A Proud History

The 1940s were a time of great migration for African Americas. The United States was at war on two fronts leading the National Defense Program to create thousands of jobs in Southern California. With emphasis on shipbuilding and aircraft production, the work force went from 20,000 employees in 1939 to a workforce of more than 243,000 in 1943.

Thousands of Midwesterners and Southerners were drawn to Long Beach on the promise of work at the Naval Shipyard and settled with their families in the Cabrillo Homes Housing Project, on the west side of Long Beach, near PCH & Santa Fe Avenue.

St. Mark Baptist Church was founded in 1944 by Rev. Elijah James, with assistance from his family and Rev. A.J Haggerty.  The first church was located inside of the Nursery Center, at the Cabrillo Homes #3. Among the founding families were the Lang’s, Croom’s, Lyon’s, Bland’s, Davis’, JC Haggerty and the Thompson’s. Later, came the Rentie, Fowlkes, Fennell and Harris families, bringing new energy & lots of children.
 By 1946, the Church had out grown its quarters in the nursery and a permanent home was needed. Land was purchased on the corner of Harbor Blvd and 16th Street, which is on the west side of Long Beach. However, when the church attempted to obtain clear title to the land they were informed that Negros were not permitted to own property in California. Therefore, the Church had to go to the Supreme Court to get a clear Title.

“The new church building was designed and built entirely by the members of St. Mark Baptist Church, all the materials were donated, and the men and women of St. Mark did all of the construction themselves,” recalls Roger Bland Sr.

By 1959, due to growing membership, the church was blessed to purchase the property at 1703 Lemon Ave. and relocated to Central Long Beach.  Later, additional surrounding properties were purchased on which the church annex was built, along with the Education Building and the parking lot.

In 1964, Rev. Hodge resigned as Pastor and the Lord sent a kind and humble minister into our midst named Henry Ford, from Buffalo, NY. Throughout 1964 and into the early part of 1965, Rev. Ford was a constant visitor so it was no surprise when he was called to Pastor St. Mark.

Rev. Ford was active in the community and was a well-respected spokesperson for the African American community. He instituted the Long Beach Minister Alliance because he understood the fellowship of churches could save a community. In 1982 Rev. Ford saw the completion of his long held vision of a Youth Education Building. Throughout the building process he used his talents and skills in carpentry to help complete the building . Today the building is used for class rooms, special occasions, banquets, fellowship dinners, and on occasion it is used as a worship center.  Rev Ford served as Pastor until the Lord called him home in 1987.

In 1988, Rev. Solomon Roberts, a young minister who had trained under Rev. Ford was called to Pastor. Rev. Roberts brought to us a thirst for the word and believed in a strong teaching ministry. Under Rev. Roberts leadership, St. Mark forged a strong spiritual bond with the Los Angeles Rescue Mission.  Some of the men became regular attendees and gave their lives to Christ. In June 1992, after a brief illness, the Lord called Roberts home to rest.

1993 – 1998 Rev. Bruce Shaw Sr. of Oceanside, CA was called to Pastor. During his tenure the Youth Department grew tremendously. Rev. Shaw resigned in January 1998 and returned to home church in Kentucky.

During the years 1990-2010, St. Mark was under the leadership of Bishop David Higgins, Sr. The church grew and the Evangelism Ministry was established.  Although the parking lot project began before Bishop Higgins became pastor, it was completed under his leadership and he conducted the dedication service.

From 2012 – 2016, Pastor John K. Berry served as the  Senior Pastor.  

In October 2017, Rev. O. Leon Wood, PhD assumed the role of Interim Pastor.

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