J. Pius Barbour

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J. Pius Barbour (June 8, 1894 - January 5, 1974) was an American Baptist pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chester, Pennsylvania who served as an executive director of the National Baptist Association, editor of the National Baptist Voice publication and a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time as a student at Crozer Theological Seminary.

Early life and education[edit]

Barbour was born in Galveston, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in 1917 and a Master of Theology degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1937.[1] Barbour was the first African American to graduate from the Crozer Theological Seminary.[2]


From 1919 to 1921, Barbour was a faculty member at Tuskegee Institute. In 1921, Barbour became pastor of the Day Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and served until 1931. While serving as a pastor in Montgomery, Barbour called for a gathering in response to efforts by the state to undermine black voting rights.[3] From 1931 to 1933, he was pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[1] He became pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1933 and served in that capacity until his death in 1974.

Barbour was a member of the executive board of the National Baptist Convention and was the editor of its publication, the National Baptist Voice, for 17 years.[4]

Barbour was active in the local Chester civil right activism partnering with George Raymond, the president of the NAACP Chester branch. He was the chief strategist of activism for twenty years and was well respected by blacks and whites within the community for his measured and pragmatic approach.[5]

Barbour supplemented his preacher salary by working in local politics as a representative of the African-American community in Chester.[2]

Mentoring of Martin Luther King, Jr.[edit]

Martin Luther King Jr. attended Calvary Baptist Church while studying at Crozer Theological Seminary from 1948 to 1951.[6] King's father, Martin Luther King, Sr., knew Barbour for years through their affiliation with the National Baptist Association and asked Barbour to take King Jr. under his care and to monitor his studies and activities at Crozer.[7]

King served as a Sunday School teacher and youth minister at Calvary Baptist[8] and the church became his home away from home.[9] King was a frequent guest at the Barbour house for the southern cooking but also the academic debates and challenging ideas.[2] King and Barbour became "like father and son"[10] and King's biographer, Lawrence D. Reddick, stated that Dr. King credited Barbour as one of the single most influential forces in his life.[11] Barbour and King maintained frequent correspondedence throughout King's life.[1]

Personal Life[edit]

Barbour was married to Olee Little Barbour and together they had 3 children.[4]

Barbour was a member of the NAACP, the Ministerial association, the Council of Churches, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He also served as a board member of the Chester Water Authority.[11]

Barbour died of gastroenteritis following a cerebral hemhorrage at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[4]

Barbour is interred on the Calvary Baptist Church grounds.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Barbour, Joseph Pius". www.kinginstitute.stanford.edu. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Parr 2018.
  3. ^ Leonard, Bill J. (2005). Baptists in America. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 197. ISBN 0-231-12702-2. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Rev. J. Pius Barbour". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  5. ^ Mele 201, pp. 78-81.
  6. ^ Baldwin 1991, p. 167.
  7. ^ Baldwin 2016, p. 43.
  8. ^ Baldwin 2016, p. 127.
  9. ^ Baldwin 2010, p. 40.
  10. ^ Kopp, John. "Chester church played pivotal role in King's development". www.phillyvoice.com. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "History". www.calvarybaptistchester.org. Archived from the original on 2018-07-06. Retrieved 4 July 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)