W.A. Johnson, Ministering for Sixty Years at Lee Street Baptist by Tim Buchanan Dr. W.A. Johnson has passed a remarkable milestone this month by celebrating the Sixtieth anniversary of his ministry at Lee Street Baptist Church. It is very rare for a pastor to minister six decades, and his story teaches us how success and humble submission to God go hand in hand. W.A. Johnson was raised in Poguoson, Virginia. He was an honor student at Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg and Virginia Union University in Richmond with six years of study. At the time of his call from Lee Street he was a student pastor at Levi Baptist Church in Green Bay, Virginia. Johnson remembers distinctly his first visit to Bristol. His train was snowbound in Pulaski, and he was hours late to meet with the church leadership. He found the church unusually active in spite of the size of the city, and the leadership seemed impressed with him. According to Johnson, his last name probably impressed them as much as his calling. The church had very strong ties to the ministry of former pastor, Reverend C.H. Johnson, who was a very stabilizing force in the church thirty years earlier. The church grew exponentially during his ministry. W.A. Johnson accepted the call and began the fourth Sunday in February, 1961. He was soon to realize that God had called him to move the congregation from the aging structure in downtown Bristol. Members had emotional ties to the building, but over time the church did agree to look for another location, and, in the providence of God, Urban Renewal took the property for redevelopment. They set their vision for multiple properties on Mary Street to relocate. With Johnson at the helm, they moved into their new building in February, 1966. The land, building and furnishings cost over $200,000, a seemingly unattainable sum a few years earlier. At this time, Johnson and his wife, Louise, had five children, and he had completed his doctorate degree at the University of Chicago. With the move and doctorate completed, he felt the nudge to leave Bristol, when his wife became ill and died. He was left with five children to nurture. It was this overwhelming circumstance that kept him in Bristol to minister to and be supported by the people who loved him. Over the years he has set his vision to build the ministry and be involved in the community. The church established a preschool and a community center for the youth of the city. He wanted to get the children off the street and provide a place of stability and recreation. Many lives were impacted by this ministry over the years. These 60 years have not come and gone without immense struggle and sacrifice. The Black community has decreased significantly over the years, which has impacted the church’s membership. In spite of the challenges, Dr. Johnson has made major contributions to the community and is one of Bristol’s most respected and stabilizing citizens.

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