the history

of pilgrim rest


Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church was founded in 1912 at the home of Mother Mattie Dittie at 1190 Horace Street.  The Rev. Dug Williams was the first pastor. Other ministers who played an important role in the early development of the church were Rev. A. J. Jackson and the Reverend E L. Blair.


In the year 1930, the Rev. J.M. Madison was called as the fourth pastor and served for eighteen (18) years.  It was under the leadership of Rev. Madison that the church was placed in a path for growth and success. This included the purchasing of the property at 1316 Kennedy Street, formerly the home of the Martin Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.


On August 15, 1948, Dr. Cody Miller Lee was called as the church’s fifth pastor.   His leadership marked the continuation of a period of major growth and progress which extended into the seventies. Dr. Lee led the congregation to its present location, 491 E. McLemore Avenue in 1962, where the church became an active participant in various social and political causes relating to African Americans.  It was a vibrant church and became well known within the religious community. Dr. Lee served faithfully until his death in 1976.


In November of 1976, Dr. Hill was elected Pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church as their sixth pastor.  

Dr. Hill, a preacher of par excellence, was gifted in delivery of the Word so attested by local, national and international clergy, as well as educational, political and social leaders.

Dr. Hill led the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in the erection of a new center and the construction of a new worship center at a cost of 1.7 million dollars in 1995.

Dr. Hill was Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church until his death in August 2002.


After the death of Dr. Hill in 2002, Dr. A. McKinley Royal became the seventh pastor of Pilgrim Rest.  Like Dr. Lee and Dr. Hill, Dr. Royal was a dynamic young man in his thirties when he became pastor. Leading the church during the twenty-first century, Dr. Royal introduced the “Community Block Party”, trips called “The Royal Explosion,” the formation of a “leadership team” to develop future leaders, and a fine arts ministry which included a mime team, step team, praise dancers, and the “Seven Last Words” service.  The church also bought additional property and made major renovations and beautification to the church. Dr. Royal resigned in 2014.


In November of 2014, we elected Reverend Ashton E. Alexander as our eighth pastor. He fits in with the legacy of the pastors who came before him by being a powerful, spirit-filled preacher; an excellent teacher; an advocate for social justice; a creative leader; and a man who loves God and His people.  With a pastor who has these qualities and an enthusiastic and progressive congregation like Pilgrim Rest, we look forward to the future of serving our God, His people and our community. Under Pastor Alexander’s leadership, new ministries were added, the mortgage for our current facility has been paid off and a new church bus has been purchased.