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Rev. Nelson Henry Smith Papers

Identifier: aarl016-004

Scope and Contents note

The Nelson H. Smith Collection (3 linear ft.) consists of typescript and handwritten sermons Smith delivered at New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Birmingham and various other churches, revivals, convention, associational meeting and events throughout his career. Most of the sermons are undated, but cover the period of Smith’s ministry from 1953 to 2006.

Correspondence, financial documents, programs and invitations, and other material related to his non-professional activities and family life. Also includes sermons and speeches, correspondence, programming, and administration relating to s Smiths’ position as pastor. Sunday services, special programming, and annual anniversary celebrations; and other materials make up a significant portion of this collection. Rev. Smith’s involvement in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as his work in The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR and. Smith’s civic involvement represents with a number of community organizations in Alabama such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Materials also document National Progressive Baptist. Publications and Clippings include publications and newspaper and magazine clippings relating to the interests of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference SCLC.


  • 1950-2006

Conditions Governing Use note

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection. Prior permission from the Research Library must be obtained in writing before any portion of this collection can be published or reproduced.

Biographical/Historical note

Rev. Dr. Nelson H. Smith, Jr was born 1930 in Brewton, Monroe County Alabama, to the late Reverend N. H. Smith, Sr. and Lillie Almeta Smith on August 23, 1930 and died September 10, 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Rev, Smith was seventy-six when he died. Smith was the third of five children and was raised in Monroeville, where he received his elementary and part of his secondary education. Rev. Smith furthered his studies at Bethlehem Industry Academy High School and the Monroe County Baptist Academy. He alsoe studied theology at Selma University and received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from Birmingham Baptist Bible College, 1969 and Selma University, 1971 and several other honorary degrees from various institutions. After graduating, from Selma, Smith preached at revivals across the South. Smith occasionally made the news for his delivery. One such speech was brought at a revival for Wheat Street Baptist Church Atlanta in the 1950s. Rev. Smith, who was often frustrated by the humiliations of Birmingham's segregation, often preached for the advancement of African Americans. He was a charter member in The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). When it formed in 1956, Smith assisted Fred Shuttlesworth as the organization's secretary and hosted numerous meetings at his church.

Rev. Smith pastored at many churches around Alabama, the first was Christian Union Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama (1948-49). He then pastored at Union Baptist Church in Clanton, Alabama, (1949-1950). After which, Smith spent two years at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beatrice, Alabama (1950-1952). Smith then spent a short term at Shiloh Baptist Church, Montevallo, Alabama, (1952). Rev. Smith became the pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Birmingham. He led the congregation from 1953 until his death. As Pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church for the past 53 years, he initiated a Licensed Day Care Center, Federal Credit Union, Educational Fund, Bread of Life Ministry and many other ministries. Under his leadership, the new church edifice, New Pilgrim Towers for the elderly and handicapped and was a leader in the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and later in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

In 1964 Smith headed Birmingham's first SCLC chapter, thus signifying a break between that organization and the ACMHR In the early 1970s Smith was involved in the formation of the Progressive National Baptist Convention which came out of the National Baptist Convention. He served as second vice president in 1970 and advanced to first vice president in 1972 and president in 1974. From 1975 to 1986 he served on the general counsel for the Baptist World Alliance,

Rev. Smith was married for fifty-four years to Lessie M. Smith; they had three daughters: Beverly Teague, Constance Sledge, of Birmingham, AL, and Monica (Gerry) Dudley of Wilmington, Delaware; and one son: Nelson B. Smith of Birmingham, AL; 12 grandchildren; 5 great grandchildren.


3.0 Linear feet



Inventory of the Rev. Nelson Henry Smith Papers aarl016-004
Finding aid prepared by Processed by Anita Martin
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303