Convention History

The year of 1843 is generally looked upon as the year of the beginnings of work among Negro Baptists in Tennessee.  It was in this year that the first Negro Baptist Church was organized in Columbia, Tennessee by Rev. Richard Sanderson.  In 1848, First Baptist Church of Nashville was organized by Rev. Nelson Merry, a church from which the present First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, Spruce Street, and other churches draw a common heritage.  First Baptist Church, Beale Avenue, in Memphis; First Baptist Church, East Nashville; Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Knoxville; First Baptist Church, Chattanooga; Woodlawn Baptist Church, Brownsville; and several other churches trace their beginnings to 1865.
 
In 1863, the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York sent missionary workers into Tennessee for service among Negroes.  Work was established in Nashville, Knoxville, McMinnville, Chattanooga, and some other sections of the State.
 
In 1872, the Baptist State Convention of Tennessee was organized.  Presently the organization is known as the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention, Incorporated.  According to early records, the Convention represented “an organized effort to do team work in fostering District and State missions, Christian Education, and to cooperate in all of the objectives of Baptists.”  The outstanding features of the Convention have always been missions and education.
 
The history of the Convention reflects the response of the Negro Baptists of Tennessee in the challenge and opportunities of the times.  In 1880, when the call went out for the formation of the National Baptist Convention, Tennessee leaders were prominent.  The second session of the Convention, in 1881, was held in Nashville.  Leaders in Tennessee have always been closely linked with national Baptist Activity, and several national agencies are located in the State.
 
The history of any organization is the history of its response to the times, and the men and the ideas which help chart its course.  In this respect, the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention, Incorporated has laid claim to outstanding leadership, and has reflected the efforts of a constituency to harness its resources to support the causes of Christ.  The Convention, through its public meetings and field representatives, has helped to promote Christian service throughout its constituency.
 
As local churches were formed and began to multiply, here developed a need for fellowship and mutual support.  The outgrowth was District Associations, among the earliest of which is the General Association in Memphis.  In 1936, there were thirty-eight Associations in Tennessee.  Today, there are twenty-nine Associations affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention, Incorporated.  Reverend Dr. Marvin Mercer, Sr. became the thirteenth person elected to this position of service.  The Former Presidents are listed below:
 
TBM&E Convention Former Presidents
 
Name City Date Served
Dr. S.A. Owen Memphis 1936-1965
Rev. A.M. Williams Memphis 1965-1969
Rev. H.H. Battle Chattanooga 1969-1973
Rev. W.C. Holmes Memphis 1973-1977
Dr. B.G. Ragsdale Knoxville 1977-1981
Rev. K.T. Whalum Memphis 1981-1985
Dr. Virgil J. Caldwell Chattanooga 1985-1989
Rev. D.W. Bender Hendersonville 1989-1992
Dr. Harold A. Middlebrook, Sr. Knoxville 1992-1996
Dr. Herman A. Powell, Sr. Memphis 1996-2000
Dr. Edward S. Robinson, Sr. Cleveland 2000-2004
Dr. Dennis E. Blalock Jackson 2004-2008
Dr. Marvin Mercer, Sr. South Fulton 2008-2016
Dr. Joe B. Maddox Knoxville 2016-Present