Citation
Interview with Susie C. F. Johnson, April 30, 1984

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Susie C. F. Johnson, April 30, 1984
Creator:
Johnson, Susie C. F. ( Interviewee )
Publisher:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Fifth Avenue (Gainesville, Fla.)
African Americans ( fast )
Fifth Avenue African American (Alachua County) Oral History Collection ( local )
Joel Buchanan Archive of African American Oral History ( local )
Florida History ( local )
Genre:
Oral histories ( lcgft )
Spatial Coverage:
Florida--Gainesville

Notes

Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Fifth Avenue Blacks' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
FAB 024 Mother Susie C.F. Johnson 04-30-1984 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida






































UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

ORAL HISTORY PROJECT



Interviewee: Susie C. Johnson

Interviewer: Joel Buchanan

April 30, 1984











B: Mother Johnson has been a member of the Churches of God in Christ since
1920. She is currently the supervisor of women of Central Florida
Churches of God in Christ. She has been the supervisor of women for more
than thirty-one years. Good evening, Mother Johnson.

J: Good evening.

B: How are you tonight?

J: Oh, just fine.

B: Mother Johnson, can you tell me your name at birth, please?

J: My name is Susie C. Johnson.

B: And your name before you became Johnson?

J: I was Susie Corenne Clark when I first got married.

B: No, your name before you got married, your birth name.

J: Oh, I was Susie Corenne Forbes.

B: And your home was where?

J: Tallahassee.

B: Tell me something about your mother and father--their names and what they
did.

J: My mother was named Lucilla Forbes. My daddy was named Peter Forbes.

B: And where were they from?

J: Tallahassee.

B: What type of work did your parents do?

J: When I came in the world my father was a great farmer. He ran a beef
market. He ran sharecrops. See, my father owned a lot of land.

B: When you say a lot of land, what are you talking about? How many acres?
Do you know?

J: Five hundred acres of land.

B: Your daddy?

J: Yes.

B: What did he have on this land? What did he do with it?

J: Hired people to sharecrop for him. His father and him had a plantation.
He accumulated money from that. I know because they gave him so much, and
then he bought so much afterward.












B: Do you have any brothers and sisters?

J: Yes, I have one living now, but I had five, and they are all gone but one.

B: Five what?

J: Five brothers.

B: Any sisters?

J: I have three sisters living, but there were seven of us.

B: So there were twelve in your family?

J: Yes.

B: Five boys and seven girls?

J: Yes.

B: What did you do on the farm as a girl?

J: Nothing but cook. I was the cook.

B: For the family?

J: For the sharecroppers when I was a little girl. I was cooking ever since I
was ten years old.

B: Really?

J: Yes.

B: So you mean you cooked for the family and the sharecroppers?

J: Yes! People train you when you are a child. I stood up on a box and
cooked for everybody. My mother would measure everything out and have it
for me to fix for the hands.

B: So you lived a pretty decent life there.

J: Decent? I lived better. (laughter)

B: Did you got to school in Tallahassee?

J: Yes, I went North to school, we went to school out there. Sixteen miles
from Tallahassee in the country.

B: What was it called?

J: St. Mary's School. It was from the first on up to the eighth grade.

B: And how far did you go?



2











J: I finished eighth grade.

B: Why did you leave?

J: I got married.

B: How old were you?

J: Fourteen years old.

B: Was that pretty young to get married?

J: No.

B: It wasn't?

J: Well I was pretty young because I ran away.

B: You ran away.

J: Yes.

B: Why did you do that?

J: I asked him. I did it because I got tired of getting beat.

B: Are you saying that your father was strict or your mother was strict?

J: Both of my parents were strict. My parents had a certain class of people
for us to be with. That is the way I came up. And if we wanted to talk,
we had to hide or slip to the country, and then you were beaten. So I did
the best I could, I got married.

B: You got married.

J: Yes.

B: Now what did your father think about that?

J: He hunted me. He'd kill me, but he didn't find me.

B: He did not find you? Where did you go when you got married? You left and
went where?

