Thomas Parker Church
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Trailblazing North Carolina African American Pastor to be Featured on Highway Historical Marker

Jul 18, 2023

The life of a pioneering figure among African American Baptists in North Carolina will be recognized with a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker.

The marker commemorating the Rev. Thomas Parker will be unveiled during a ceremony on July 29 at 11 a.m., near the First Missionary Baptist Church (336 West Hill St.) in Warsaw, N.C.

Parker, who was born enslaved in Gates County on Oct. 14, 1830, was ordained in 1864 and served as the second minister of the Black congregation of the First Baptist Church in Wilmington. He later organized numerous churches, including First Baptist-Kenansville, Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Warsaw (later known as First Missionary Baptist Church), Mount Gilead in Mount Olive, Hills Chapel Baptist Church in Faison, Six Runs Baptist in Turkey, North Carolina, and Easter Chapel in Goldsboro.

In 1870, delegates from First Baptist-Kenansville, Bear Swamp Baptist-Warsaw, Hills Chapel, and First Baptist-Clinton met and formed the Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association or KEMBA. Parker was elected as the organization’s first moderator and served in that capacity for 34 years. During his tenure, the association helped establish three schools for African Americans.

Parker also was a key figure in the early history of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, founded in 1867 as the General Association of the Colored Baptists of North Carolina. Elected vice president of the convention in 1881, he also presided over its Foreign Mission Board.

Parker died on Nov. 21, 1924. He was buried with other members of his family at Friendly Hill Cemetery in Warsaw.

The dedication ceremony will feature speakers including Ansley Wegner, head of the N.C. Historical Research Office; Rev. Dr. Theodore B. Thomas III, pastor, First Missionary Baptist Church, Warsaw; Rev. Dr. AJ Connors, mayor of Warsaw; Rev James Faison III, pastor, Byrd’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Rose Hill; N.C. Rep. Jimmy Dixon; and Marie B Dixon, co-chair of the Planning Committee.

For more information about the historical marker and the event, please visit

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.

The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the North Carolina Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit

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