Athens Baptist Church History
The Athens Baptist Church was organized as the Concord Baptist Church on October 29, 1887. The men and women attending the organizational meeting desired a Baptist fellowship in Athens, then Concord, and they included: Rev. J. P. Campbell, John S. Caperton, Phillip Thompson, Thompson H. Caperton and Allen T. Caperton of the Mountain View Church; H. F. Gore and P. A. Bowling of Browns Ridge Church; Nelson Farley and Samuel Hopkins of Rocky Mount Church; and S. L. Crotty and David E. Johnston of the Princeton Church.
James Patrick Campbell is credited with being the driving force for the establishment of the Concord (now Athens) Baptist Church, and he was unanimously selected as its first pastor. Charter members were J. P. Campbell, R. G. Meador, Thompson H. Caperton, Annie W. Williams, Ellen E. Kirtner, Nommie L. Bird, N. May Campbell, Lizzie R. Meador, Louisa F. Campbell from Mountain View Church; Sarah Reynolds from Princeton Church; and P. A. Bowling from Browns Ridge Church.
Although, in 1889, action was taken to seek subscriptions for building a house of worship, it was not until 1898 that the order to build was made. In May of 1889, the Church purchased the Kirtner lot that was adjacent to the Normal School property, and which is the present location of the Athens Baptist Church. On July 4, 1899, the cornerstone was laid by the Masonic Lodge. It is said that T. W. Dickinson gave the lumber to build the original structure which consisted of the Sanctuary, the adjacent Sunday school rooms and small rooms located in back of the pulpit. During the period of construction, in September of 1899, the Church changed its name from Concord Baptist Church to Athens Baptist Church, so that its work could be distinguished from that in Concord, Virginia.
On January 27, 1901, the first service in the new home of the Church was conducted by its pastor, William L. Ball. Previous to this time, its services were held in the Concord Church building, which was used by two other denominations cooperatively, located where the present Concord United Methodist Church is in Athens.
Since 1901, modest changes have been made to the original structure. In 1933, a Sunday school room and kitchen were added. During the years 1949 – 1951, extensive remodeling was done by Thomas A. Beckett which resulted in the Sanctuary being refurbished, a Fellowship Hall and several classrooms. In 1957, the Anderson Addition to the rear of the Church was completed, which provided space for a Pastor’s Study, several classrooms and a Nursery.
As stated before, the Reverend James Patrick Campbell is given much of the credit for organizing the Concord Baptist Church. He was born in Monroe County in 1846, ordained in 1871, as pastored numerous different churches, including Concord Baptist Church. Soon after the firm decision was made to build the church building in Athens, Reverend Campbell, with his wife and daughter, were granted letters so that they might unite with the First Baptist Church of Hinton. He later returned to Athens where he died in 1906 and was buried in the family cemetery.
At the time of his successful effort to establish the Concord Baptist Church, the Reverend James P. Campbell was Pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church. It should be noted here that during the early life of the Concord Baptist Church, having a pastor to meet its needs was made possible by a cooperative arrangement with the Princeton Baptist Church. This arrangement continued until the pastorate of Thomas E. Peters.
Pastors of the Athens Baptist Church have included: James P. Campbell (1887 – 1898), William L. Ball (1898 – 1902), R. H. Bowden (1902 – 1905), W. L. Richardson (1906 – 1907), B. P. Pennington (1908 – 1910), J. J. Cook (1911 – 1912), Thomas E. Peters (1912 – 1917), W. M. Hall (1918 – 1922), Lewis W. Swope (1923 – 1930), Carl T. Hensley (1931 – 1941), Scott A. Swinehart (1942 – 1944), Edgar M. Bottorff (1945 – 1948), George L. Cutlip (1948 – 1952), Oscar J. Burnside, Sr. (1952 – 1954), Leonard Bias (Interim, 1955), James M. Fogg (1955 – 1959), Bill L. Withers (1959 – 1963), Albert C. Wright (Interim, 1963 – 1964), George Sublette (1964 – 1966), Albert C. Wright (1966 – 1968), Thomas J. Goldston, Jr. (1968 – 1978), Frank E. S. “Ted” Reid (1979 -1998 ), Thomas J. Goldston, Jr. (Interim, 1999), Travis Norvell (2000 - 2001), Bill L. Withers (Interim, 2001), Thomas J. Goldston, Jr. (Interim, 2001 - 2004), John Gunter (Interim, 2005 - 2006), Thomas Vance (2006 - 2008), Charlie Drake (2008 - present).