J: I went to Jacksonville with my cousin. I stayed with her because my
mother's friend had already picked out the young man. He was from
Missouri. Her sister lived in Missouri. And her nephew used to come down
to visit. Her people used to work for my father, and she just made a way
for me to slip off and marry her nephew.

B: You mean she planned for you to leave to marry her nephew?

J: Yes. That was my mama's best friend. All of them belong to the same
lodge.



3











B: Really?

J: Yes.

B: Now what was your parent's faith?

J: My mother was a Baptist. My daddy was a Methodist. I was a Methodist
too.

B: When did you change?

J: I came in the Church of God and Christ in 1920, but we had gotten saved
about five years before coming into that. We were in the Church of God.

B: How did you get saved? What brought that about? Can you recall that?

J: Well, the same teacher that I told you about that taught us out in the
country, she went back home to New York and got saved up there. She got
saved with the Church of God. When she came back, she did not come back
to teach school, but to bring the word of God. She taught the people and
she tore up that place around there getting the people saved. She did not
teach any more school, but she preached the Gospel. People do not believe
in it today, but that whole plantation of people got saved. That is how I
got saved. They called me to come up because I was sick, but I did not go
to get saved. I just went to see what was going on. When I got up there,
I was supposed to have an operation. The doctor said I had a fifty-fifty
chance. If he operated on me I know I would have pulled through. The
Lord said to her in the meeting that I should surrender and come down and
talk to her, 'If you come down, God would heal your body and you won't
have to have no operation.' I had on all of my good diamonds. I was a
woman that wore plenty of diamonds, but I do not think this is one of them.

B: You wore plenty of diamonds then?

J: Yes. When I was young and married, I had a husband give me everything my
children needed. Everything I wanted. But she told me if I did not come
down, I was going to lift my eyes up in the air. I was too proud.
Because, see, Papa and them trained us up in that category, and it was in
me. And nothing brought me down but the blood of Jesus.

B: Oh, glory!

J: I am glad about it now. And, of course, I told you about my daddy who had
bought a brand new car, and my brother was kind of knocking around, none of
my sisters, none of them was grown enough to be married and off. Nobody
was away from home but me. All of them were home, all of them were saved.

B: All were saved?

J: All those young children were saved. I was the last one, I went to church
one night and walked in and I was dressed up. I wore my chain with one
diamond on it. Women used to wear a collar a skirt, a blouse, and their
hair long. My husband bought me a watch on a chain with a diamond. I
have my diamond and my chain in there now that I had way back then. They
even tried to buy it from me at the jeweler, but I am keeping it for a


4











souvenir. I had that on that night, and I rubbed the floor and beat
around, but God stripped that stuff off me, but one time they stripped me
so I did not wear 'em and got in the Church of God. They made me pull off
everything.

B: Everything?

J: All that--you could not wear it. I had to put it in a box. I had to pull
it off, get rid of it. But when I got back in the Church of God and
Christ they said you could not wear it. (laughter) I got some old
diamonds. Some real old diamonds now.

B: Can you recall some of the names of the people who were members of the
church?

J: Elder Nesby, Elder Smith, and Elder Harris, all of them are dead. They
were in it.

B: Now is this bishop, Jacob Cohen's father?

J: Yes.

B: And we said Bishop Nesby?

J: That is Samuel's father. They were the ones who called me and Elder Barr,
he was an overseer. Nesby and Elder Barr were overseers in the Church of
God. Bishop Nesby stayed in my home for twenty years. You know, he
traveled, and when he would come here, my home was his stopping place.
Elder Nesby said that Elder Mason was to meet him in Valdosta, Georgia.

B: Now when you say Elder Mason, who is this?

J: Charles Mason, old man Mason.

B: The founder of the church?

J: The founder.

B: About what year was this?

J: That is 1920 when they met to come down here.

B: To Savannah, Georgia?

J: Yes. And Dr. Stanton; he was a doctor. His son was a dentist, but he was
a medicine doctor. He was in this church too.

B: Was he?

J: Yes. All of them came in; he came in the church too. When we came into
his church, he had a fine big church then.

B: Did you all go to Savannah?

J: We went to Valdosta. That is where the place was at. Barr came from St.


