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The Gainsboro History Project

Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Church History

Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church has its roots in Northeast Roanoke, and though it later moved to 1810 Grayson Avenue, NW, many Gainsboro residents remained part of its congregation.

Third Baptist Church

Like many churches, Greater Mount Zion Baptist church was born out of a Sunday School. The first meetings of the church, originally called Third Baptist, were held in 1884, organized by Rev. J.J. Jefferson and nine other members. The church’s first building was constructed in 1890, but it was destroyed by fire three years later. For the next five years the congregation met in Baker Hall on Gregory Avenue, NE. In 1902 a church was built on property the congregation had purchased at 4th Street and Madison Avenue, NE.

The Church Grows

In 1904 the church’s name was changed to Mount Zion Baptist. By 1908 the congregation of over 180 members needed more room and a new, larger church was constructed at the same site. By 1913 the congregation numbered about 280.

Over the next decades the congregation continued to grow and improve and expand its church facilities. Additions included a parsonage, an annex, and an organ. In 1955 an entirely new, modern, brick church structure was constructed at the Madison Avenue location.

Relocation and Urban Renewal

In the late 1960s, the congregation was forced to move, as its church was within the area designated by the City of Roanoke for urban renewal. The new church was razed just years after it was constructed; its site is now occupied by Magic City Ford, across from the Berglund Center. The congregation purchased the site on Grayson Avenue, NW, once again built a new church, and took the name Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church. The church flourished in its new location, counting about 800 members in 1978.

Photo of Members of Greater Mt. Zion
Members of Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church at the Grayson Avenue Location. Courtesy of Roanoke Public Libraries

Pastors of Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Numerous ministers have served the congregation over the years, including:

  • Rev. J. J. Jefferson (1884)
  • Rev J. T. Woodson (1886)
  • Rev. Moses Johnson (1890)
  • Rev. William Moore (1894)
  • Rev. George Washington (1914)
  • Rev. W. W. Hicks (1916)
  • Rev. E. E. Ricks (1935)
  • Rev. Harold Davis
  • Rev. Metz Coker
  • Rev. Antonio Thomas

See Also


Church of the week (Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church). (1983, January 1). The Roanoke Times.

Crizer, Z. (2014, September 21). Baptist church in Roanoke celebrates 130th anniversary. The Roanoke Times.

Learning the will and way of Christ . (1978, May 6). The Roanoke Times.

Ollie, A. (2003). African American history in Roanoke City. [Manuscript]. Gainsboro Branch Library, Roanoke, VA, United States.

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

Spiritual leader Metz Coker dies. (1991, October 16). The Roanoke Times.