Last Updated on July 21, 2016
In 1865 a group of God inspired blacks under the leadership of Reverend Frank Dobbins met in a humble home in the 1400 block of Gadsden Street and established Zion Baptist Church. This small building served as their place of worship for five years. In 1870 the Odd Fellows, a white charitable organization, donated a lot on the corner of Washington and Gadsden Streets to the deacons and congregation at Zion. A small wooden church was built on this site.
After the death of Reverend Dobbins in 1886, Reverend H.M. Bouye was selected pastor and served until 1890, when he resigned to become a missionary. Reverend R.W. Baylor succeeded Reverend and served as pastor for 23 years. In 1913, Reverend J.C. White began his pastorate at Zion and remained Zion's leader until 1929. After Reverend White resigned, Reverend J.P. Reeder was elected pastor and served until 1960. For two years, (1961 and 1962), Zion was without a pastor. While a Pastoral Committee conducted the search for a leader, various ministers met the needs of the congregation. In September of 1962, Reverend Jesse M. Walker became pastor and served until 1970. He was followed by Reverend George B. Hamilton who was Zion's leader until his resignation in 1973. In 1973, Reverend A.W. Goforth, II was elected pastor and served until his retirement in 1993. From 1993 to 1995, Zion was without a pastor. While a Pastoral Committee conducted the search for another leader, various ministers met the needs of the congregation. Reverend Lewis P. Graham Sr. was elected as our next pastor in 1995 and served until his suprising death in April of 2008. Reverend James B. Adams Sr. was immediately elected as our Interim Pastor. Reverend Adams served in this position from June of 2008 until December 2009. Reverend Dr. Kevin E. Donalson was elected as our next pastor. Dr. Donalson began his position as pastor of Zion Baptist Church on December 13, 2009. His last day as Pastor for Zion Baptist Church was June 5, 2016. Currently, Zion is without a Pastor.
Throughout its 151 years, Zion's physical plant, membership, spiritual influence and reputation as a church, truly dedicated to spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, have grown steadily. In the 1890s the first parsonage was built next to the sanctuary. In 1916, the humble church at the corner of Washington and Gadsden streets was replaced by the beautiful sanctuary that now graces this corner. Zion's physical plant has continued to grow through the years. During the 1930s, the basement of the church and the parsonage were renovated; and in 1988, the parsonage was replaced by the Conference Building.
A number of historic events have taken place at Zion during the 151 years of its existence. Among them are the organization of the Baptist Women's Education and Missionary convention of South Carolina and the organization of the first meeting of the "Colored" Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association of South Carolina. A rich training ground for would be ministers, Zion has been the starting place for many dynamic preachers, who have testified to the influence of this great church.
It would require volumes to give all of the important data converging Zion's magnificent history. Suffice to it to note that Zion's location symbolizes what it has meant to the religious community of Columbia, South Carolina, the Southeastern region and the Nation. Truly, this church has been "kept by power divine", as it stands on the hill, a beacon for all to see. The past has been glorious, and the future looks brighter and more productive than ever.