5











Petersburg where he was living at the time. Bishop Cohen met us in
Valdosta. That is where we met that morning with Bishop Mason. That is
the first time I ever laid eyes on Bishop Mason, and a little man prayed
that day. Dr. Stanton, a medical doctor, was saved when he was in the
Church of God. And when Bishop Mason got through praying, I was the only
woman there.

B: The only woman?

J: No woman was there but me. A little girl and I were following the
preachers and Elder Bishop Dell from Georgia.

B: Yes.

J: He was there. He was in his teens too like I was.

B: You were a teenager?

J: Yes. He was telling Bishop the other day in Memphis, both of us were in
our teens.

B: That was you?

J: Yes. And I had had out on my shoulder.

B: Now can you recall that meeting that day?

J: Well, I can remember when Bishop met that morning in the office of the
elders--God knows I never seen a man pray half a day in my life. I will
say now, I was not in that. I was sitting out in the office. When they
came out, Cohen had started church, and Elder Mason had gotten through
praying. The people were throwing up their hands and saying, "They are
surrendered." I did not know what they surrendered for. I did not
know what they were going to do. When Bishop Mason got through, then he
brought me the word so plain. Mother Lizzy Robertson and her daughter
Ida had already been to my house. See, she was traveling through the
state going to Lloyd, Florida, that is way down somewhere towards
Tallahassee, but she stopped with me a week into this meeting that I was
in, and she said she wanted me to meet Dad Mason. Dad Mason was going to
be in Valdosta, Georgia, but I did not have any idea I was going to go. I
did not think I would be going.

B: Why did she stop and visit you? Were you running a church?

J: Yes, I was running a church, the Church of God.

B: Were you pastoring?

J: Yes. See, my school teacher had gotten me in the Church of God.

B: So you were pastoring. So, at this meeting you all went to Georgia where
you met Dad Mason. Was that the day when you all became members of the
church?

J: That is the day I became a member of the Church of God and Christ in 1920.


6












I was already in the Church of God because that is what my mama and them
were in. See, the were already saved ahead of me. This teacher taught
out in the country.

B: Where were you having church?

J: Well, I went to church right here in Tampa.

B: Was church held in a building, outside, in someone's home or what?

J: I had moved out and rented me a place in a building way out at Belmont
Heights. I started church in my home when the church broke out. Twenty
people got saved in my home.

B: In your home?

J: Yes. And my home could not hold any more, so I had to rent a place way
out in Belmont Heights. I went out there and rented a store front.

B: What do you mean when you say "store front"?

J: That is where somebody used to have a store. And I rented it myself.

B: Were you doing everything in the church? Leading the services, preaching?

J: Everything, until I got somebody saved. Then God blessed me with members.
I got them in my church. Of course, the Lord sent me Elder Clayton.
When Brother Clayton came to the city, he took a stand with me and became
my deacon. I made him a deacon under me. My husband was not saved yet,
but I kept on praying. I did not beg him to come. I kept on praying
'till God saved my husband. I did not ask him to come to church because
he was not going to leave St. Paul and go all out blundering around in the
woods. He is too high, but I kept a-telling God, 'I did not have to
invite him to church.' But one night he came home, and when he got to the
door (because his mother was living with me), he asked for me. She said,
"She is in there. She done been 'round here praying all day and done had
people in here," and said, "God, I'm so tired. I want to go." And the
first time the police was put on me, she called them on me.

B: Your mother-in-law?

J: Because she was not used to all that train in there. I had that big home,
I'd stay in that big home where he was at.

B: What street was that on?

J: Green Street, that is where I was living.

B: You weren't working?

J: No, I was living there when I got saved. And she was the one who went out
and got the police and put them on. She said I was going to run her child
crazy. See, my husband was her baby. No one knew who had gotten the
police.



7











B: What did the policemen do to you?

J: The policeman came in and I, God just annointed me and I just sang and
danced. I did not know a policeman was coming at me. They were coming to
get me. Three police were standing in my home, and then they asked me if
they could come inside, into the living room where they were having
prayer. I had on my satin and everything. They sat down to talk to me.
When I got through he asked me if he could talk to me. They told me how
many people had been after him ever since I had been run into, but when
the old lady called for him, he thought he had better come. That was my
mother-in-law, because she said she could not rest, said that I was going
to run her son, her baby crazy.

