First Baptist Church, Georgetown was founded October 5, 1862 by the Reverend Sandy Alexander, a former slave. Prior to the formal organization of the Church, Collins Williams, a licensed preacher from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and his wife Betsey, had led religious meetings in Georgetown in private residences on 27th and P Streets, 27th and N Streets, and then at his own home. Williams donated a small piece of land at 29th and O Streets to be used for a church.
In 1856, Rev. Alexander came to Georgetown to start a Baptist Church but found only two Baptists in the community. However, he was soon able to find many converts and built up a large congregation that was greatly expanded by the arrival of a group from the Shiloh Church of Fredericksburg. This congregation erected a small frame structure known as the “Ark” on the land donated by Collins Williams at 29th and O Streets. The building was soon found to be too small and a committee of Brothers, Henry Lucas, William Wormley and William T. Brown selected the present site at 27th and Dumbarton Streets for the new building.
Rev. Alexander embarked on a trip north and solicited $300.00 for the new building while the members were able to negotiate a loan for another $300.00. The cornerstone for the Church was laid in 1882. The male members of the Church dug foundations at night while the women cooked hot suppers. The cost of the stone foundations was $800.00 which exhausted the building fund so that for a time the building stood incomplete. Finally, Rev. Alexander himself took over the responsibility of seeing that the building was completed. When the trustees went to make their first payment on the note, the receipt was made out to the First African Baptist Church. Trustee William T. Brown, refused to accept this receipt insisting that he represented the First Baptist Church. The receipt was torn up and another one, correctly worded, was written. Brother Brown had objected to the congregation being robbed of the honor of being the first church of the Baptist denomination in Georgetown.
Rev. Alexander served as pastor for 37 years.* During this time, he saw the Church freed from debt. A streetcar accident disabled him in 1889, forcing his retirement as pastor. During this period of seven years, the Church paid him his regular salary each month. Two of the largest Church clubs existed during Rev. Alexander’s pastorate and consisted of nearly the entire membership, namely the Sisters and Brothers and Friends of Benevolence (Sister Mary E. Milstead, President) and the Union Moonlight Club (Sister Mary Hunter, President). Rev. Alexander requested that Rev. James H. Hill be ordained and assigned to be the assistant pastor. On March 28, 1902, Rev. Alexander died and Rev. Hill became pastor. During his ministry, the Church was remodeled for the sum of $10,995.00 purchasing new pews, a new pipe organ and many improvements. Rev. Hill’s tenure was short, only 4 years. He died on December 15, 1906.
Rev. Edgar E. Ricks was called to the pastorate in 1907; however, many members felt that he was too young to assume the responsibility of the Church. These dissatisfied members left the Church and formed a new church called the Alexander Memorial Baptist Church, in honor of Sandy Alexander (which is located around the corner from First Baptist). Rev. Ricks was not installed until June 7, 1908. In 1914, he tendered his resignation to accept a church in Roanoke, Virginia. A few months later, Rev. J.R. Diggs of Baltimore, Maryland was called. He served the Church one year and resigned. On July 30, 1916, Rev. James L. Pinn of Syracuse, New York was called. The call was accepted and Rev. Pinn took charge of the Church in October of that year. In 1920, dissatisfaction arose over the organization of the B.Y.P.U. and the Christian Endeavor Society left the Church in body. The B.Y.P.U. flourished for about eight years. There was other division in the church, which resulted in the formation of Second Baptist Church (located in N.W.). The pastorate of Rev. Pinn was brought to a close in 1931. Rev. Pinn then organized the Good Will Baptist Church and carried his followers with him. The C.E. Society and many of the former members returned to First Baptist.
Rev. Marcellus N. Newsome was called to the Church June 19, 1933, and served until his death in May 1939. During his pastorate, the Gospel Chorus was organized. Rev. T. Ewell Hopkins was began his service January 1, 1940. This was one of the most progressive periods in the Church history. It was a period of complete remodeling and redecorating to both the exterior and interior of the building to bring it up to the standards of the modern church. The Church School and Christian Endeavor Society were departmentalized. The Church was free of debt and the membership grew from 166 in 1940 to 642 in 1952. Rev. Hopkins resigned in 1954 to pastor a church in Stanford, Connecticut. Rev. Fulton O. Bradley was called in January 1956 and served until June 30, 1962 when he resigned to pastor a church in Detroit, Michigan. During his tenure an Allen organ and a new piano for the lower auditorium were purchased. On January 1, 1963, Rev. Wellington D. Abrams became the pastor. During his pastorate, First Baptist was recognized in the December 21, 1986 edition of the Washington Post Magazine as one of the oldest and prominent Black Churches in the Washington, D.C. area. The church sanctuary and lower auditorium were remodeled, which included the kitchen and bathrooms being modernized and central air conditioning installed. Rev. Abrams retired in 1988 and was named Pastor Emeritus. Rev. James E. Terrell served as interim pastor until September 1990 when the Church called Rev. C.J. Malloy, Jr. as its 10th pastor.
During Rev. Malloy’s pastorate, the Church purchased the attached building, naming it the Abrams Annex. Some other additions during this time were the establishment of the church budget and voucher system, an Investment Committee, a Handbell Choir, a Church Newsletter, and participation in the SHARE Food Bank program. After serving the church for eleven years, Rev. Malloy retired on December 31, 2001. Rev. David Turner, Jr. (a member of First Baptist) served as Interim Pastor, for thirteen months (his tenure ending on January 31, 2004), while the church began seeking a new leader.
On December 21, 2003, Rev. John Curtis McLean was called. He was installed as Pastor on March 14, 2004. During his brief tenure, Bible Study was restarted and a Youth Ministry was established. While the church searched for another leader, Rev. I. Benni Singleton served as Interim Pastor. The Rev. Robert K. Pines was selected on July 16, 2006 to become the church’s twelfth pastor. His official installation as pastor was on December 3, 2006. During his tenure, he established the noon day prayer service and Bible study, new members’ training ministry, and the Praise and Worship Team. In addition, the church refurbished the Abrams Annex and installed a new sound system.
* Rev. Sandy Alexander founded Jerusalem Baptist Church, too. The church is located at 26th & P Streets, N.W. He is, also, believed to be the founder of Macedonia Baptist Church in SE Washington. Macedonia Baptist Church is the oldest African-American Baptist church in Anacostia. The Freedman’s Bureau assisted District residents to relocate to Anacostia in 1868. Recently-freed families, largely from Georgetown and Washington City, bought land to build single-family houses in Anacostia. Macedonia Baptist Church later located its first structure in the middle of this community. No doubt some of these families were members of First Baptist Church, Georgetown, and Rev. Alexander continued to care about their spiritual welfare.