About us

The end of the Civil war saw the migration of many Blacks to the Western United States. Among them were John Williams, James Lodge, William Smith and John Madden. Mr. Williams was a former valet to General Grant. Mr. Madden immediately established himself as a voting citizen and entrepreneur who subsequently became a successful landowner. Both of these men worked for San Jose Woolen Mills. The First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in San Jose was founded in 1864. Mr. William Smith, Mr. John Madden and the original Board of Trustees were among the founders. This first Board of Trustees included William Smith and James Lodge. These men saw the necessity for exercising their constitutional right just as the founding fathers of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church had done nearly sixty years earlier at the John's Street Church in New York City. The City of San Jose had no other religious order serving the Black community in 1864. The (Black) parishioners met in each other's homes until they could get more firmly established. In 1870, the San Jose City Directory listed First A.M.E. Zion Church as being at Fourth and San Antonio Streets, and it was the … "only religious organization among the colored people of the city”; The City Directory also noted that … “the church is in a prosperous condition, the attendance on Sunday always being sufficient to fill the church.". Reverend A. Stephens was listed as the pastor in that year.

The building formerly located at Fourth and San Antonio Streets was paid for in 1883 as Deeds and Articles of Incorporation are dated September 6, 1883. In California, during that period, deeds were not grated unless the property was free and clear. The Deeds and Articles of Incorporation were signed by Henry Venable, William H. Davis, and George Caples, John Madden, Howard Franklin and the Rev. William H. Mitchell. Mr. Madden had donated the land on which the church was built. The congregation worshipped at Fourth and San Antonio Streets for more than 90 years in a structure that had been shipped from Sacramento by both water and land for the Black citizens of San Jose. During the ninety years the First A.M.E. Zion Church of San Jose had served for Freedom Fighters with the same purposes the Mother Church had served for Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas in years past.

The local Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N. A. A. C. P.) and the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) were both organized in the basement of this historic church.

In 1917, the building and lot was willed to the Church by the late Mr. and Mrs. John Madden. Two rooms were added to the building and served as the dining room and kitchen. The membership grew along with the Black population in San Jose. Additional space was planned. In 1918 the structure was completed, and the cornerstone was laid on May 12, 1918. (This cornerstone was destroyed in the re-establishing of a new church home)

The church had a mortgage burning ceremony on February 21, 1940. The church celebrated its 75th Anniversary during this period. The pastor at that time was Rev. Albert Williams. The Trustees, while under the leadership of Rev. Harold Sheppard, purchased an apartment complex located at 940 Spring Street. The apartments were refurbished with a mortgage on the church. This mortgage was paid off in 1968 under the pastorate of Rev. Jesse Selby. Mortgage burning services were held on March 16, 1968.

Rev. Archibald Thomas was pastor until 1966. He retired after serving more than 50 years as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Connection.

In 1969 this congregation was forced to abandon the historic location at 4th and San Antonio Street as a result of the San Jose Urban Renewal Project. Rev. Selby was the dedicated pastor during this period. The Christian spirit of the larger San Jose community was exemplified in the decision of the United Methodist Church to permit this (displaced) congregation to worship in its small chapel on 5th and Santa Clara Streets. This arrangement lasted from mid 1969 until Easter Sunday, 1972. On Easter Sunday morning of that year the pastor Rev. James A. Davis, the congregation and a host of friends marched down Santa Clara Street to their new home, and present facility; 95 South 20th Street, situated on the corner of 20th and San Fernando Street.

During the three year period preceding the purchase of this new church home, many problems occurred. The officers were struggling to finalize their plans for building a new edifice on property the church had purchased at King Road and Ocala Street. The knowledge of the availability of a church building owned by Gospel Temple was brought to the attention of the officers by Mrs. Edna Harris. Negotiations to purchase this building were initiated with the commitment of financial pledges the members were able to secure a loan for the balance of the purchase price of $140,000.00.

On the 13th day of November, 1983, another milestone was reached as Rev. Frederick Hubbard, members and friends celebrated the mortgage burning of indebtedness. The Steward Board at this time was: Sister Elizabeth H. Leak, Preachers Steward; Sister Meredith Sheriff and Brother Matthew Vidrine. The Trustees were: Forrest Williams, Lonnie Leak, Willard Whitaker, Marion “Chuck” Amaker and Sister Patricia Macklin.

In 1995, the Young Adult Missionary Society established a library in the memory of Brother Charles Brown, an Honorary Trustee. The library was dedicated by the Presiding Prelate, Bishop Clarence Carr assisted by the Pastor, Rev. Michael Henderson.

Food Ministry, gifts to the Church, an out pouring of un-selfish love to help in the vineyard of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. 1996. Brother Sam Williams donated a van for the transportation of needy members.

During 2002, the family of (Mrs.) Mildred Crawford (at her request) arranged for the installation of pews in the upstairs chapel. These pews were refinished by Brothers Lonnie Leak and Nygel Leak. Memorial plaques have been procured, and installation is pending. The pews were dedicated by Bishop Carr and assisted by Reverend Henderson.

During 2003 a major renovation of the church parsonage was completed by the Trustees. This project was spearheaded by the late Brother James S. Wilmore, with the capable participation from Dr. Forrest Williams, Trustee Chairman; and Brothers Barry Stokes, William “Bill” Melson, Dean Fambro, Terry Hunter, Wayne Taylor, and Rev. Michael Henderson.

The instruction and “teaching by example” has increased the participation of our youth. Fellowship and dedication of the faithful have sustained and inspired our youth to continue to participate in the events and activities of the church. With the leadership of our present and former pastors, we have continued to make progress. May the history of the past continue to sustain us through the unknown future …..

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?” says the Lord “Or where will my resting place be?” Has not my hand made all these things? Acts 7:49-50

It is with grateful appreciation we acknowledge the following Bishops, Presiding Elders and Pastors for dedicated service to First A.M.E. Zion Church from 1864 to the present Episcopal Roll of Honor

*Bishop J. D. Brooks
*Bishop John J. Moore
*Bishop Alexander Walters
*Bishop Josiah Caldwell
*Bishop John W. Martin
*Bishop William C. Brown
*Bishop William A. Stewart
*Bishop Joseph Caruthers
*Bishop William Hilliard
*Bishop George J. Leake
*Bishop Herman L. Anderson
Bishop George W. Walker
Bishop Clarence Carr
Bishop Roy L. Holmes
Bishop Dennis V. Proctor

Ministerial Roll of Honor

Presiding Elders

*Reverend T. Brown *Reverend T. Allen Harvey
*Reverend L. Taylor *Reverend J. L. Jackson
*Reverend S.W. Hawkins *Reverend L. W. McCoy
*Reverend W. E. Matthews *Reverend Filbert Lankford
*Reverend W. W. Howard *Reverend Dr. J. Mayo Roberts
*Reverend Dr. J. Mayo Roberts *Reverend B. Leon Carson
*Reverend W. J. Byers *Reverend Dr. Parree Porter
*Reverend Walter Lovell *Reverend John G. Wyatt, Jr.
*Reverend E. M. Clark Reverend Dr. Percy Smith
*Reverend T. M. Drapier Reverend John E. Watts
Pastoral Roll of Honor
*Reverend Hutchinson *Reverend L. Roy Bennett
*Reverend Thorn *Reverend Dr. J. Mayo Roberts
*Reverend Camp *Reverend John G. Wyatt, Jr.
*Reverend Harold Shepard Reverend Frederick D. Hubbard
*Reverend Albert William Reverend Eugeno Watkins
*Reverend B. Leon Carson Reverend William Elston
*Reverend Archibald Thomas *Reverend Melver Tinsley, Sr.
*Reverend Jesse Selby Reverend James A. Davis
*Reverend J. Andrew Jones Reverend Dr. Percy Smith
Reverend Dr. Percy Smith Reverend Eugeno Watkins
Reverend John W. Davis Reverend Michael Henderson