B: What did the policemen do to you?

J: The did not do anything, but he said, "Come here Auntie," he called my
mother-in-law Auntie. He said, "If you get in this, it may take away all
of your nervous feeling."

B: No, he didn't?

J: Yes, he did. And he told me to keep it up, and asked me if he could come
back the next night. They came to the meeting three nights. They were
spellbound. The white folks just kept coming and packing my house, all
of the halls.

B: Whites too?

J: Yes, they brought their wives way back here. And the people were
receiving salvation. People aren't getting anything now. Treat you any
kind of way and walk all over you and whoop and holler and dance the
monkey dance and they are not doing anything.

B: So you were having church, and the people were actually getting saved?

J: Yes, and I meansaved. I am not talking about saving. That night when my
husband came in, he asked his mother, say the next night, I had closed the
service out. He worked late that night because they had a banquet or
something, he was a cook. He said, "Sister gone to bed." He called me
sister. She said, "Them folks ain't long left here. I reckon she is in
the bed." He said, "Well, my mama's going up here," and went down and
when he got to the door he said, "Sister, so how are you feeling?" I say,
"I'm happy in my soul." That is what I said to him. He said, "When I was
crossing the bridge tonight, the spirit told me to go home and tell you to
get up and tarry with me."

B: Oh, no, he didn't?

J; Yes, he did. I ain't never asked him to read the Bible. I ain't never
asked him to come on and go to the sanctified church 'cause I know he is a
big shot, you know. And I could tell Jesus, say, "I want you to tarry with
me." Brother, let me tell you. The light hooked on my bed, I turned the
light off 'cause I was reading my Bible laying down. I turned that light.
off the bed and I got down and he said, "Tarry with me." I fell on my
knees. Good God Almighty, he fell down there too, and began to call Jesus.


8











He had not been to no sanctifying church, but he had been coming in there
and he heard it, and he sat in the room because he would not come in
the living room where the meetings were at. But he did not hinder me. But
God told him what to do that night. He came and asked for prayer. He
said the Lord told him to tell me to tarry with him. God saved and
sanctified and baptized him that same morning, divine truth. And he went
from door to door, knocking on people's doors before day, waking them up,
telling them he was sanctified, baptized.

B: Oh, glory!

J: With the Holy Ghost, and they were speaking in tongues. That is why I
tell you, you do not have to dig deeper, just live it. People are not
getting anything now, that was a testimony.

B: I bet it was.

J: My husband walked 'til day that morning and went to a sister's with the
Bishop Johnson and all of them. He set up cross-legged reading and got
his Bible in the room. He did not bother me, didn't try to, but see, I
did not ever ask him. I did not ever say, "Come on. Won't you come to
pray. Wont' you come." I did not say nothing, but I told Jesus about it.

B: So you say that changed in his life?

J: Oh, I just told Jesus what to do and I was just so kind. Honey, you do
not have to talk it out, but just tell Jesus. God saved that man that
same night. And he told St. Paul goodbye.

B: No, he did not.

J: Yes, he did. He was baptized in this same church and died in this church.

B: Because of you.

J: Because of me, and his mama turned against him.

B: No, she did not.

J: Yes, she did. She went out crying and telling people I done mess her baby
up. But he kept on, and then he would sing this song, "Glory, Glory,
Hallelujah." And then they get them dancing, just dancing backward and
forward. He told St. Paul goodbye. I did not ask him anything. When my
husband got saved two people up the street came to the prayer meeting, and
they got saved after he got saved. He gave them to the Lord. I did not
tell him to come, but things had touched him. Then he was just so willing
to turn his money loose to the church by the hundreds, because he had the
money. I did not have it, he was the one that had it.

B: And what kind of work did he do?

J: He was a cook, had been that for a number of years.

B: This was in Tampa?



9











J: Yes.

B: Right here in Tampa?

J: Yes, we had rented out once we were married.

B: While you were running these revivals, did you ever have them on the
streets in tents?

