Religious Figures

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Entry Category: Religious Figures - Starting with J

Jasper, Rickey Lane

Rickey Lane Jasper is the highest-ranking African American ever to serve in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He has also had a career as a minister, serving as a pastor at his church in the United States while pursuing seminary studies both at home and abroad. He is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Rickey L. Jasper was born in Parkdale (Ashley County) on July 28, 1963. His mother, Louisie Mae Grayson, and her husband, Kirt Grayson, raised him and his siblings in the small town. He graduated from Hamburg High School before heading off to college. Although he had planned to join the military after graduation, the academically inclined Jasper instead decided to join his …

Johnston, Lewis, Jr.

Lewis Johnston Jr. was the first African American ordained as a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the founder (with his wife) of the Richard Allen Institute in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), a school black students. He was also a teacher, writer, and newspaper publisher. He worked with Professor Joseph Carter Corbin and the Reverend Elias Camp Morris during a time of major transformation in the development of education for African Americans. Four of his sons were killed during the Elaine Massacre in 1919. Lewis Johnston Jr. was born free on December 12, 1847, in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, to Lewis Johnston (1805–1881) and Jane Bronson Johnston (1810–1897). His father had been born a slave in Derry, Pennsylvania, and later became …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …