LOOKING BACK: Franklin Baptist Church dedication of new assembly hall

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Oct. 1, 1948

Seventy-five years ago, ceremonies attendant upon the opening of an addition to the Franklin Baptist Church Sunday School were held in its new and spacious assembly hall. It was Sunday afternoon, Sept. 26, 1948.

H. Lawrence Duff, member of the building committee and former superintendent of the Sunday School, presided. The ceremonies started with a prayer by the pastor, Rev. Randolph L. Gregory. James L. Camp, Jr., chairman of the building committee, expressing his gratitude to the members of the church for their fine cooperation in the construction of the building, presented the new facility to the Sunday School superintendent, Wyatt B. Durette, Sr. After explaining how the facility would be used, Mr. Durette then recognized the Sunday School teachers and staff.

Dr. Burton J. Ray gave a brief history of the church and Rev. Gregory told stories about some of the oldest members of the church: Mrs. A. L. Gardner, Mrs. James L. Camp, Sr., Mrs. A. W. Hayes, Mrs. Uriah Rawls, and Mrs. L. R. Edwards. Miss Claudia Barrett, longtime member, cut the ribbon thereby officially opening the new addition. 

Special music, under the direction of Miss Dorothy Ballinger, church organist, consisted of an arrangement sung by the junior choir and a solo by Mrs. William A. Wright of Painter, Accomack County. The service was closed with a prayer by Rev. W. B. Watson, pastor of the Black Creek Baptist Church. 

The Sunday School annex was designed by Williams, Coilean and Blanchard architects of Newport News. It was built using bricks that harmonized with the main edifice, including a slate roof; and the exterior painting was in a color known as Williamsburg green. The general contractor for the job was State Construction Corp. of Newport News. Subcontractors: Paint Products Co. of Newport News, painted the annex and the remodeled portion of the original building; Otis Smith, of Franklin, painted the exterior of the Church building; Ideal Plumbing and Heating Co., Franklin, did the plumbing; and Sechriest & Mulder Electric Co., Franklin, installed wiring and light fixtures. 

The new annex, which was connected to the rear of the main Church building – facing Second Avenue, contained a large assembly hall, a storage room, a kitchen, and 18 classrooms – all heated by a separate low-pressure steam boiler system. Recreational equipment for the assembly hall were given to the church as a memorial to Allen James Skinner, who, before his death was a faithful member of the Bruner Bible Class and a staunch supporter of the church.

The remodeling of the old Sunday School building added a room to the beginner department and provided more space for the nursery, two large and three medium-sized rooms for adults, and a primary department with five classrooms and an assembly room. The old kitchen was converted into a babies room with basinets and part of the hall was enclosed and made into a playroom with play pens for toddlers. Three additional restrooms were installed as well as two closets. By dividing the ladies parlor and Kingdom Builders’ Classroom, two more adult classrooms were made available.

Members of the building committee were James L. Camp, Jr.; Wyatt B. Durette, Sr.; Mrs. J. C. Rawls; H. Lawrence Duff; and W. C. Coker. The finance committee was composed of Clements C. Gouldman; Sol W. Rawls, Jr.; and John M. Camp, Sr. 

The committee for the formal opening ceremonies included H. Lawrence Duff, R. J. Tucker, Miss Lizzie Mae Cutchin, William M. Camp Sr., and Mrs. Burton J. Ray. The social committee — to prepare tea for the opening ceremonies and the fall rally supper – was composed of Mrs. W. Marion Ballard¸ Mrs. Russell Gayle, Mrs. Thomas J. Dameron, Mrs. C. L. Bowen, Mrs. Vernon Scott, Mrs. C. H. Jones, Mrs. George Brown, and Mrs. J. C. Eley.

Mrs. J. C. Rawls, Mrs. Herbert G. Cobb, and Mrs. Roger I. Beale arranged decorations for the opening ceremonies. 

On September 28, a fall rally and anniversary dinner were held in the spacious new assembly hall. The meal, which was served cafeteria style from the modernly equipped kitchen, consisted of candied yams, string beans, biscuits, coffee, barbecued pork, Waldorf salad and chocolate pies. Mrs. W. M. Ballard was ably assisted in preparing and serving the meal. 

George Watkins, teacher of the Bruner Bible Class, pronounced the invocation and Shepard Johnson, accompanied by Miss Dorothy Ballinger at the piano, sang “on the Road to Mandalay” and “Shortening Bread.

Progress reports¸ covering the work of the calendar year, were presented by J. Floyd Briggs, Chairman of the Board of Deacons; Mrs. A. G. Williams¸ president of the Woman’s Missionary Society; Wyatt B. Durette, Sr., superintendent of the Sunday School; Miss Lizzie Mae Cutchin, Director of the Baptist Training Unions; Sol W. Rawls, Jr., of the building fund committee; Miss Doroty Ballinger, of the music committee; and R. H. Allen, Church treasurer.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.