J: Yes. I used to have whole street meetings. Every noon day I would be at
somebody's house for noonday service. I'd go every day from door to
door. People aren't doing anything now.

B: Will people let you come in their house and have services?

J: Yes. God opened the door for me. When the people wanted the man to put
forth handcuffs on me he wouldn't do it. He told them that they were sent
to handcuff me and carry me to jail, said I was stirring in the
neighborhood and tearing up the churches. Now I wasn't digging nobody to
come out to the church, but just teaching the gospel. The Church of God
was the most strict. Certain things you had to pull off. You could not
wear. Honey they were stricter than we are.

B: Well, after you met Dad Mason in Georgia...

J: They were telling me about how I was blessed a young girl.

B: You were running revivals?

J: Yes. Going from church, there were not any churches here, just going to
that little place I had, and went from here to St. Petersburg and they
left and went to my auntie.

B: About what year was this when he was here? Was this after 1920?

J: It was in 1921 when he came here. He traveled and went on around. The
next year he toured the state after I came into the Church of God in
Christ. I was carrying on the church, but Dad told me, he said, "Daughter,
I think you are going to need some help. You're bringing our children up
like I'm bringing up mine." I wrote Elder Curtis, he was a bishop. Elder
Nesby came on in but Curtis, he had come in with Bishop Mason or
something. When I met him, he was in the Church of God. He came down
here. He would lead and he told me, he said now, "Daughter you are going
to have to lead the deacons and all, say, you are doing a grand job, and
got the children, you got to take more time, too, with your children
because they are growing up." You know, he stayed with me when he came
to town.

B: This is Bishop Mason?

J: Yes, he stayed with me. My son would have to get up, and fix his breakfast
and cook for him, and do before he would go to school. He said he had
never been in a home where people trained their children like I was
training mine. I trained mine like he trained his. And he was an old
man, much older than I was.


10












B: Bishop Mason?

J: Yes. You know, he was not in my class. But I was bringing my children up
so nice, to be as young as I was.

B: How many children did you have at this time?

J: I had three.

B: And their names are?

J: Lessie Ransom, Rufus Ransom, and Missy Clark. See I have a step-daughter.

B: Now, did you take your children with you when you were doing all these
revivals and so forth?

J: No, I did not take them with me. I had a lady I would get to stay with
them.

B: What did your husband think about you running these meetings and going all
these different places with the church?

J: Now, he did not bother me since he got saved. The Lord just, I do not
know, he was a peculiar man. He was a big man in societies and
everything. He is the class leader in his church. He did not bother me,
but when God spoke to him, and he came home that night and said the Lord
told him to tell me to tarry with him, he ain't been to no sanctifying
church. And that, he be there in the house, but he did not come into the
meeting. He would be in the room back in there, you know. He used to
play the violin.

B: The violin?

J: And play music. We had a pipe organ and a piano. He was a musician.

B: Oh, was he?

J: He would be practicing his music and things. He was not worrying me.
Because I already went up there, got saved, and got healed. When I got
saved, I was supposed to have an operation because the doctor said it was
a fifty-fifty chance, and the Church of God, when I got saved, that been
sixty something years, I ain't had no cut no where about me. God healed
me when he sanctified me.

B: Did he?

J: Ain't nothing to him.

B: That is all right.

J: I do not know, but whatever I had God healed it. It went away. I have
had all kind of tests, went to all the doctors and took everything, and
they never found anything.



11











B: God touched your body.

J: And through that school teacher who taught me in school.

B: Taught you salvation.

J: She taught me in school, took me through the eighth grade. She went back
North. She left that school system and went back. But when she got up
there, she got in a whole new church.

B: That was it.

J: She gave up school.

B: After you met Dad Mason, and he established a church here; who was
the first leader of this?

J: Elder Curtis and Elder Nesby. After he organized, Elder Flowers, he was
in a place out from Palatka where Elder Flowers and they were saved. When
I sent for a preacher that is who they sent me, Elder Joe Flowers from
Green Cove Springs.

B: Was that the same time that the state was made into an official state
then?

