Our History

Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church


The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church – or the CME Church, as it is commonly called, came into existence as a result of the movement from slavery to freedom.  The Methodist Episcopal Church South was an outgrowth of Wesley’s Methodism.  Some blacks converted to Christianity by slave masters, accepted the Methodist doctrine as it was.  However, the passage of time and the emancipation of blacks from slavery created the desire by blacks to have and control their own church.  The desire led formerly enslaved people who had been members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South to start their own independent religious organization.


On December 16, 1870, forty-one men gathered in Jackson, Tennessee.  With the advice and assistance of the white brethren of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, these black religious leaders organized the colored branch of Methodism.



In 1954, the church changed its name from Colored Methodist Episcopal to Christian Methodist Episcopal.


1881: Mt. Olive was founded in 1881 by Reverend G. W. Armour and it became an official part of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.  While there is no exact reference to verify that the name was given at that time, there is indication that nine members officially organized and adopted the name.  Mt. Olive started in the Jug Factory on the corner of South Orleans Street and Georgia Avenue where Reverend Armour was an employee.  Because of his loyalty to the company, he was afforded the privilege to worship in the building on Sundays.  The first service conducted was Sunday school.  He gathered “little children” in the community to tell them about the love of Jesus.  The children became so excited about Sunday school that they were able to get their parents to attend as well. The enthusiasm and excitement of the parents led Pastor Armor to start an eleven o’clock service.


1886: Mt. Olive was admitted into the Conference with a membership of 15 and the first pastor assigned was Reverend Charles T. Tyus.  As the membership grew, the church had to move. They paid $2.50 per month for rent and, in spite of the small amount, the congregation was often threatened with eviction for non-payment.  The financial assistance they received from the Conference made it possible for them to purchase a lot on 602 E. Georgia Avenue and build a frame church.


1905: Under the leadership of Reverend G. H. Harlee, the congregation built a beautiful brick structure with a pipe organ that replaced the frame building in 1905.


The move to the current location was made possible by Reverend W. A. Johnson, who was a great visionary and dynamic leader.  Part of his vision was for the church to be a meeting place for any community activity whose basic objective was socio-economic.  His vision was fulfilled by his successors as Mt. Olive served was the “meeting place” for numerous movements.  Unfortunately, Reverend Johnson died before the church moved to present location.


1952: Reverend P. E. Brooks led the congregation to 538 Dr. M L King Jr. Avenue (formerly known as Linden Avenue) in 1952.


1955:  An extensive makeover of the sanctuary was completed under the leadership of Reverend Henry C. Bunton.

(Dates of Record)

(No Dates of Record)

1940-1950        Rev. W. A. Johnson

1950-1953        Rev. Phillip E. Brooks

1953-1962        Rev. Henry C. Bunton

1962-1974        Rev. T. C. Lightfoot, Jr.

1974-1982        Rev. Nehemiah Mitchum

1982-1986        Rev. Alex A. Chambers

1986-1991        Rev. Julius L. Scipio

1991-1994        Rev. Jerry L. Christian

1994-2001        Rev. John Marshal Gilmore

2001-2007        Rev. Stevey M. Wilburn, Sr.

2007-2012        Rev. Ronald Williams

2012-2014        Rev. Charlton L. Johnson

Aug. 3, 2014     Rev. Peris J. Lester, I


Rev. G. W. Armour

Rev. Charles T. Tyus

Rev. G. A. Griffin

Rev. T. H. Nichols

Rev. H. Thompson

Rev. W. W. Sevier

Rev. L. H. Portlock

Rev. C. A. Leftwich

Rev. J. C. Martin

Rev. G. H. Harlee

Rev. A. N. Stevens



Rev. E. F. B. Amos

Rev. W. P. Greer

Rev. J. H. Coleman

Rev. T. J. Moppins

Rev. J. M. Rivers

Rev. N. T. Walker

Rev. R. L. Langston

Rev. W. Y. Bell

Rev. W. A. Baskerville

Rev. J. B. Boyd

Rev. A. L. Kimbrough