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Rev. Dr. William Holmes Borders, Sr.

Garrett Biblical Institute 1932

Former Pastor, Baptist Church; Civil Rights and Community Activist; Public Speaker and Radio Commentator

Rev. Dr. William Holmes Borders, Sr. was a civil-rights leader, community activist, pastor, public speaker, and radio commentator. Born in Macon, Georgia in 1905, Rev. Borders was a third-generation minister. He came to Garrett Theological Seminary with a B.A. from Morehouse College, earned his Bachelor of Divinity at the seminary in 1932, and then an M.A. from Northwestern University in 1936. The following year, he became pastor of Atlanta’s historic Wheat Street Baptist Church. Through ministry which spanned five decades, the church developed a complex of businesses, housing, and nonprofit organizations.

Rev. Borders was a leader in many of Atlanta’s civil-rights campaigns. He led voter registration efforts in the 1930s and, in 1947, was instrumental in the hiring of Atlanta’s first Black police officers. In December 1956, at the Montgomery Improvement Association’s (MIA) first Institute on Non-Violence and Social Change, Rev. Borders spoke on the “Social Aspects of the Christian Gospel.” The following year, he and five other ministers, leaders of the Triple L Movement (Love, Law, and Liberation), were arrested for occupying bus seats reserved for whites, which served as a test case against Georgia’s segregation laws. The action resulted in a 1959 court decision striking down the law, thereby beginning the process of integrating Atlanta’s public transit system. Rev. Borders later chaired the Student-Adult Liaison Committee which, in 1961, negotiated the desegregation of Atlanta’s lunch counters. Upon his death in 1993, Congressional representative and civil-rights activist John Lewis remarked, “We are deeply indebted to this soldier of the cross.”

Rev. Borders’ influence in the Black community prompted a local radio station to offer him a weekly program in 1940. Listeners tuned in to hear information about segregation, disfranchisement, patriotism, and black migration to the North. The program, which aired until 1972, became the second-highest-rated broadcast in Atlanta. In 1949, he published a compilation of his early sermons, Seven Minutes at the “Mike” in the Deep South.

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