J: Yes, they commenced cutting it up. One time they had Elder Curtis over.
Then Bishop Nesby, he was the bishop.

B: Now who was the state supervisor?

J: Mother Riley. Della Riley.

B: She was the first?

J: Yes.

B: And who was after her?

J: Sister Mother Lula Henderson. They commenced cutting the states up then.
But Mother Riley was the one that went all over the state until they cut
it up.

B: And why did they cut it up?

J: They thought it was getting too large. I do not think there were
overseers worked under agreement, I do not know. But, Elder Nesby was
after Elder Curtis. His wife in the Church of God, she was a supervisor.

B: Bishop Nesby's?

J: No, Curtis. She was the supervisor. But, with Dad Mason you did not run
it just like you ran the Church of God. His work was run a little
different. He told me I could carry my work at home, but I needed somebody
to help me. I needed a man with me.



12












B: Was he very easy to get along with?

J: Oh, fine, he was a praying man.

B: When you say a praying man what do you mean?

J: Bishop Mason?

B: Yes.

J: He prayed all the time. All through the night you could hear that man
pray. Jesus, all night. And then he would sing in tongues all night.

B: Would he?

J: Yes, he lived under the anointing of God. Just under the anointing of
God. I never have seen anybody like Bishop Mason. I have not seen
anybody in the church like him and his first wife.

B: Would she travel with him?

J: Yes. But she did not come with him when he first came. She came after
they got established. After they got there, when he came down, he brought
her and Bishop Patterson's wife.

B: Debra?

J: Yes, he brought Debra and another one. He brought two of the children
with him. Because they would go somewhere and stay a long time.

B: Would they?

J: Yes.

B: Well how did they live with you?

J: They came in to my house and they stayed. Sanctified people was real then.
And sometimes his wife would cook.

B: So they would actually come and wherever they went, they stayed in
someone's home?

J: Yes, they never went to a hotel.

B: Where did you get the money, at the church? Were you taking up an
offering?

J: They did not take up much of an offering. They mostly stayed with people
that had something. My husband was a cook.

B: So you were living pretty well?

J: I was living well because cooks always have plenty of food.

B: That is right. That is very true.


13













J: When Brother Clark was down, we always baked plenty of hams and you know,
he would buy stuff wholesale. He brought it and would have all of that
baked up for Bishop Mason and have everything ready; they lived so happy.

B: That is good.

J: Then the next bishop that came down was Riley Williams. Bishop Riley
Williams. He was a preacher. I have not seen anybody who could 'out-
preach' him. Sing! I am talking about singing. And he had a wife who
could sing too.

B: Do you think people seemed like they were willing to accept it more
quickly then?

J: Yes, they would get a hold of something they were glad for and look like
people. I do not know if they were more sincere about the work than they
are now.

B: How did you dress being the lady you were and being married to Mr. Clark
and then running your church?

J: Well, you always had to wear long dresses. You could not wear short
dresses. I always wore skirts and blouses, shirtwaist with a collar.

B: Long sleeved?

J: You could not wear any short sleeves.

B: Jewelry?

J: I could not wear any jewelry, not at the church of God. But when I came
over here, I could wear it.

B: Oh, you could?

J: But not so much of it.

B: Make up?

J: No! They taught against it. Taught against marriage, double marrying.
They were more strict and they had two days out of the week to dance.

B: Two days?

J: Tuesday and Fridays, in order that you would have strength to pull your
load. People had power then. We had a Bible band. We would have a
night for studying the Bible. Just go to church and have Bible study
class. But they do not do all that now.

B: Did people come to church then?

J: Yes.

B: Well, how did they get there? Walk?


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J: Walk, or they had street cars way back yonder. You would pay a nickle.

B: Street cars?

J: Ride the street car. You could go about twenty-five miles on the street
car for a nickle way out on the other side of Belmont Heights. When
you got off, you could not find a road unless it was lightning. I would
be walking a mile from the street car to go out to the little store front
I had rented out.

B: You were not afraid?

J: No, then I was young. That was nothing to be afraid of. I was so glad
about Jesus.

B: Well, let me ask you this before we stop for this evening. When was your
fist time going to a national meeting or your state meeting or did you
have national meetings then?

