2336 Elmwood Avenue2336 Elmwood Avenue
Second Nazareth Baptist Church
Second Nazareth Baptist Church was organized by the Reverend Rafe M. Myers in 1903 as Macedonia Baptist Church. According to church tradition, congregants originally met under a brush arbor on Gervais and Huger streets before moving into an old store building on Gervais Street. Rev. Myers used an old barrel for a pulpit. The first church building was constructed during Myers’ thirty-year tenure as pastor. In 1945, Rev. A.C. Jones took over as the second pastor of Second Nazareth.
IN 1949, Rev. William McKinley Bowman, Sr. took the helm and undertook extensive renovations and expansion on the church property. He co-founded WOIC radio station, which became a leading voice in Columbia's African American community. He deejayed at the station for two decades, broadcasting religious music, commentary, and interviews with visiting gospel singers and minister, as well as his weekly sermons every Sunday at 11 am. (1)
Bowman ran for Columbia city council in 1954 and as a candidate for the State House of Representatives in 1958 on a platform calling for an interracial commission to aid in eliminating racial tensions in Richland County and South Carolina. He also served as state field director for the N.A.A.C.P. for several years, and in this capacity helped coordinate sit-ins at Columbia's lunch counters and educated blacks on their voting rights. In his role as pastor. Bowman used Second Nazareth Baptist Church as a venue for speakers advocating these issues. Prominent speakers who addressed the congregation included Modjeska M. Simkins, who as director of public relations for the all-black Richland County Citizens Committee advocated for integration of Columbia’s public schools in 1964, and James Farmer, who as national director of the Congress of Racial Equality encouraged African American voter registration in Richland County in 1965.
Reverend Bowman served as pastor of 2nd Nazareth until 1996, and upon his retirement became pastor emeritus. His role in the revitalization of the Read Street community led to a new street (Gordon-Bowman Street) named in his and Myrtle Gordon's honor. The church continues to be active in the local community, establishing summer camps, educational foundations and programs for care of the elderly and for public service.
(1) Interview with William McKinley Bowman Jr. (son of Pastor William McKinley Bowman, Sr.) January 22, 2015.