostals in the world or the church period is a big
business, and it seems that there are many people that are going into the
area for the financial aspect of it. Do you see this happening and if it
is, will people eventually be aware that there is not a truth that should
W: I fully share your opinion. It is the truth, because I have heard
ministers express that this lack of small congregations, makes it so there
is hardly nothing to live on. That is the wrong attitude to have.
Because the workman is worthy of his hire. And if God has told a person
to do a thing, He will sustain the person. He doesn't have to look after
his own welfare.
J: Do you believe that?
W: With all my heart. Not only do I believe it, but I see it in action, and
that is detrimental. That is destructive to the moral principles of
Christianity. Because they are seeking personal gain more than they are
seeking gains for the Kingdom of God. And that is wrong. Our out reach
should be for the saving of the lost. That is what Jesus came to do, save
that which is lost, and we are supposed to continue what he started. To
reach out for the Lord, and Jesus said not to look on his own things but
to look on the things of others. And while we are looking on the things
of others, God has somebody's eyes open looking on our needs. I live by
faith. I have not hit a lick of work since 1948 for one penny, and I
never asked for a collection for myself. Not one penny since I have been
in the ministry. I hate to beg. I despised that before I accepted the
ministry. I see people get up and I got this to pay and I got that to
pay, and you all come give me some, I just hate that. To me it is an
abomination because in as much as the workman is working to hire, if he
does the will of God, God is going to see to it that his needs, not his
wants now, but his needs will be met. And I tell you the truth, if I
would have accepted it, I could have today as nice a mansion I believe as
any dark person in the South. But that is not my vision. God told me to
sell my land and put the money into his work and I did that, and brother,
I feel happy today owning nothing yet. Christ in you and Christ in me
owns everything. I have beds to sleep in, I have never reached. I have
invitations maybe I will never be able to fill, so many things which I
could not have had looking on my own things. So I believe that is why
Jesus told the apostles to drop their nets and follow him because when
they follow him, they take on his spiritual attitude, his behavior and God
will take care of you. But there are many many ministers today who are in
the ministry for personal gain, building up their own little kingdoms.
Their little rented houses, projects, getting all they can get out of the
people now. I have relatives who are party to this type of thing. They
share those things with me. I got to build my house. He is not building
the house for the church or the glory of God. That is for his personal
gain. And I tell you, that there are many in it for the gain. They are
not worried about God and his kingdom. And if they do not change they are
going to burn. There will not be any way to escape. Not at all.
J: You mentioned that when the church was established by God and the belief
was that there are sound doctrines being given, are there many ministers
that are teaching false?
W: Well, I would say yes, because any time I become a founder of a church,
establish my own creed, doctrines, and rituals, and people must abide by
them if they are going to be a part of my church, that is glory, that is
plain enough, brother. That is completely separated from what Jesus did.
He said upon this rock I build my church and the very gates of Hell shall
not prevail against it. The very gates of Hell cannot overcome it, can't
subdue it. But now it can subdue man's church, but not God's church.
J: As an administrator, you have to have plans for today and plans for
tomorrow. What are the plans of Bishop Bryant with the body that his is
in charge of for tomorrow?
W: Positively, I have no definite plans. I strive to live under the man of
Christ that I believe solely led of his spirit. Now if you remember
Paul's instruction to Timothy, he told Timothy to study, to show himself
apporved of God, a work that he not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word
of truth. All right, Jesus said search the scriptures for in them you
think you have eternal life and there will be the testify of me. So we are
supposed to address ourselves to the word of God and at the proper time,
or a point in time where God sees fit that the word should be used, he
will bring it about. And we prepare ourselves with a letter, but it takes
God to bring the truth of the letter. See, that is the difference from
knowing the letter and knowing God. There are plenty of people today,
then know far more about the Bible than I do. They have read it through
and through. Probably there is no place in the Bible that you can read
that they do not know where the truth or error is, but now that is
different from knowing God. A man cannot know God except he is born
again. You have to be born again to know the word of God. If you can
read, you can benefit from reading.
J: Something that you just said about the Bible. The Bible has been here for
J: Are you still reading the Bible and getting new facts or points from the
W: Positively. Because the Bible is the infallible word of God and it has
in it hidden mysteries that have never been revealed. The same as it had
in the days of the apostles and the days of Jesus and even today, every
mystery in the word of God has not been revealed. But he is revealing
those things to the saints. Those who are true and dedicated to him. He
is sharing revelations. And they sound like out of tilt to those who
J: You used the word "saints." Are there true saints today?
W: Well, that is debatable because what is a saint? Well, I say a saint is
a person who has been born again and is devoted to the will of God and His
holy purpose. And if he is devoted to God and His holy will, he is not
gonna be found affiliating in darkness. He's gonna keep himself from
those things. Then he might continue to be qualified for the will of the
J: We spoke about your family. Are they all a part of the Body of Christ?
W: My former family or my present day family?
J: Well, your children.
W: Yes, all my children they are born again believers according to their
confession and as far as I know they are nice children. We gave them up
to the Lord when they were infants and we have never taken them back. We
share them with the world in anything. We taught them the way of the
J: And they are following their way?
W: As far as I know. At least, they testify that they are.
J: Bishop, this tape is going to be here for as long as there is a world and
I would like you to give me a statement that you would like to leave for
the next young man or woman coming along to hear this about what they
should do with their life. How can they be successful in this life?
