First Baptist Church of Forrest City began in 1852, when citizens organized what was known then as Mount Vernon Baptist Church. Members met in a small building near the present site of Mount Vernon Cemetery in northern Forrest City. Though no written records exist, it is generally believed that Mark W. Izard served as the first pastor. It should be noted that Mr. Izard also served in the Arkansas State Senate and House of Representatives, was a United States Marshall, and served as Territorial Governor for Nebraska. In 1860, the Mt. Vernon area was in decline, and eleven members of the church transferred their memberships to a Baptist Church at the site of the Evans School. Elder B. F. Thomas became the pastor and served for almost ten years. In 1869, the Evans Church divided into two groups. One group became Forrest Chapel Church; the other became Forrest City First Baptist Church. Members of First Baptist built a frame church at the corner of South and Izard Streets (one record indicates the corner of South and Forrest Streets), and a dedication service was held on the first Sunday in March of 1871.
Other early pastors of the church were: J. K. Murphy (1870), W. M. Lee (1871), A. M. Russell (1873), Joseph Shackelford (1876), J. B. Cheirs (1879), G. A. Grammer (1880), W. H. Osborne (1887), J. J. Taylor (1888), G. A. Grammer (2nd term 1889), and J. H. Cason (1891). It was during Elder Cason’s term, in July of 1891, church members began discussing plans for a new church. Records indicate that $4000 was raised in two weeks, and in 1892, a new brick church was built at the corner of Washington and Hill Streets. The Educational Building shown was added in 1937. This building became the regional headquarters for Arkansas Power & Light in the 1950s. A Nursery Building was added around 1945.
H.R. Moran (1893) of LaGrange served as pastor until R. L. Stanley (1895) was ordained by a special committee. Elder Stanley reportedly organized one of the greatest revivals ever held in Forrest City. He also helped organize a Young People’s Union. Subsequent pastors were: Francis G. Boseman (1895), J. B. Perminter (1897), W. J. Robinson (1898), and A. N. Couch (1899). For several months in 1899, First Baptist Church was without a pastor. During this time, services were not held on a regular basis. When services were held, guest pastors were used, and one of the favorites was Elder W. H. Paslay. He was Moderator of the Mt. Vernon Association, a post he held for over 30 years. He was also the County Examiner for several terms. He lived near Wheatley and is credited with bringing many positive changes to the religious and academic life in the area. He preached at different churches right up until his death at age 79 in 1911. Pastors in the first part of the 1900s were: J. A. McCord (1901), Milton Hall (1905), J. E. Newman (1906), J. H. Pippin (1907), E. P. J. Garrott (1913), J. R. G. White (1913), W. C. Edwards (1921), B. F. Davidson (1924), E. Rawlings (1926), and Grover Prince (1934). The church began to grow dramatically after World War II under the direction of Rev. Minor E. Cole (194). The church’s first associate pastor, Ira Patishall, was added to the staff in 1947. In 1948, Mrs. Delmar Campbell became the first full time secretary. In 1950, the church purchased land from the Forrest City School District for a new church at the corner of Rosser and Cleveland Streets. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the $400,000 sanctuary and educational building were held in October of 1950. Rev. T. K. Rucker became the pastor in 1951. Services were held in the new church beginning in January of 1952; formal dedication ceremonies were on April 24, 1955. Church membership had grown to 1260. Sunday School had grown to 17 departments with 76 classes. In 1960, Rev. Sam Gash became the pastor. In October of that year, the church purchased the 10,000 square foot National Guard Armory adjoining the church property. It became the First Baptist Church Recreation and Activities Building when formally dedicated on September 10, 1961. It is now know as Fellowship Hall. The church continued to grow under the direction of Rev. Clyde Hankins (1965) and Rev. Bobby Moore (1971). In 1975, under the leadership of Rev. Kerry Powell, the church members started a “Together We Build” Program. The result was a 10,000 square foot administration-education building that was dedicated on January 30, 1977. Church membership grew to 2145. The church slogan became, “A city block…ministering to all areas of life”. Many areas have been remodeled in the past few years: the Administration-Education Building in 1994, the sanctuary in 1997, the education building in 2000 and 2002, and Fellowship Hall in 2001. The latest pastors have been: Rev. Delton Beall (1987), Rev. Rick Hedger (1994), Rev. Johnny Jackson (interim pastor 1999), and Rev. James Dean (2001). Our current pastor is Dr. Gene Crawley (photo on Staff Page).