African American Salvationist changemakers you should know

A new online exhibit by the Central Territory Museum features more than three dozen African American Salvationists who have been changemakers. While it includes many amazing people from the Central Territory, as well as icons like Commissioner Israel L. Gaither (the first African American to be Chief of the Staff and National Commander), it also includes many others you may not know who’ve made significant contributions like those featured here.

Envoy Kenneth Burton, O.F.
Influencer and Motivator

A third generation Salvationist, Envoy Kenneth Burton’s love of music began at an early age encouraged by the excellence of the Harlem Temple Corps Band. In 1976 his brother, Brett, and Lewanne Dudley cofounded a contemporary gospel group, New Sounds for Christ, to inspire, attract and retain African American youth in The Salvation Army. When they entered the School for Officers’ Training (now College for Officer Training) two years later, Kenneth took over the leadership. Witnessing to Christ’s love for 44 years, it’s the Army’s longest standing contemporary gospel group.

In 1977, Kenneth served as the first chairman of the Eastern Territory’s Black Ministries Committee, which made recommendations to the Territorial Commission on Planning and Goals regarding Salvation  Army ministries within the Black community. They developed a wide range of projects including inner-city and candidate seminars, tools to optimize Salvationism in the Black community and an inspiring curriculum for the School for Officers Training. He remains active as an ex-officio member of the group now known as the Territorial Committee for Salvationists of African Descent.

He was named Musician of the Year in 1988 in the Greater New York Division and territorial Man of the Year in 1992 with an award presented by General Eva Burrows. In 2004 he received the Army’s highest honor when as a corps sergeant-major he was inducted into the Order of the Founder for outstanding service above and beyond the call of duty.

After retiring from corporate America in 2011, he became an envoy and was appointed to the Harlem Temple Corps. Envoy Kenneth’s deep spiritual commitment to God and people, evidenced through the ministry of music and the desire to work for God’s Kingdom, continues to drive him to be a leading voice for African Americans in the Eastern Territory.

 

Delilah Collier, O.F.
Educator and Mentor

Delilah Collier proved more than a capable teacher, mother and Salvationist. In 1977, she helped launch the Eastern Territory Black Ministries Committee to discuss issues and advise goals for inclusion of Black officers. She and fellow committee members advocated for further training and curriculum to prepare Black officers for leadership positions. They spoke for and legitimized the Black community within The Salvation Army. In addition, she served on the curriculum committee at the School for Officers’ Training (now College for Officer Training) as a voice for the unique challenges Black cadets would face once they became officers.

For more than 50 years, Delilah was a faithful and dedicated soldier of the Hartford Citadel, Conn., Corps unwavering in the support of her corps officers. She was a fierce prayer warrior and had the spiritual gift of hospitality.

She raised seven children and her three very young brothers after her mother died. Though living in public housing and receiving welfare, Delilah opened her home to others. She never turned anyone away or gave indication of limited resources. One year, her son who was a cadet invited 10 other cadets for Thanksgiving dinner; without blinking she said, “Of course, tell them to bring sleeping bags, and we’ll figure it out.” Cadets featured daily in her prayers and she would often send them cards of encouragement, tucking in money which, quite often, was exactly what they needed.

Delilah was admitted into the Order of the Founder (O.F.), the Army’s highest honor, in 2002 for her multicultural work, local officer training and evangelism. Receiving the award, she said, “We don’t know the full joy of the Lord until we can fully surrender all to Him. If we can just be faithful, if we can just be willing, if we can go in the power of the Spirit, God will take care of everything for us.”

 

Major Norma T. Roberts
Innovator and Liberator

Known for her work in the Southern Territory during the era of racial segregation, Major Norma T. Roberts can be described as an innovator and liberator. In 1944, after being denied entrance to the School for Officers’ Training in Atlanta, Ga., she changed direction and was welcomed into the Eastern Territory’s training college where she embraced new opportunities to make an impact.

Always feeling her calling would return her to the beloved South, Major Norma was appointed to the Southern Territory in 1949 with hope and fortitude. When a Little Rock, Ark., reporter wrote an article about her ministry, the struggles faced by the local Black community were uncovered, and Major Norma and the Army went into action.