W: Well, my personal conviction is righteousness, that sin is a reproach to
the people. So, if any person or persons want to do well, they should
refrain from the wrong and cleave to that which is right. Jesus said,
"But first seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these
things shall be added unto you." I believe that. I practice that. I
would also add, I would not like for any young person, or any person to do
as I did. I set my own plan, not knowing any better and God allowed the
devil to almost kill me before I could come to myself and realize that my
plan was not in the right order. I was so weak, I had to crawl for
several days. I share that with young people occasionally, especially
young people. Now, there are some young people who do not feel like they
can do well in the Lord unless they have a husband or wife. That is one
of the biggest lies the devil ever told.
W: Yes, because God's words that "Behold, if I am holy". Now, he did not say
whether you are married or single. He is talking to humanity at large.
So, a person has to live holy, but that does not keep you from pleasing
the Lord, married or single. And I have had people of our congregation to
be bribed by the enemy that if they were married, they could live a more
perfect life in the Lord and they married. We could not convince them
that they were in error. They went married and instead of coming closer
to God they went back out into the river. See. The devil exists and I
know its force because I was a teenager and God kept me. No foolishness.
He kept me, and I do not know if I had been married today if all the
saints had not started talking about you need a wife. I said, "Well now,
those folks, they have been under the Lord longer than I have, maybe they
know that they are talking about." So, I consented, and when I consented,
I felt like I had to have a wife. So, I would like to say, if you want to
prosper, get on God's side. Because when we serve God, you are serving
one who owns everything. The earth is His, the house that they dwell
there in is His. The cattle on the cloud is His, the silver, the gold, is
His. So, when you have Him, you have everything and when we do not have
Him, we do not have anything but a bluff heart. Because that which is
going to vanish away, which is perishable, is not logical to hold to it.
And the Lord is on things above and I do not think it is because the
things of Earth are gonna pass away one day. But the things above, will
stand forever. So, I would recommend to both young and old, all classes
of people, if they want to be prosperous, happy and free, abstain from
sin. As I stated a while ago, righteousness, exalted the nation. Not
wealth. Sin is a reproach to any people and I had a little experience of
that so, I am not just beating the air. I have had the experience.
J: If you had to relive your life again, would you chose to be a minister?
W: I believe according to the scripture, we are admonished to follow after
charity. And the desire could give so it owuld not be in my power or
rights to make a choice as to what I would like to be. I want to be a
parson. I want to be a carpenter. I want to be an interpreter. I want
the gift of design and that in my judgement, is completely out of order.
Jesus said to the first group of apostles, "You have not chosen me. I have
chosen you and ordained you." So, if I had my life to live over again, I
feel like I would just want to be a good dedicated child of God and let
him choose for me the position that I am best suited for because he gives
to every man according to his ability and I may want to be one thing that
is not pleasing to God. So I would rather leave the choice up to almighty
God. I am glad you asked that question, because we have many ministers
today who have entered into the ministry upon their own choice and wishes.
I attended a convention some years ago and the bishop of that convention,
he encouraged a lot of the young men there. "You all ought to go into the
ministry. We need more ministers." I thought that was some of the most
ill advice that could have been given. I do not feel like people ought to
make a choice of entering into the ministry like some of these other
secular positions. Like a man wants to be a lawyer, wants to be a doctor,
wants to be a scientist. I do not feel like that is in divine keeping,
because if God does not make a choice for me, he does not use me and I
think that is one of the things that is wrecking the Christian world
today. We have too many people who have entered into the ministry without
being divinely chosen and it is just making a shipwreck of things. So, if
I had to live my life over, I would want to be a dedicated servant to the
Lord and let him choose me or give me whatever position that would be
pleasing under him. And the Holy Ghost chose bishops in the right order.
I knew a group of people that when the former bishop passed away, they
ran a campaign to elect a bishop and they had quite a few candidates up
for bishop. One of the candidates won out over the other candidates and
the people wanted to fight on the church ground because their candidate
did not win. Now, that is improper. In the early ages of church, when
they wanted to be the deacon, they did not get up and cast votes for
people. "I make a motion that we chose Mr. Brown, or Brother Brown for
Deacon." "Second the motion." "All in favor say aye." "Aye." All
right, he is a deacon. In the early ages of church, they prayed.
W: Amen. They prayed and the Holy Spirit directed them who to choose. The
first seven deacons of the early church was chosen through divine
inspiration and not through voting. And they made wonderful servants of
the Lord. That is not the case today in some places. Now, they vote and
who they want and sometimes their life is a wreck before they get in
there. Brother, it is just a mess.
J: Yes, like the case with the Mormon church where the minister has been
arrested because they do not want him in the pulpit. There is a case
right now. And it is just a deplorable thing that they are using police.
W: It is shameful. We should never conduct ourselves in a way where the law
of the world has to come and settle the matter. I think Paul criticized
some of the saints about one of them taking a matter before the law.
Settle it amongst yourselves. You have judgement enough to do it and if
we follow the leaving of the Spirit, we do not call the law.
J: So, you are saying that the church can be run by the Bible if we just obey
what is in the scripture.
W: Definitely. That is my conviction. Otherwise I do not feel like it could
be run any other way.
J: Thank you Bishop Bryant.
W: You are welcome.
J: I have enjoyed this interview.
W: I have enjoyed you, too.
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