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Rev William Holmes Borders, Sr

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Rev William Holmes Borders, Sr

  • Birth 24 Feb 1905 Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, USA
  • Death 23 Nov 1993 Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA
  • Burial Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA
  • Memorial ID 10655394

Social reformer, minister and noted champion for civil rights for the African American community of Atlanta, Georgia. Borders used his position as a minister to help to desegregate the buses, the Atlanta Police Department and to improve conditions for the African American's in Atlanta. He is best remembered as the illustrious pastor for five decades of the polictically influential Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta ("God's Mighty Fortress on Auburn Ave"). Known as "the Handyman of the Lord" and "the Prophet of Wheat Street," Rev. Dr. William Holmes Borders, Sr. made his mark in ministry in many important areas. He was the pastor of a five-thousand-member congregation in Atlanta. He was a civil rights activist even before the advent of his Atlanta neighbor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps most notably, he led his church in building hundreds of units of housing for the poor and the elderly. Borders, a third generation of ministers in his family was born in Macon, Georgia, on February 24, 1905. He was the seventh child born to Rev. and Mrs. James Buchanan Borders. Young Borders later mangaged to graduate from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1929, even though he had been told to leave the campus because he could not pay the tuition. But he continued to attend classes, and his professors continued to allow him to participate. Borders won a scholarship to attend Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, earning a bachelor of divinity degree in 1932. He earned a master of arts degree in 1933 from the University of Chicago. He then served the Second Baptist Church of Evanston, Illinois, from 1932 to 1937. He married Julia Pate (who preceeded him in death) in 1931, while he was still a student at Garrett. They had two children, both of whom became physicians. Borders left Evanston to return to Morehouse College as an instructor in 1937. On November 17, 1937, he was called to be the pastor of Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he remained for the balance of his career. Border's impact on Atlanta was immediate and impressive. In 1945 he directed a campaign to obtain jobs as bus drivers for African Americans. He led a voter registration drive in 1946 that generated fifteen thousand new black voters. He then took that list of voters to the mayor of Atlanta and demanded that the city hire black policemen. With that level of polictical clout, the mayor's response was, "How many black police officers do you want, Reverend?" In 1957 Borders led a group called the Triple L Committee (love-liberty-loyalty) that successfully desegregated the buses in Atlanta. Borders also hosted a radio program in Atlanta that regularly challenged the white power structure of that city to treat black citizens with respect and to extend to them equal opportunity in all areas of the life of the city. In 1959 Borders was expelled from the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBCUSA) following his opposition to the attempts of Rev. Dr. Joseph Harrison Jackson to hold the office of convention president beyond the agreed-upon term of office. Borders then became a charter member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), which was organized in 1961, largely over the question of the tenure question that had divided the NBCUSA. In the early 1960s he chaired the Adult-Student Liaison Committee, which worked to desegregate Atlanta's hotels, lunch counters, and restaurants. Borders is best known, however, as a leader in the area of church-sponsored housing projects. In the neighborhood that surrounds the church, housing units include high-rise apartments and garden units. The building projects began in the 1950s, when people were being uprooted from their homes in order to make room for an interstate highway. From that beginning on 22.5 acres of land, the projects went on to include the 280 apartments called the Wheat Street Gardens (1963) and the fourteen-story Wheat Street Retirement Home (known as Wheat Street Towers)(1972). It is said that Wheat Street had the largest property holdings of any black church in the United States, infusing the surrounding community with more than $15 million worth of development. The church rented out a number of storefronts along Auburn Ave. (the street the church is located on), and owned fiften acres of property in downtown Atlanta. Borders had also set up the first federal credit union sponsored by any church and is considered one of the pioneers in church-sponsored public housing. In 1965 Borders ran for the Georgia state legislature as a Republican and came within ten thousand votes of being elected. In 1954 he was selected by Ebony magazine as one of the nation's ten best black preachers. He was the recipient of three doctor of divinity degrees and two doctor of laws degrees from Atlanta University and Howard University. He also coined the phrase "I am somebody," which would later be popularized by Rev. Jessie Jackson. Borders remained an active figure in Atlanta's public life until his retirement in 1988. This "Handyman of the Lord" was called from labor to reward in a Atlanta hospital in 1993.

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  • Created by: Curtis Jackson
  • Added: 22 Mar 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10655394
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  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev William Holmes Borders, Sr (24 Feb 1905–23 Nov 1993), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10655394, citing South View Cemetery, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Curtis Jackson (contributor 46552524) .