Charles Fisher

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Early portrait of Charles Fisher
Later portrait of Charles Fisher

Charles Lewis Fisher (born February 16, 1866 in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana; died August 11, 1939 in Augusta, Georgia) was pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church for two terms, from 1898 to 1911 and from 1921 to 1930.

Charles was the son of Alexander and Elizabeth Fisher. He was baptized at Broadway Street Baptist Church in New Orleans, and studied at Leland College there, earning a bachelor of arts on May 28, 1884. From there he attended the Baptist Union Theological Seminary in Morgan Park, Illinois. He graduated on May 5, 1887 and was ordained as a minister at the Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Illinois on September 29 of the same year. He accepted the call to lead the Mt Zion Church in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1888 and became an instructor at Selma University in Selma, Dallas County in 1889. He later returned to Laland College to complete a Master of Arts in 1891.

Fisher led a church in Mississippi, then came to Birmingham from a pastorate in Eutaw, Greene County in September 1898. He accepted a smaller salary for the opportunity to grow the small church of 420 into a greater institution. During his first year he paid off the church's debt of three thousand dollars and acquired a lot to the west of the recently-renovated church building a year later. Renovations to the church in 1908 were poorly designed and the need to rebuild became evident. The city condemned the structure in early 1909 and Fisher proceeded to contract with Windham Brothers Construction Company for a replacement building at a cost of $62,000. Wallace Rayfield designed the new building. Its roof had been completed before Fisher resigned from the pulpit in April 1911. At the time, membership at 16th Street Baptist had grown to 1,350. During most of his first term at 16th Street, Fisher was also moderator of the Mt Pilgrim Baptist District Association.

By 1921 Fisher was pastoring the Union Baptist Church of Hartford, Connecticut. In April he was called back to 16th Street Baptist for a second term. He led a capital drive that brought in $134,161.60 over the course of eight and a half years. He reduced the church's debt from $26,500 to $2,600 and also set aside $11,000 for painting, repairs and upkeep of the building. During this term the choir loft was lowered to its present height. Fisher served as a lecturer on Baptist history, edited the Advanced Sunday School Quarterly, and presided over the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Birmingham. Governor Bibb Graves appointed Fisher to represent Alabama's "Negro ministers' at the International Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance conference in Washington, D.C. two times.

After leaving Birmingham again in 1930 Fisher relocated to Selma, Dallas County where he took the pulpit of Tabernacle Baptist Church, and later the First Baptist Church before retiring. He continued to teach at Selma University as chair of the Department of Theology until his death, and served for many years as historian to the National Baptist Convention. Fisher was serving in Augusta, Georgia when he fell ill and died in August. His funeral was held at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.

Fisher and his wife, the former Rosa Jean Richardson, had five daughters: Gertrude, Annie, Cynthia, Theodora and Mildred. The daughters jointly established a scholarship to the Interdenominational Theological Center of Atlanta, Georgia in memory of their parents in 1964.

References

  • Boothe, Charles Octavius (1895) The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama, Their Leaders and Their Work. Birmingham: Alabama Publishing Company.
  • "Daughters Create Fund in Memory of Baptist Pastor" (October 9, 1965) The Afro-American
  • "C. L. Fisher" (1973) Centennial Memoirs. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church