Our Pastoral Lineage

1868 -1891: Reverend John Henry (Jack) Yates

Reverend Jack Yates was born a slave in Glouster County, Virginia, and came to Matagorda County, Texas, sometime during 1863 or 1864.  After receiving his freedom, he settled his family in Houston.  Reverend Yates was  viewed as an even and mild-tempered man.  He was positive in his approach, yet courteous, with a fatherly disposition.  He had a good memory and possessed the ability to quote from the Bible or other ceremonial works without difficulty.  During his tenure, the membership of Antioch increased more than four-fold.  The box house was no longer able to accommodate the congregation adequately.  In 1873, a Board of Trustees, consisting of Ed Cravey, Richard Allen and Henry Dotson was elected to purchase land and make arrangements for constructing a brick house.  Two lots were purchased and deeded to the membership of Antioch while funds were subscribed from members.  The cornerstone was laid on the 15th day of May in 1875.  The men of the congregation hand made and laid the brick free of charge, and the women provided the men with a free noon-day meal.  Four years later, on the first Sunday in August 1879, the congregation marched from “Old Baptist Hill” to the new brick church on Robin Street, which is Antioch’s present site.  This church was designed and built by Richard Allen, an architect, member of the 12th Legislative session (the first Texas Legislative session in which Blacks served), quartermaster for the black regiment of the Texas militia, Custom Collector for the Port of Houston, and superintendent of the Antioch Sunday School.  The church, located in the center of Freedman’s Town, was the first brick structure in Houston to be built and owned by African-Americans. 

Antioch provided the former slaves with opportunities to learn about God while assisting them in developing educationally, economically and socially.  The first educational opportunity for freed African-Americans in Houston began at Antioch.  Reverend Yates, with the help of two missionaries, Mrs. Jennie L. Peck and Mrs. Florence Dysart, began the Houston Baptist Academy.  The Houston Baptist Academy taught reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as vocational trades.   The Houston Baptist Academy later became Houston College for Negroes, and Houston College became Texas Southern University.  Additionally, the first African-American college in the state of Texas, Bishop College, began with the vision and support of Reverend Yates and Antioch. Under Jack Yates’ leadership, members were encouraged to buy property, own homes and start businesses.  In 1891, Reverend Yates left Antioch after twenty-four years of service and then went on to organize Bethel Baptist Church.

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