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Jesse Edward Nash Sr

Born on 5-1-1868. He was born in Occoquan, VA. He was accomplished in the area of Religion. He later died on 1-26-1957.
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Rev. Nash was born in Occoquan, Virginia in 1868. Although both of his parents had been enslaved, they were free persons at the time of his birth. His father earned his freedom and then purchased the freedom of his wife. His father made certain that their experience with America's "peculiar institution" would not be forgotten. He often let his son see and feel the scars that it left on his back.

The family of his childhood survived as subsistence farmers. At about the age of thirteen he exchanged his farming chores for those of his first job away from home to become a cook's helper on a boat that sailed up and down the Potomac River from his home town to Washington, D.C. When he was not working on the boat, he concentrated on enhancing his employability as a carpenter, blacksmith, and a brick mason. Occasionally, he worked as a stevedore, but for him, the joys of sailing overcame the drudgery of his cook's helper job so much that he looked forward to sailing opportunities long after leaving the boat to go to school. In a sense, life on the Potomac made him a sailor. The boat job not only got him off the farm, it also exposed him to the increased pace of life in the city. Choices on the farm were non-existent, or at least rather limited, but in the city choices were plentiful. The primary concern in the city was to make the right choices. As it turned out, he decided to attend Wayland Seminary in Richmond, Virginia which several years later became Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.

Entering Wayland Seminary at the age of 18, in 1886, he found himself facing the formidable task of catching up on his elementary subjects. He had very little formal education before entering the Seminary. He quickly satisfied the requirements of the catching-up process and became a regular student at the Seminary. While at Wayland, he took jobs as a waiter in the hotels of Washington to help pay his tuition. Six years after entering the Seminary, 1892, he received a Bachelor of Divinity Degree and was viewed as a promising clergyman. He excelled in homiletics, mathematics, German, Greek and Hebrew. He had several offers for a pulpit ministry, and one as a college instructor. He chose Buffalo's Michigan Street Baptist Church because of its legendary association with the historic Underground Railroad; its relatively small church size; evidence of the church's local and national involvements; and special encouragement received from officers of the church. He left Wayland at the age of 24, and arrived in Buffalo in 1892 to begin a notable ministry lasting 61 years. He retired in 1953 and died in 1957.

In the early years of his ministry, he acquired a reputation for being a God sent preacher; a hard-nosed negotiator; a skilled facilitator; a reliable expediter; and a stalwart advocate especially on behalf of the less fortunate. He was also viewed by some as being a devout and exceptionally faithful Christian, which tended to suggest that he was too principled and consequently, unrealistic, naive and/or unsophisticated relative to the dynamics of city life. He felt that the positives of Christianity, under any circumstances, far outweighed perceived negatives. In fact, his concept of Christianity held that it was totally positive.

In religious matters, he was generally ecumenical and so far as racial problems were concerned, he was essentially an integrationist. He reasoned that as long as there were white churches for whites and black churches for blacks, Christianity's potential would not be realized. Drawing on the hymn (based on Galatians, 3:28, KJV) "In Christ there is no east or west, in Him there is no north or south." He maintained that the separations encouraged by the segregated churches denied the integrative element in Christianity and consequently, raised questions about the extent to which a non-segregated Christianity was possible. While some of his adversaries said the he wanted to become white, he responded by saying; "I know that I can't become white, but I can try to become a good Christian." Trying to be a good Christian is difficult, but it is superior to supporting and perpetuating a segregated society with all the negatives of prejudice and discrimination that go along with it, alienating us from one another based on the color of our skins.

His ministry drew upon the spiritual and social gospels, teaching that the spiritual realm is fundamental for all aspects of the social realm. It was his view that we must strive to live so that the foundation of our social lives (which includes the physical, the economic and the political spheres) is positively impacted by our spiritual values. It was his position that we must recognize that life at once is both sacred and secular, both spiritual and worldly. Most important, for him, the spiritual or sacred provides the foundation for the secular environment. Life is not either spiritual or secular. It is both, but we must recognize that the spiritual is the foundation for the social, not vice versa. No matter what his Sunday sermon theme was about, he would often find a way to urge the congregation to draw on Matthew 6:33, and say to them: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you."

He established himself as a resourceful spiritual leader and community activist in the first half of his ministry. During this period he net-worked and familiarized himself, not only with his congregation but also with the religious, governmental and business leaders of the community-at-large. As a bachelor, he was free to net-work on the spur of the moment; to attend scheduled as well as unscheduled meetings; and in the process acquired considerable social and political capital.

In 1925, some 33 years after arriving in Buffalo, he married Frances Jackson, and the following year they became the parents of a son, Jesse, Jr. The change in his marital and parental statuses marked the beginning of the second half of his ministry. In this segment of his ministry he applied the gains he had made in acquiring social and political capital directly in attempts to improve the quality of life for his constituents. His style of operation became more directly involved with those whom he sought to serve. He began to work directly with those in need. He did this as a family and marriage counselor; as a character witness or reference for persons who had run afoul of the law. He helped married couples to resolve conflicts and he was in great demand to make job referrals for those seeking employment. His personal contacts approach required a degree of flexible time-management. This was especially true in his visiting with hospital patients and the home-bound. As a Protestant Chaplain in the Meyer Memorial Hospital, he visited patients whether they were members of his church or not. The hospital visits consumed a major portion of two days every week, for 21 years. In spite of this rather intense ministry, he was a devoted husband and father.

Some contributions:

Urged his congregation to acquire property and an education
Helped to bring the local NAACP and Urban League to Buffalo
Organizer and officer in the Black Businessmen's League
Annual fund raiser for Nannie Burroughs School for Girls, Washington, D.C.
Conducted mass meeting and fundraiser for the Scotsboro boys Legal Fund
Gave weekly synoptic lectures with music on WGR, with Martha Boykin, soprano and Theresa G. Evans, piano/alto; sponsored by the Buffalo Council of Churches, Monday AM, during the early 1930s
Challenged the Pan American Exposition officials in reference to the African and the African American exhibits, with parishioner Mary B. Talbert
Organized several mass meetings to assist persons in trouble with the legal system
Gave the invocation and was a member of the platform party that included President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the dedication of the Court Street Federal Building
Challenged Nursing School policies that excluded Blacks; policies ultimately changed

Some affiliations:

Life time member of the NAACP
Member of the Black Businessmen's League
Clerk (for life) of the Baptist-Disciples Fellowship
Member of the Buffalo and Erie County Council of Churches
Member of the American Baptist Association
Member of the National Baptist Association
Member of the Empire State Baptist Association
Member of the Buffalo Baptist Association
Treasurer of the Western NY Baptist Association
Secretary of the General Ministerial Alliance of Buffalo and Vicinity for 32 years
Member of the Octogenarian Club of Buffalo, NY
Member of the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood, Inc.
Member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Urban League
Member of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences
Member of the Civil Liberties Union
Protestant Chaplain at Meyer Memorial Hospital, 21 years
Affiliate of the Michigan Avenue YMCA

Some honors:

Doctor of Divinity from Virginia Union University
The Humanitarian Award of the Civil Liberties Union
The Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews
Honorary member of Local 533 American Federation of Musicians
Potter Street in Buffalo, NY was changed to Nash Street in honor of Rev. Nash
The Nash House Museum Project in Buffalo, NY was made possible because of the extensive collection of historical memorabilia collected and preserved by Rev. Nash and his family

Hobbies:

Sailing; croquet; checkers; wood-working; hiking; reading African American newspapers (local and national); Hebrew and Greek literature; and travel.

Submitted by: Jesse E. Nash, Jr.