The History of
Leach Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Compiled by the late Mrs. Mary Turner Bassett
On a Sunday morning near the banks of the Arkansas River in the late summer of 1877, a group of strong Christian pioneers met to discuss what would become Leach Chapel CME Church. The meeting was between Cypress and Olive streets, west of what is now the North Little rock bridge in the city of Argenta, now North Little Rock, Arkansas.
From the sincerity of their purpose and the warmth of their motives, a small edifice arose on the banks of the meandering Arkansas River. They called the structure the "Little Green Church".
Today, we pause to salute the early pioneers of our church. Those pioneers were eventually given a lot on east Third Street,now called Broadway Street, by the husband of the late Mrs. Nannie Fairmon. Mrs. Rose Leach was happy to be a part of this organized body of baptized believers and gave generously to the Little Green Church. Hence, the church was named after her. The address was 1012 East Broadway, North Little Rock, Arkansas. This began a new era for the little church that had its beginning on the bank of the river.
Although much of Leach Chapel’s history remains formally unrecorded, it is rich with tradition and more. On December 7, 1892, Bishop Isaac Lane held the Annual Conference and Leach Chapel was admitted to the Conference. At the time the denomination was called the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church South. The denomination became known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church at the General Conference held in Jackson, Tennessee in 1954.
It is through the memories, both vivid and dim, of the offspring of those pioneers that we are able to chronicle the history of Leach Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Leach Chapel has been served by some of the most outstanding and dedicated leaders in the country. While there remains some unexplained gaps in the ministerial chronology, we offer the list below as encouragement to those who would assist us in filling them as soon as possible. Pastors who have stewarded the flock at Leach Chapel included:
1900 - Rev. J. M. Reed, Evangelist.
1904 - Rev. A.C. Smith. Under his leadership, a brick building was built for
Leach Chapel on East
1908 - Rev. I. P. Norman.
1916 - Rev. W. W. Atchinson
1917 - Rev. H. Cooper
1922 - Rev. J. B. Brown. He was with Leach Chapel for two years and was
strong in faith and rich in experience. He was also the grandfather of
Elder John H. Robinson. Elder Robinson, one of our favorite sons of
the ministry, later became the Presiding Elder of the Tennessee
Conference. Rev. Brown also has two granddaughters and a great
grandson now serving at Leach Chapel.
1923 - Rev.W. Conway Smith. He was a very inspiring leader and he led the
congregation honorably for one year. He was then appointed by
Bishop J.H. Hamlett to serve as Presiding Elder of the Little Rock
1926 - Rev. J.C. Clay.
1928 - Rev. E.R. Coleman. He was a profound thinker and an eloquent
1930 - Rev. J.A. Stout. He was strong in faith and devotion to the Gospel.
He was tremendously effective with our youth.
1931 - Rev. Charles Smith. He labored tireless while at Leach Chapel.
1933 - Rev. M. Pearson. He was a dynamic leader. He was called from labor
to reward after a brief illness before his term at Leach expired.
1934 - Rev. S.J. Jordan. He was a sincere man of God.
1935 - Rev. S.J. Tollette. He was a gentle man and a strong leader.
1939 - Rev. W.E. Easley. He lobbied and worked for a new sanctuary.
1942 - Rev. Ben T. Carter. He stressed evangelism.
Between 1942 and 1950, various ministers served at Leach Chapel for varying periods of time. Among them were:
- Rev. H.C. Ewing, who led the church honorably.
- Rev. J. E. Buford, who served faithfully.
- Rev. L. C. Keys, who discharged his duties religiously.
- Rev. W. J. Gates, who was faithful and just in all his dealings.
- Rev. W. G. Debro, who led my example
- Rev. S. J. Smith, who was always available to his flock.
- Rev. Raymond Lyles, whose heart was as good as gold.
In 1950, Rev. Charles H. Smith was assigned to Leach a second time. During his pastorate, a church was purchased from Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. The beauty of the edifice overwhelmed the congregation. Rev. Smith served Leach Chapel Faithfully and was hugely popular in the community.
In 1967, Rev. W. S. Jones came to Leach Chapel. Rev. Jones was extremely loyal and a very powerful speaker. He went on to become a very effective Presiding Elder of the Texarkana District and would eventually become Chief Justice of the CME Church.