J: I did not have national meetings. I did not go to a national meeting but
twice before I got in the Church of God and Christ. I went to the
national meeting twice with the Church of God. But I attended that in
Miami, I see how they have grown. Bishop Cohen was a big man. Bishop
Nesby was a big man because he lived in Cocoa, Florida.

B: This is Bishop Cohen's, Jacon Cohen's father?

J: Yes.

B: And Dr. Nesby's father.

J: Yes.

B: But they were big men in the Church of God?

J: Yes, they were big men. I just believed in Bishop Nesby because he was
a man, he did not have a rag behind him. He stayed in my house twenty
years. He went in like he came out. When Sammy was a baby he used to
bring his wife and stay. When they got in this church, he was the first,
superintendent they appointed. Nesby was the first superintendent ever
appointed. I was the first district missionary.

B: The first district missionary?

J: Ever appointed.

B: And who were you appointed by?

J: Mother Lizzie Robertson. She was the one that appointed me. I did not
know what district, I did not know what to do. Her daughter stayed with
me and taught me how to be one. Elder Nesby's wife, she was a young
woman, but she was a little older than I was. She was a pretty woman, but
I had long hair. Her hair was not as long as mine. But she taught me.
She said, "Now I am putting you to travel with Bud Nesby." She called him


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"Bud" Nesby. She said, "But I want you to always remember this: I teach
women to stay in their places. You traveling with that woman's husband,
he got a nice looking wife, you got long hair down your back." Say, "When
he look at you, he might look at it." She said, "But Nesby is a clean
man, and I know you is a clean gal." She, Mother Robertson called you
"gal" all the time.

B: Oh, she did.

J: Yes, hardly ever called you by your name. Because she was old. But she
would talk to you just like you were a child. And, "I want you to stand
up," she said, "'Cause I see something about you. You going to make a
great woman some day. But I want you to stay with the church. Whatever
happens, I don't want you to vary." I did not know anything about being
no district missionary, because all I knew was how to teach the people and
tell the people to get saved, and to live the life and live truly to their
husband, because I was going to live it with mine. I knew that because I
leaned that at home before I left. So, that was not hard for me to do.
My mother instilled that in me. When something is instilled in you, you
are not going to vary from it. I do not care how much you go or what you
do. I noticed you from some things that your mother put in you. I notice
you talking to me. I just sit and think so many times, that if it had not
been for my mother, no doubt I would not have been who I was today, because
of some things she instilled in me. Nobody can take it from me. I do not
care what you say, what you do. It is in me, and I am going to die and go
to my grave because my mother lived it. I did not see anything worrying
with my moma. Nothing. She lived, and she was not like the blind, but I
cannot say that about my daddy.

B: You couldn't?

J: No, because Papa got plenty of old outside children.

B: Well, he was a big man.

J: He bought cars and you know, these here kind of buggies, these here with
two seats. We had them kind of buggies.

B: Did you?

J: Oh, yes, he had everything for us.

B: Now was he high completed?

J: My daddy was a little brighter than I am, and my mother was about my
color.

B: So he was something else then?

J: Yes, my daddy was a good looking man. All my old pictures are all packed
up out here. I wanted to show you my daddy's picture. All my brothers
were nice looking, all of them.

B: Now who do you look like?



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J: My mama, just like my mama.

B: Now back to this, before we finish, how long were you district missionary?

J: Twenty-five years. I was right here in this district. I do not have to
leave Tampa to get on. These people around here love me now. Bishop
Davis and they will come here just as quick, right on like, if I am lonely
there.

B: But you were the first?

J: Yes, I was the first.

B: When did you become state supervisor?

J: In 1944, I think.

B: And who was that under?

J: Under Mother Coffee, she is the one that appointed me.

B: When did you go to your first national meeting of the Church of God and
Christ?

J: I know I have been going there fifty-two or fifty-three years.

B: Years?

J: Yes.

B: Can you remember what the first meeting was like when you went to Memphis?

J: When I went to Memphis, we were outdoors and in a tent.

B: In a tent in the sawdust. Well, was the power of the Lord being used in
that tent?

