The early community support system for citizens of color in Abilene included Mt. Zion Baptist Church, organized in 1885, and the first area school for black children, which opened in 1890 with 22 pupils. Because of African Americans' continuing desire for self-governed religious education, the Macedonia Baptist Church was organized in 1898 by the Rev. J. H. Herron of San Angelo. The charter members were Richard Hayes (the church's first deacon), his wife Winnie Hayes and Jim and Alice Slaughter. They purchased property at this site and built a small frame building by 1903. These were sometimes violent years, and the pastors who followed calls to service in Abilene did so in spite of real fear for their own well-being. The first commencement exercises for African American students in Abilene were held about 1923 in the sanctuary of Macedonia Baptist Church. The single graduate that year was a member of the church. In 1936, a longtime member, H. D. Cumby, was called as minister. Under his consistent leadership the church was expanded and remodeled frequently, with the construction of an entirely new and modern building in 1951. Dyess Air Force Base, opened in 1956, greatly contributed to the growth of the church and its membership. The Rev. H. D. Cumby retired in 1965 shortly before his death. Macedonia Baptist Church leaders, long known for their involvement in the Abilene community, were credited with deflecting much tension and violence during the racially turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s. The church continues to be a vital part of Abilene's religious and community life. (1999)
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