In 1969, Rev. John H. Robinson was assigned to Leach Chapel. His ability to inspire the youth of the church became legendary. His scholarly nature combined with a “down to earth” demeanor enabled him to reach every part of the community with ease. He encouraged his members to be creative. It was under his leadership that the concept of mass choirs was born at Leach Chapel. These choirs often featured youth soloists who belted out up tempo songs and piano players that “raked” the keyboards. What was at first controversial became commonplace in the CME church as visiting churches came to Leach and returned home with what they had heard. Many souls were brought to Christ under his pastorate. Many hungry people were fed under his leadership. Rev. Robinson served for nine prosperous years at Leach Chapel. Also, a little known historical fact, Rev. Robinson was a former star wide receiver for the North Little Rock Jones High Dragons football team. He eventually put his management skills to work as a Presiding Elder for the Little Rock District.
1978 - Rev. W. C. Gant. During his pastorate the church at 1012 East
Broadway was completely destroyed by fire. Under his leadership,
the church begin to grow and God moved mighty through the
1980 - Rev. Albert Davidson. Under his leadership, the church purchased the
edifice on Palm Street, North Little Rock.
1981 - Rev. M. L. Hendricks. He came back to Leach after serving as
Presiding Elder of the Little Rock District. He was a man who
walked by faith and not by sight. He was known as a “Builder” and he
immediately began to solidify plans to build a new church and bring a
spirit of kindness to the membership.
1983 - Rev. C.L. Bell. He had a vision of what Leach could become and
labored to make it a reality.
1984 - Rev. A.D. Higgs. Few pastors were as sensitive to the needs of the
less fortunate, or as articulate in preaching the gospel.
1985 - Rev. Lee A. Allen. He was a pastor who recognized the importance of
consensus, but never at the expense of compromising Christian
1986 - Rev. Lee Irving. He is responsible for securing our current parsonage
on Wakefield Drive in Little Rock Arkansas. He served two years.
1987 - Dr. Conway Spears. He was a religious scholar who served too briefly
at Leach Chapel.
1987 - Rev. J.W. Johnson. Rev. Johnson finished the Spears term and later
became Presiding Elder.
1990 - Rev. Clinton L. Washington. He served Leach Chapel for nine years
and sponsored into the ministry more than seven people. He was
responsible for what is now known as the “Shared Ministry.” Among
those who shared the ministry was Alice Culberson, who in
September of 1995 became the first female minister in the history of
Leach Chapel. Rev. Kenneth L. Banks, Rev. Larry W. Ross, Rev.
Charles Holloway, Rev. Cleavon Meabon, Rev. Cassandra Jackson,
Rev. Estella Johnson-Tucker, Rev. Phyllis Goodman, Rev Samuel
Blanks, III, Rev. Mary Tillman, Rev. Patsy Wright all started the
ministry under his leadership. Leach also saw its first female
exhorter in the person of Sis. Wilicia 'Kaye' Sullivan.
1999-2013 - Rev. J. W. Johnson returned as pastor and Presiding Elder for
the second time. He immediately began to solidify plans to build a
new church and bring a spirit of cooperation and kindness to the
membership. Thank God for all the ministers and for the devout
members and officers who served in their pastorate. We appreciate
their sacrifices that have allowed us to enjoy this glorious day of
celebration. Since Rev. Johnson’s return, he has been teaching the
principles of tithing and the church and has helped the church
purchase new pews donated by the members of the church with a new
pulpit set, donated by Rev. Larry Brown and family. Elder Albert
Davidson retired in 2009 and Rev. Johnson recommended Bro.
Samuel Blanks, Jr. and Ron A. Lee as Exhorters.
2004 - Rev. James W. Johnson dedicated the new church building and laid
the cornerstone for the church.
September 13, 2009 - We thank God for all the ministers and for the devout members and officers who served in their pastorate. We appreciate their sacrifices that have allowed us to enjoy this glorious day of celebration. We now look forward to a bright future and stand ready to endure in order that Leach Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church might grow, prosper and serve as an example in the community and glorify Christ, the Head of the Church. Rev. Johnson served 10 consecutive year and we thank God for his guidance and leadership.
July, 2013, Rev. Danny J. Carter was assigned as pastor of Leach. You can read more about Rev. Carter by visiting our link on the website.
Originally compiled by the late Mrs. Mary Turner Bassett
Submitted by Sis. Maxie Blakely, August, 2009