A small group of true believers organized the Mount Olive Baptist Church in 1905. Rev. E. J. Lester was called as its first pastor. The church was located under a brush arbor on what is now West Railroad Avenue between Monroe and John Quincy Adams Streets. Worship services were conducted regularly in the little brush arbor church. Blessed with growing membership, the congregation was able to purchase land in the vicinity, and built a small frame structure in which to hold its worship services.
Serving as Deacons under Reverend Lester’s leadership were: A. S. Burch, H. J. Grantham, and J. K. Know.
Reverend Lester moved away sometime after the first church building was erected and the Reverend R. H. Herman served as pastor for two (2) years. During his tenure, the membership continued to grow and the church organized its first Sunday school with Brother C. D. Felix serving as Superintendent. Brother L. Canady became superintendent of the Sunday school after Brother Felix moved away.
There was a rapid turn-over of pastors during the next nine (9) year period. The ministers who served the congregation during this interval were: Reverend G. A. Ravagee, Reverend Sims, Reverend Taylor, and Reverend J. R. Reed.
Under Reverend Reed’s leadership, Mt. Olive was moved to its present location at 4303 Tennessee Avenue. Brother Amos Croutch, Sr. was appointed Church Clerk and served in this position until 1917 when he was ordained as a deacon. After his ordination, Sister Julia Robinson became the church clerk. When Reverend J. R. Reed moved to Chicago, Illinois, Reverend J. H. Lockett became pastor. Before Reverend Lockett’s arrival, Reverend Sims returned to the position of Pastor for a short period.
The membership grew spiritually and rapidly increased in number under Reverend J. H. Lockett’s leadership. It was during this time that the church choir under the direction of Brother Arthur Peters as pianist, won first place in a City-wide musical which was held at Gulfport City Hall. The choir was awarded a silver cup. Serving as Deacons under Reverend Lockett’s leadership were: John Bilbo, George H. Butler, Amos Croutch, Sr. and N. Walker.
Reverend Dunn served as Pastor for five (5) months, following Reverend Lockett’s departure. Although his leadership at Mt. Olive was brief, Reverend Dunn made significant contributions to the church. He was responsible for having the first electric lights installed in the church building. He also organized the first Starlight Band and Shepherd Boy’s League for the youth in the congregation.
Reverend H. B. Black was called to serve as pastor after Reverend Dunn’s departure. Under his leadership the church enjoyed one of its most progressive phases. An Usher Board and four (4) choirs were organized. Olhe Batson, Sr., John Bilbo, George Butler, Amos Croutch, S. M. Johnson, B. E. Jones, Moses Pace, Arthur Poole, R. S. Walker, and Jessie Ward served as deacons.
The membership grew so large that it became necessary to re-model and enlarge the size of the existing church building. After completion of this project, it was then decided that a building fund would be set up in order to raise the funds needed to erect a completely new building. However, before those plans could materialize, Reverend Black passed away, he served the congregation faithfully for twenty-one years. Mt. Olive’s pulpit remained vacant for a short period after Reverend Black’s death.
In 1956, the church called Reverend D. B. Barnes to serve as pastor. From the very beginning, the church continued to progress under his leadership both spiritually and financially. After serving as Pastor for approximately two (2) years, Reverend Barnes agreed with the officers and members that a larger building was needed to accommodate the constantly growing congregation’s worship and educational needs. This was when the monumental task to raise the necessary funds to erect a new sanctuary and educational complex began. Reverend Barnes insisted that the plan for church financing be tithes and offerings. Construction of the new church began in 1962. Worship services began in the new sanctuary in 1965. Also at that time the word “GREATER” was unofficially added to the name Mt. Olive Baptist Church. In 1972, a mortgage burning was celebrated.
Several ministers were ordained under Reverend Barnes’ administration, one of them was Re Reverend R. S. Walker who later became the assistant pastor. Pastor Barnes’ health began to fail and Reverend R. S. Walker took over the duties of the Pastor. Reverend Walker served faithfully and quickly earned the love and respect of the congregation.
During the leadership of Reverend D. B. Barnes and Reverend. R. S. Walker, the congregation was served by the following Deacons: J. C. Barnes, Naughton Beavers, Louis Crawford, Amos Croutch, Jr., William L. Davis, Sr., Odis Ferrell, Charlie Harville, Ernest James, John Knox, George McCurtis, Moses Pace, Malcolm Thompson, George Washington, Detroit Whitworth, and Sam Williams, Jr. Deacon Moses Pace was later ordained as a minister and was called to Pastor another church in the community.
Reverend Barnes served the church faithfully for 23 years, but because of his steadily deteriorating health, it became apparent that he would no longer be able to serve the congregation as Pastor. The church then adopted with sadness, the Deacon Board’s recommendation stating as of June 2, 1979, Reverend D. B. Barnes would become Pastor Emeritus and would receive 90% of his salary from the church for the remainder of his life.
