BISHOP JAMES OGLETHORPE PATTERSON, SR. (1912 - 1989)
Church History | Bishop Charles Harrison Mason | Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr. | Bishop J.O. Patterson, Jr.
BISHOP JAMES OGLETHORPE PATTERSON, SR. was the son of the late William and Mollie Patterson. As a child he was taught divine precepts and given spiritual guidance by his parents. This training was also supported by his sister, Alice, and others who were able to detect a uniqueness about him. While growing up in Derma, Mississippi; Heath, Arkansas and eventually Memphis, Tennessee, he received his formal educational training in the public schools of those cities. The majority of his training, however, was received in the Memphis City School system and the Howe School of Religion, which later became a part of the school presently known as LeMoyne-Owen College.
The godly principles instilled in this servant led him to commit his life to Christ as a young man. Shortly thereafter, he met Deborah Mason, who would later become his wife and mother of their children, James Oglethorpe, Jr. and the late Janet Laverne. After nearly fifty-one years of marriage, their union was ended at her demise. Some four years later he took unto himself, Sister Mary Peterson Peak.
In the early thirties, Bishop Patterson acknowledge his call to the Gospel Ministry and later was ordained an elder in 1935 by the late Bishop A. B. McEwen, Sr. A year later he received his first charge as pastor of the church at Gates, Tennessee. Bishop Patterson served the churches at Gates, Tennessee; Brownsville, Tennessee; Homeland Church Of God In Christ, Temple Church Of God In Christ, the church at 1010 Woodlawn Street in Memphis, Tennessee and Reid Temple in East Orange, New Jersey.
He also served the Family of Pentecostal Temple Church Of God In Christ for forty-eight years as Senior Pastor. This ministry commenced with less than twenty members, but through the years God blessed his servant mightly.
His success in these and other ministries were some of the factors that brought him to be consecrated to the Bishopric in 1955 by Bishop C. H. Mason, with his first appointment as Prelate of the Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Tennessee. His success with this assignment led to his appointment to the secretariate of the Executive Committee of the Church which was created by Bishop Mason to assist with the executive and administrative affairs of the Church. After the demise of Bishop Mason, this committee became known as the Executive Board, and Bishop Patterson served this board as its' secretary. In addition to these duties, he also served as the Church's General Secretary, member of the Board of Directors and Manager of the Church's Publishing House.
During the sixty-first General Assembly of the Church in November of 1968, Bishop Patterson was elected the first Presiding Bishop of the Church Of God In Christ, making him the spiritual leader of the 3.5 million followers of the church. In 1969, he became the Jurisdictional Bishop of the Headquarters Jurisdiction at Memphis, Tennessee.
Under his administration, the Church enjoyed trememdous growth in many areas. His achievements in educational related entities were the establishment of the Charles Harrison Mason Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia; the C. H. Mason System of Bible Colleges; the J. O. Patterson Fine Arts Department; the Historical Museum and Fine Arts Center and organizer of the Charles Harrison Mason Foundation and the Presiding Bishop's Benefit Fund which provides scholarships to deserving youth. Other ministries brought about through this servant include the Church Of God In Christ Bookstore and the Church Of God In Christ Publishing House.
Other involvements include Founder and President of the World Fellowship of Black Pentecostal Churches; serving on the Boards for the Boys Club, The Boy Scouts of America, Y.M.C.A., Memphis Landmark Commission, Lorraine Historical Museum Commission, Tri-State Bank of Memphis, The Black Church Summit of the World Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches. He also served with the Rotary Club of Memphis, Save the Children Foundation, Sheriff's Summit on Drug Prevention and was organizer of the Tennessee Burial System and the fifty-year-old J. O. Patterson Mortuary.
In February of 1972, the five-hundred-room Chisca Plaza Hotel was given to Bishop Patterson by it's owners, Mr. Robert Snowden and his sister, Mrs. Mary Todd. Because of his love for the church, the Bishop in turn gave the property to the church. Through his initiative, the Church's growth is evidenced by the increase in the membership which exceeded 4 million in the fifty states and 47 foreign countries at the time of his death.. During his tenure as Presiding Bishop he consecrated and appointed in excess of 100 prelates.
Honors and awards presented to Bishop Patterson were numerous. Among those received were honorary degrees from Trinity Hall College of Springfield, Illinois, which were Doctors of Divinity, Laws, and Philosophy. He also received an honorary Doctor of Law from Saints College of Lexington, Mississippi and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
He had been cited annually since 1975 as one of the one-hundred most influential blacks in America. He has received some one hundred keys to cities and citations for meritorious service to the Boy's Club, The Boy Scouts of America, Y. M. C. A., Memphis Landmark Commission and other civic and religious organizations.
His favorite scripture was "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." III John 1:2.