At an advisory board meeting to plan a new community center to serve the neighborhood, she said, “The Salvation Army strives to promote the spiritual and material welfare of people all over the world—regardless of race or color. In that spirit, it seeks to bring its service to my people in the Southland.”

In 1952, the community center opened, and the community had a place to congregate, enjoy recreation and share in God’s love. It served 5,000 annually. Through hard work, Major Norma helped to liberate the Army from antiquated thought patterns through innovative approaches linking Black communities and Salvation Army ministry.

 

Major Maurice Smith
Idealist and Renovator

The son of pioneering officers, Major Maurice Smith became the first Black officer commissioned in 1968 from the Southern Territory School for Officers’ Training (now Evangeline Booth College) in Atlanta, Ga. During his 40 years as an officer, he would serve in all four U.S. territories.

Some of his flagship work was done as a captain when he was transferred to the Western Territory in 1973 to reestablish the Compton, Calif., Corps which had closed around the time of the race riots in 1965. By the 1970s the city was plagued by high unemployment, poverty, gangs and crime. Despite racial disparity, he successfully created trust, and, like so many Black officers, built a bridge between The Salvation Army and the Black community. He also was the first Black officer to manage an advisory board.

Using an anonymous donation, then-Captain Maurice successfully supervised the construction and opening of a 1,900-sq.-ft. building. The Compton Corps enrolled in the War on Poverty campaign by President Lyndon Johnson and became a site for the Neighborhood Youth Corps. This strategy brought many youth into the corps where the captain offered them counseling and support.

After retiring in 2011, he taught at the South’s Evangeline Booth College for six years. In 2018 the major published his autobiography, My Song of Songs, reflecting on his life through songs, a unique technique but not surprising given his keen vocal and brass musical abilities.

 

Major Gwendolyn Jones
Reformer and Advocate

Recognized as the first Black officer to be commissioned from the Western Territory School for Officers’ Training (now College for Officer Training) in 1974, Major Gwendolyn Holmes Jones spent more than 40 years serving others in Christ’s name and advocating for the Black community. She challenged those espousing racial disparities, was successful in breaking down barriers in areas that experienced racial strife and believed that effective ministry came through “bridging.”

In a New Frontier Chronicle article, she said, “You need to be able to represent whatever community you are working for and help Salvation Army leaders understand what’s going on in that community so we can better serve it. In the very beginning of my ministry, what attracted me to the ministry of The Salvation Army was the love that Salvation Army officers showed me and The Salvation Army programs. I could see how this love and the programs could benefit African American communities…and other communities that were in need.”

Major Gwendolyn strove to connect those communities with the Army’s life-changing gospel message, programs and resources. She proved a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to others. One of the highlights of her officership was serving on an African American Multicultural Committee for the Western Territory where Major Gwendolyn “gave a voice to the minorities of The Salvation Army.”

 

Lt. Colonel B. Barton McIntyre
Leader and Visionary

Canadian Lt. Colonel Barton McIntyre began his work with The Salvation Army in New York, first as commanding officer at the Harlem Temple, N.Y., Corps, and later at the Brooklyn Bedford, N.Y., Corps. Following his marriage to Lt. Mildred Ernestine Bowen in 1939, they were appointed to Cleveland, Ohio, where they continued to serve the Black community. There, they led the “colored corps” for 16 years when, in 1949, Colonel Barton began his journey as a visionary. His request to change the name of the “colored corps” to the Central Area Corps was accepted immediately and sent waves of change throughout the Army. He knew it was a small but important step toward an equitable future.

Being reappointed to the Harlem Temple Corps in 1955, Colonel Barton demonstrated leadership with the theme “Watch Us Grow,” and the corps grew enormously during his three-year tenure.

However, it was his work with other Black officers regarding race relations in the Army that made a lasting impact. He led the Eastern Territory Black Ministries Committee which gathered in 1969 to address issues concerning the inclusion of Black officers and the Black community within the Army. This meeting resulted in formation of the Multicultural Department (now Mission and Culture Department) in the Eastern Territory and the 12-point plan of inclusion for Black officers.

In 1969, he received the rank of lt. colonel, the highest rank of a Black officer at that time.

 

 

 

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