A Pulpit Committee was then appointed to seek appropriate ministers to present to the church in an effort to fill the church’s vacant pulpit. The church also adopted the Pulpit Committee’s recommendation that the position of Interim Pastor be established. In 1979, Reverend R. S. Walker was appointed to fill that position for a stipulated period of six (6) months. Reverend R. S. Walker accepted the call to serve as Interim Pastor for Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Again, he served the congregation faithfully.
On July 14, 1980, the church adopted the report of the pulpit committee recommending that Dr. Nathan Walker, Jr., be called as full time Pastor of the Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Dr. Walker accepted the call and assumed his duties as Pastor in September 1980.
During the twenty-two years that Dr. Nathan Walker, Jr. served the congregation as Pastor, a number of projects were initiated and/or completed. Some of the projects were as follows:
Donation by members of hymnals in sufficient quantity to enable the entire congregation to participate actively in worship services.
Purchase of a mini bus
Installation of folding dividers for the fellowship hall in order that three small meetings could be carried on simultaneously.
Central heat and air conditioning for the educational complex were installed.
A new sound system installed.
A paid nursery staff initiated.
An Education Committee was organized to oversee the church’s monthly financial aid to students in college and vocational schools.
An annual observance of Senior Member’s Day initiated.
Boy and Girl Scout Troops organized along with various recreational programs.
The property and building on the west side of the church were purchased.
A 42 passenger bus purchased.
Additional deacons were ordained in order to help serve the growing congregation. Michael Bailey, Naughton Beavers, Joe Buckles, Sr., Terry Burks, Amos Croutch, Jr., William L. Davis, Sr., Theron Evans, Odis Ferrell, Elijah Faulkner, Kenneth Hall, Sr., Terry Henry, Ernest James, Willie Jefferson, Sr., Larry Jones, John Knox, Herbert Thomas, Malcolm Thompson, Detroit Whitworth, Sam Williams, and Steve Williams served as deacons.
Projects that were undertaken and/or finished during the last quarter of Dr. Walker’s leadership included:
Purchase of property on northeast corner of Tennessee Avenue and Madison Street,
Implementation of a tutorial program.
Installation of a chain link fence around North Gulfport Good Deeds Center.
Purchase of property on the northwest corner of Tennessee and Arkansas Avenues and the corner of Jefferson Street and Arkansas Avenue.
Purchase of a computer for the clerk’s office.
Implementation of a newsletter.
Video tape ministry.
Feed My Sheep ministry.
Purchase of a bus for the physically handicapped.
Educational annex that consists of nine (9) classrooms, a conference room, library, clerk’s office and restrooms.
Under Dr. Walker’s leadership, ministerial licenses were granted to Brother Willie Jefferson, Jr. and Brother Roderick Walker.
On March 10, 2002 Dr. Nathan Walker. Jr. retired as Pastor of Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Following the retirement of Dr. Nathan Walker, Jr., the leadership of the church became the responsibility of the deacons. The deacons and associate ministers, Reverend Tommy Daniels and Reverend. Bennie Faulkner, worked together to continue the church’s ministries and worship services. The Church elected a Pulpit Committee and the entire congregation was asked to pray that God would lead them in the membership in the search and selection of a Pastor.
During the “search period”, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the deacons presented a large diverse group of ministers for the congregation’s consideration. Prayers were answered and the Pastoral search ended January 4, 2004 when the church called Reverend
Phillip McSwain, Sr. to be the next Pastor. “Chosen of God” was the theme for his installation on February 15, 2004.
Since coming to Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church family, Reverend Phillip McSwain’s accomplishments have included the following:
Organization of a Witness Team with Reverend Tommy Daniels serving as Team Captain,
Junior Brotherhood and Sisterhood auxiliaries organized.
Rental property on Madison Street were purchased.
Increase in church membership, a tremendous increase in attendance at Bible Study on Wednesday nights.
The church sponsored and assisted with the construction of a Habitat Home.
Reverend Roderick Walker serves as the instructor for the Evangelistic Class
Reverend Tommy Daniels serves as the instructor for the Marriage Class.
A 46 passenger bus and a 26 passenger bus for the physically handicapped were purchased.
Under Reverend McSwain’s leadership, Alfred Young, Alton Avery, and Richard Hidleburg, Sr. were ordained as deacons. The other deacons serving under Reverend McSwain’s leadership are: Terry Burks, Amos Croutch, Jr., William L. Davis, Sr., Willie Jefferson, Sr., Larry Jones, Herbert Thomas and Sam Williams, Jr.
On Monday, August 29, 2005, “Katrina”, a category 5 hurricane severely damaged the sanctuary of the church. Worship services were held in the Fellowship Hall until the Lord blessed the congregation to re-enter the restored sanctuary in March 2009.
The future vision that God has given this church and has shown to its leaders is to purchase additional property in order to make preparations to build a new sanctuary, and to build and repair homes for the elderly. It is the church’s desire to re-establish the after-school program and establish a computer lab in order to help youth in the community become more successful in school.