Charles Green
National Visionary

December 25, 1915 - December 1, 2004


The Reverend Charles W. Green, Sr., was a Baptist minister who stood up for the rights of women in the Baptist church and the rights of blacks to have access to equal opportunities until his death on December 1, 2004.

Reverend Green was born in Arlington, Virginia, on December 25, 1915.   He was one of eight children (seven boys and one girl) born to Reverend James and Eliza Matilda Boyd Green.

A love of public speaking, coupled with admiration for his father, who was the pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, fueled Reverend Green's decision to become a minister.   And, at the age of 19, Reverend Green shared his call to preach with his father, who allowed Reverend Green to preach his first sermon at Mt. Zion on the first Sunday in May 1935.

In 1935, Reverend Green entered Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, but left after two years.   Reverend Green would call the years between 1935 and 1943 his "wandering years."  

In July 1943, Reverend Green was ordained by his father.   That same year, he was drafted into the Army.   He was shipped overseas in 1944 where he ministered to the black soldiers and organized church services for the 215 men in his unit.  

Reverend Green was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946.   That year, he met his wife, the former Lucy F. Washington, and they married in April 1947.   In 1946, he also began preaching at various churches in the Middle Peninsula and Tidewater regions of Virginia.

Between 1946 and 1952, Reverend Green would serve as pastor at two to three churches at a time in the Middlesex, King and Queen City, Williamsburg, and Yorktown areas of Virginia until he made the decision to pastor exclusively at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.   He retired from the church in 1990.

Reverend Green often stressed the importance of education to people he encountered.   After deciding that more education would help him become a more effective leader, Reverend Green returned to Virginia Union University and earned both his B.A. and his M.Div. in 1952 and 1957, respectively.

He earned his D.Div. in 1993 from Eastern Theological Center in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Issues of equality had always been important to Reverend Green.   And, in 1958, he was one of 15 pastors called by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to attend the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) "Crusade for Citizenship" to secure voting rights for blacks in the South. The meeting was one of 21 organized by SCLC in southern states.

Reverend Green frequently protested against segregation at department stores, banks, and other institutions in Washington, D.C.   However, he later came to view desegregation as the worst thing for blacks because it did not result in equal opportunity.

On April 27, 1967, fire destroyed Reverend Green's church.   Reverend Green held services at Calvary Episcopal Church, and, eventually, the YWCA until his church was rebuilt in May 1970.

Throughout his life, Reverend Green held office and wielded great influence in several ministerial organizations, including the Missionary Baptist Ministers' Conference and the Progressive National Baptist Convention.   From 1984 to 1986, he served as president of the Hampton University Ministers' Conference, the largest interdenominational conference of black ministers in the United States.  

Reverend Green was an early supporter of the ordination of women, which he initially opposed until his conversion in the early 1960s.   Other ministers frowned upon such ordinations and he was expelled from the Missionary Baptist Ministers' Conference but was readmitted once he agreed not to perform any future ordinations of women. However, he continued ordaining women but was not expelled.  

Reverend Green's support of women ministers as equals and his esteemed stature within the ministerial community are believed to have played a large part in the ascendance of the first woman, Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, to the presidency of the Hampton Ministers' Conference.

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Reverend Green is also considered instrumental in raising more than $2 million toward the cost of a new meeting facility at Hampton University to accommodate the growing number of ministers attending the Hampton Minister's Conference there.   The facility is used for convocation and public events which generate revenue for the university.

For his contributions, the Hampton Ministers' Conference awarded Reverend Green its first ever Living Legend Award in June 2004.

In May 2004, Reverend Green preached his 69th anniversary sermon at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Staunton, Virginia.

Reverend Green died on December 1, 2004, and is survived by his wife, Lucy, and their son, Charles, Jr.



URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/greencharles