Our Former Pastors
Rev. William Walker (1864 - 1868)
The "Organizer," leader and teacher. In 1861, seven believers already received into communion, left Fredericksburg, Virginia to begin prayer meetings house to house. Sunday School was organized in 1863. In 1864, nine believers were baptized in Rock Creek, and on September 12, 1864, they formed ZION Baptist Church. Bro. William Walker became its first pastor. Under his leadership Zion's foundation was set and in 1867, the growing Congregation purchased Simpson's Feed Store for its meeting place. A year later, in 1868, Reverend Walker resigned from Zion to become a full time pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church, DC.
Rev. William Gibbons (1868-1885)
The "Builder." Under his leadership and the services of the Manning Brothers (skilled builders who renovated the Feed Store), a new edifice was built on the same site in 1870. He introduced Zion to the Philadelphia Baptist Association, a move that improved the order of the religious instruction and guidance.
Rev. William James Howard (1886-1925)
The "Shepherd," served 39 years until his sudden death in 1925. Reverend Howard is the longest serving pastor in Zion's history. The incorporation of Zion Baptist Church, Inc. is dated April 22, 1890 and filed April 26, 1890 (during his tenure). Under his leadership the Congregation built the edifice at 337 "F" Street, SW. Reverend Howard extended the Congregation's outreach into social service, addressing the needs of the young, the old and the needy.
Rev. William L. Washington (1925-1933)
The "Teacher," was the fourth pastor. He was a public school teacher and pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church. Reverend Howard had baptized his successor as a young man in 1915. Serving until his death in 1933, Reverend Washington's leadership led to Zion's Church School graded class system, which provided religious training for all ages.
Rev. John M. Ellison (1933-1937)
The "Planner," was the fifth pastor. Under his leadership, three basic needs of the Church were emphasized: religious education, the supremacy of spiritual life and the social role of the Church in the community - an especially vital role during the Great Depression. Dr. Ellison served Zion faithfully and charted a course for continuous spiritual devotion and wider community service before resigning on July 1, 1937 to accept the presidency of Virginia Union University (then, College) in Richmond, Virginia.
Rev. A. Joseph Edwards (1938-1959)
The "Executive," was originally called a supply pastor following the resignation of Dr. Ellison and eventually became our sixth pastor. Under Dr. Edwards' leadership, the Congregation was able to burn the mortgage on the educational annex at the "F" Street, SW site, install and pay for a magnificent $20,000 organ and relocate the edifice. He was instrumental in using Zion as a practical training center for ministerial interns from the Howard University School of Religion and the Washington Baptist Seminary, on whose faculty he served. His leadership skills aided Zion and other churches in negotiations with the Redevelopment Land Agency and its expropriation of land in Southwest. As a result of the loss of the property on “F” Street, in 1956, Rev. Edwards planned for long-term housing at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA on Rhode island Avenue, NW. By securing the best feasible assessment of Zion's edifice in Southwest, we were eventually able to build the present edifice. Reverend Edwards died suddenly on September 27, 1959 on his way to Zion's 95th Anniversary Worship Service which was to be followed by the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the current Zion Baptist Church Building on the same day.
Rev. Carlton W. Veazey (1960-1993)
The "Innovator," was our seventh pastor. He came to Zion in 1959 as a very young ministerial intern from the Howard University School of Religion four months prior to Reverend Edwards' untimely death. Reverend Veazey became Pastor in 1960 at age 24 and led Zion's transition to the 4850 Blagden Avenue, Northwest edifice in his second year as Pastor. Under his leadership, the Church mortgage was burned in a mere seventeen years on September 23, 1979. His concern for the elderly inspired the Congregation to raise $75,000 within six weeks, in 1980, to purchase the Ukranian Catholic facility at 4817 Blagden Avenue, now known as the Family Life Center. The mortgage on the building was burned in 1992. Reverend Veazey initiated the former Zion Baptist Nursery and Kindergarten Center in 1961, the Genevieve N. Johnson Senior Day Care Program in 1972, as community outreach programs; the Prayer of Intercession; and, in the seventies, the unprecedented "ordination of women in the ministry" at that time. Reverend Veazey's tenure as Pastor at Zion ended in July 1993, after 33 years.
Rev. Emil M. Thomas (1994-2004)
The "Orator," accepted the call to be the eighth pastor. Under his leadership, the Congregation conducted an all-night Mission Marathon to demonstrate support for Zion's newly developed Mission Statement: "Zion Baptist Church shall Enlist Sinners, Educate Students, Empower the Suffering, Encourage the Saints, and Exalt our Savior." In 1998, Dr. Thomas ordained Deaconesses for the first time in Zion's history. During the latter part of his tenure, Zion held two Sunday (8am and 11 am) Worship Services. New ministries formed under his leadership include the following: Human Needs Ministry, a Parenting Sunday School Class, Leaders Council, Women's Ministry, a Mid-Day Bible Class, Bereavement Ministry, Praise Brigade, Single's Ministry, Breakfast Break Ministry and Chatman's Army. After a decade of service and ministry at Zion, Reverend Thomas resigned from his position as Pastor on March 18, 2004.