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The Gainsboro History Project

Churches in Gainsboro

The Power of Church and Community

Churches were and continue to be an integral part of the Gainsboro community. Most church congregations established in Gainsboro survived urban renewal, even if some of their church buildings did not, and have continued to flourish. Churches are places where Gainsboro’s residents not only worship and find fellowship, but also are communities within which they have organized, fought injustices, celebrated triumphs, and strengthened bonds.

First Baptist Church of Gainsboro filled with congregants
First Baptist Church, Gainsboro. Courtesy Roanoke Public Libraries

Many religious denominations are found in Gainsboro, including Baptist, Catholic, AME, Disciples of Christ, and Presbyterian. Across this diversity, Gainsboro parishioners aimed to create a better social and spiritual life in the community, including in the civic sphere.

Choir at church with women in dresses and men in suits
Courtesy Roanoke Public Libraries

Ministers of these churches were also leaders in the greater Gainsboro and Roanoke community. Rev. Noel C. Taylor was pastor of High Street Baptist while concurrently serving as Mayor of Roanoke. Rev. Raymond Wilkinson spoke out against urban renewal, and Rev. William Lee used his power in the pulpit to bring AIDS awareness to the community. In addition, Reverend A. L. James of First Baptist Church was active in multiple civic and social organizations and advocated for civil rights. While Rev. Lylburn L. Downing of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church worked in the community to provide services to at-risk youth and was on the founding committee for the Gainsboro Library.

See Also


Shareef, R. (1996). The Roanoke Valley’s African American Heritage: a pictorial history. Donning Company Publishers.

Marcy, J. (2007, January 5). Pastor honored for AIDS-related work. The Roanoke Times.

Urban renewal fight to save Hill Street. (n.d.). Retrieved, February 4, 2022 from