J: They had to push and crowd but it was a nice tent. And honey, I went
there when it was not anything.

B: So you know where the churches came from.

J: I know where the churches came from.

B: Have we come a long ways?

J: Honey, we have come a long way. These people now, they do not want to do
nothing for nothing. If they carry you down the street, they want pay.

B: That is right.

J: And I did not know that until here lately when I was driving cars. More
people got in my car, I carried them on about my business and did not
charge them a dime. But I always been a little free-hearted. But I ain't
lost anything.


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B: You have not?

J: Not by doing the will of God and helping others, because I have lost all my
family. When I would give your uncle money, see, my husband was a
superintendent. The overseers gave him a certain amount. My offering
would be the same thing as Elder Barr. Your uncle would give me part of
mine back. He would say, I do not want you to give him as much money as I
do. He said the lady is the one that is supposed to take it. And I do
not know where, but Bishop, I got the things where Bishop Fold sent me the
map out of women's. Said women do not give the bishop as much as they
give, they will give the state mother more than they give the bishop. I
got the guide to go by. They say that they meet in Memphis. You give
your state mother, the nice little mother the most. I have to pay Mother
Clarke a hundred dollars. I am a state mother. When I hold a meeting, I
hold my meeting. I have to pay that. They used to take an offering up
but when Bishop Cohen came, he said not to take it up. He said Brother
Gambrin would get it out of the auxiliary, but I do not get it out of any
auxiliary because they do not have enough when you pay all the people,
you do not have nothing. I take that hundred dollars out of my own.

B: You do?

J: Oh, yes. I take that hundred dollars from my offering and send it to
Mother McLaughrey because they do not pick up nothing.

B: Do you think the church is going to eventually change from doing the way
offer, to do money in the church?

j: If they do not change, somebody is going to be lost.

B: Do you think it would ever get to the point where they are paid salaries?

J: Do you think it will ever get to the point that people will get saved and
do right?

B: No, times have changed. They are getting in too easy. Doing what they
want to do.

J: They owe you and they won't pay you.

B: Well, something you just said is that your mother trained you to do
certain things. Now we have a lot of people that are in the church who
did not come from that home that you came from. And they have not been
trained the way you or I were trained.

J: No.

B: That is a problem. Sometimes people do not know any better.

J: I know they do not know any better.

B: And you cannot help them.

J: And there is no way in the world that you can help them.


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B: But years ago didn't the church do more than teach the Bible? Didn't you
all teach people how to live?

J: But they do not believe in it now. People are getting out there, doing
anything. You sit up here with something, and pull your thing, and then
want you to dance at it. People do not do that. That is not the way this
church was organized. But I tried, I have to follow the guide because I
am a supervisor and we have to make a report. But so many people are not
doing it. But I am going to do right. Because my record is going to be
there. That is why Mother McGarfee said to me the other day on the phone,
she said, "Mother, I brought, when I went to Memphis, when I went in to
give Mother her offering, she went in the room and got in the bed, and
they said Mother Johnson, do not wake Mother up. And she does not like
for you to give her offering to nobody but her. She like when you put an
offering in my hand."

B: Oh, she does.

J: When you bring it, it comes from your state. When you have your meeting.
Mother Gam will always send Joy to put it in her hand. When I made the
report I saw her coming. Then I ran out to catch her. They said, "Mother
Johnson, let her go and rest and sleep." I had a letter in my hand with
her hundred dollars what I took out of my offering to give to her, and I
said, "Now I am going, she is calling for a meeting in the morning." I
said, "Now, when I get ready to go, it is time for my flight to leave, if
I do not get up to her to give her that thing, I will have to carry that
thing all the way back home and then send it to her." I did not want to
have to send it to her. I tried to sit there until she came out, and
another lady went there to see. They said, "No, ya'll cannot see mother
now." They won't let you see her. I say, "Ain't this a mess?" I said,
"This is too much a mess for me, 'cause I am going to be gone. I got to
meet the man a certain time in the morning." And then, see, I always call
me a limousine.

B: Did you see her?

J: No! And I told them to tell Mother.



















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