My wife, Vera, recently walked into my home office with two pictures in her hand, and asked me, concerning one of them, “Who is this?” To which I responded, “I don’t know.” I then asked her, “where did you get the picture?” Holding an envelope in her hand she responded, “From this envelope, cleaning out a box on the back porch.” She then handed me the envelope; and the first thing I noticed was my father’s handwriting on the outside of the envelope, where he had written, “Dwight” and “Rev. West.” I then took another look at the picture and told my wife, “That’s Ralph West.” The reason neither one of us recognized “Rev. West” initially is that both pictures were taken over forty years ago.
My father, Rev. J.E. McKissic, invited the late Rev. A.L. Patterson of Houston to preach a revival meeting at his church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, in the mid-eighties. Rev. Patterson could not come but recommended a largely unknown young preacher at the time, Rev. Ralph Douglas West, to come in his place. My Daddy accepted Rev. Patterson’s recommendation, and Ralph West came.
Rev. West’s office sent the above photo to my daddy for promotional purposes. After my daddy passed in 1997, I took a few keepsakes from his file; and one of those was the envelope containing the above two pictures. Honestly, I had forgotten I had these pictures, until a few days ago.
Rev. Ralph West is an internationally hailed preacher today, some forty years later. I thought some would appreciate seeing what he looked like in the mid-eighties. I also thought I would prove that once upon a time, I had a head full of hair, unlike today.
Periodically, across the past forty years, on many occasions, I have encountered Ralph West. He was gracious enough to preach for Cornerstone, where I pastor today, when we were about 10 years old.
Whenever he and I have moments of intermittent fellowship, he will always evoke brief memories of my dad, for which I am immensely grateful. I just wanted to share the now, Dr. Ralph Douglas West’s picture capturing him in his late twenties or early thirties.
I honestly believe my picture was probably taken in my early to mid-twenties—Pictures Capture Memories.
Seeing my daddy’s handwriting on the envelope containing the pictures evoked an emotional moment for me. I was reminded of how he encouraged and opened his pulpit to younger preachers. He set aside the fourth Sunday in each month to invite a younger preacher. My daddy was in his mid-sixties when he started this practice. Now that I’m in my upper mid-60s, I’ve started the same practice.
Preachers like Maurice Watson, Marvin Wiley, Ralph West, C.D. Edwards, and myself, all stopped by my daddy’s pulpit, on their way to make a major impact in ministry. I was and am the least among these brethren. But I am grateful for my wife’s discovery of these pictures, I have had a few days to reflect, ruminate, and rejoice over the fact—Pictures Capture Memories.
I would love for some other preachers/people to post some pictures that might contribute to folksy and anecdotal Black Church History—because Pictures Capture Memories and record history that can inform and inspire the next generation.
This first appeared on our brother Dwight McKissic’s Facebook page.