January 23rd, 2012 at 2:42 pm
CORPUS CHRISTI – The man who led an Austin church to become one of the first two predominantly African American congregations to affiliate with the Baptist General Convention of Texas died Friday at the age of 92.
Harold Branch was the pastor of 19th Street Baptist Church in Austin, which affiliated with the BGCT in 1954 alongside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Austin. The congregations also were the first African American churches to join the Austin Baptist Association.
Branch, who was known for encouraging equality through the Civil Rights movement, also was the first African American elected as a convention officer. He was elected second vice president of the convention in 1973.
Branch, who later was pastor of St. John Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, was a leader in bringing the community together across racial lines. He was particularly helpful in the relationship between the African American community and the police department. In 1971, Branch became the first African American city councilman in Corpus Christi since 1889.
“Dr. Branch was a trailblazer, especially considering the atmosphere of the 50s,” said Charlie Singleton, director of BGCT African American ministries. “In 1954, he, along with Dr. Robert Row who at that time was pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, stepped forward in the face of all odds to apply for affiliation through the Austin Baptist Association to become part of the BGCT. They were the genesis of the over eight hundred African American churches presently affiliated with BGCT. In 1973, he again blazed the trail by being elected second vice-president of BGCT, the first African American holding any elected office in the convention.”
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