A. J. Dickinson
Dickinson, a Virginian, resided in Dallas County, Alabama for about 10 years before coming to Birmingham. He took over as pastor for First Baptist Church after the resignation of B. D. Gray in the summer of 1901. Two years later the church dedicated a new building at the corner of 6th Avenue North and 22nd Street.
Dickinson was considered a liberal and a reformer by the standards of the day, having involved himself in Social Gospel and progressive causes. He supported the theory of "higher criticism" which held the text of the Bible subject to contemporary methods of scientific inquiry rather than held to be infallible. He was also respected for his humility and supported economic and labor reforms to benefit the working classes.
Dickinson also firmly believed in a moral imperative for racial segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans. He held that the power of the vote should only be entrusted in a select few with the moral and intellectual means to exercise it for the betterment of all.
Dickinson was also leader of a strenuously anti-Catholic political organization called the "True Americans" that succeeded in installing former East Lake mayor Nathaniel Barrett into the presidency of the Birmingham City Commission on a campaign of removing Catholics from public service and firmly establishing the sanctity of the Sabbath by keeping cinemas closed on Sundays. The True Americans were known for employing strong tactics to pressure employers to dismiss Catholics and were suspected in incidents of violence against Catholic churches and parochial schools.
Dickinson was married to the former Lucy Broaddus Stone and had four children, Alfred Jr, Lucy, Elizabeth and Charles. His Birmingham residence was next door to the church, at 517 22nd Street North.
- Jones, Terry Lawrence (1968) "Attitudes of Alabama Baptists toward Negroes, 1890-1914". master's thesis. Samford University, cited in Bass, S. Jonathan (2001) Blessed Are The Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Baton Rouge: LSU Press. ISBN 0807126551
- Burrows, John H. (1970) "The Great Disturber: The Social Philosophy and Theology of Alfred James Dickinson". master's thesis. Samford University, cited in Wiggins, Sarah Woolfolk, editor (1987) From Civil War to Civil Rights: Alabama, 1860-1960: An Anthology from the Alabama review. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817303413
- Breedlove, Michael A. (July 1980) "Progressivism and Nativism: The Race for the Presidency of the City Commission of Birmingham, Alabama in 1917". Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society. Vol. 6, Nos. 6 & 7, reprinted in James L. Baggett, ed. (2000) The Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society: An Anthology Honoring Marvin Yeomans Whiting. Birmingham: Birmingham Public Library and Birmingham Historical Society. ISBN 0942301250