ABC showcases its 97th year with a balloon display at the entrance of Historic Griggs Hall.
Linda Wynn takes the audience down memory lane during his presentation about the Historic Griggs Hall.

NASHVILLE, TN — On the Road to 100, American Baptist College recently celebrated its 97th anniversary, with a focus on Historic Griggs Hall, the first building on the 54-acre campus. 

Rev. Kelly Miller Smith served as Master of Ceremony for the event and shared the connections with the College and so many people, his father, Kelly Miller Smith, Sr. served as a homoletics professor at the school, while pastor of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, where Rev. Smith, Jr. now pastors.

The celebration honored those individuals who contributed to the renovation in 2015, including Rev. Dr. Julius Scruggs, former interim chair of the Board of Trustees of American Baptist College and retired president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., who was the Golden Honoree. Other honorees were President and Mrs. Forrest Harris, Rev. Martin Espinosa, Rev. John Tolbert Jr., Dr. Riggins Earl, Rev. James “Tex” Thomas, Rev. Davie Tucker, Dr. Jasper Brewster, Dr. Susie McClure, and the Women’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

Each contributor received a certificate and those who lived in the building will have a plaque mounted on the door of their room, including the late Congressman John Lewis, who lived in Room 206. 

ABC Board Chair, Dennie Marshall congratulates the entire ABC staff on this special celebration.

“This 97th anniversary celebration was impactful,” said Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College. “It was long overdue in some aspects, and right on time in others, because a promise made is a promise kept as we journey on the Road to 100.”

Ms. Linda Wynn, assistant director of markers for the Tennessee Historical Commission and professor at Fisk University, was the keynote speaker and shared the story of the historic building. The building was named after a father and son, Allen and Sutton Griggs. They both were proud men, and Sutton was outspoken about racial equality and civil rights in that period of ABC’s founding. Sutton served as president of the school for one year.

Congressman Jim Cooper congratulates ABC on its 97th anniversary and talks about future funding for the College.

Built in 1925, Griggs Hall’s renovation began in 2013 and was completed in 2015, in part with federal funds and special individual contributions. It is the building that Civil Rights activists used for further training during the 1960s after they left training at First Baptist Church – Capitol Hill, Clark Memorial, and Gordon Memorial churches taught by the Rev. James Lawson and other leaders. Those activities led to a historic marker being erected on the ABC campus on the lawn of Griggs Hall. 

“We appreciate all those who gave unselfishly to the cause of the Griggs Hall renovation in 2015 and we are proud to honor them,” said Phyllis Qualls, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “If any names were omitted, we would love to include them, so they may be recognized as well.”

The Honorees for the 97th made contribution to Griggs Hall in 2015 for the restoration. Present were Dr. Jasper Brewster, Presidetn Forrest Harris, Rev. Morris Tipton and seated, Rev. James “Tex” Thomas, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Street Baptist Church.

Sponsors included The American Baptist College Board of Trustees; Rev. Dr. Don Darius Butler and First Missionary Baptist Church, Huntsville; Citizens Bank; Fourth Capital Bank; R.C.  Matthews; Freeman-Webb; Pastor Howard E. Jones, Jr. and Fairfield M.B. Church; and The Tennessee Tribune.

Participants in the program included: Center, Re. James “Tex” Thomas, Pastor Emeritus, Jefferson Street Baptist Church; First Row (l-r): Ms. Linda Wynn, Keynote Speaker, Dr. Forrest Harris, ABC President, Mrs. Clara Williams, ABC Bursar; Second Row (l-r): Mr. Dennie Marshall, Chair, ABC Board of Trustees, Mikea Braden, student Rev. Dr. Kelly Miller Smith, Deputy Mayor Brenda Haywood, Dr. Jasper Brewster, Honoree,., Brandon Mason, Kaitlyn Jones, RC Matthews, Rev. Morris Tipton, representing Rev. Dr. Julius Scruggs and Dr. Phylllis Qualls, ABC Vice President