The organization of the Pee Dee Baptist Association in 1881 at the Pee Dee Union Baptist Church in Cheraw, South Carolina was is no way a small matter or anything less than a quantum leap of faith. Approximately seventy-five leaders from area churches came together to forge an alliance. An alliance of survival and an alliance to protect and preserve the fledging church which had recently become the home of African Americans who were recently freed from the vestiges of slavery, and an alliance to promote the King and the Kingdom's Agenda through collective and collaborative efforts to advance their constituency and to put in place institutions for empowerment, human uplift and betterment.
With nothing but freedom, these courageous and daring souls recognized that as the Church of the Living God, they were challenged to be all that they claimed to be: institutions for worship, but also institutions that reflected the nature and being of God. They understood that a profession of faith without an agenda of faith was a meaningless proclamation. So, they dared not only to organize and build buildings to house their congregations, they dared to organize themselves into units and structures to usher in the Kingdom of God. They understood that together they had a better opportunity to build bridges that would lead people to a confession of faith, assist them in occupying a land that was inhabited by hostile forces, and to empower them toward self-help and efficiency.
Significant to the ideal which forged the organization of the Association was the impetus demonstrated by its leadership to lead the state in the development of a State Baptist Convention. During its annual session held with the Zion Baptist Church, Columbia on October 21, 1875, the Reverend I. P. Brockington introduced an initiative which would eventually lead to the organization of the Baptist Educational Missionary and Sunday School Convention of South Carolina. As Moderator, he recommended that the Gethsemane Baptist Association, Lower Division, and the Gethsemane Baptist Association, III Division, be consulted about organizing a state convention. At the annual session, convened at Macedonia Baptist Church of Darlington on October 21, 1876, the association heard a report on the subject of the formation of a state convention. In May 1877, at Shiloh Baptist Church (First Missionary Baptist), Sumter, the convention was formed.
The Pee Dee Baptist Association has held a position of prominence in the life and history of the Baptist Church in South Carolina and the nation. She has long since been recognized as the largest association in the state and as the major contributor to the missions and education enterprises.
The Reverend J. Hamilton served as the organizing Moderator. He was succeeded by the Reverend A. R. Bacote who served for a year. The Reverend I. P. Brockington served as Moderator from 1883 to 1908; Dr. F. W. Prince 1908-1948; and Dr. E. M. Booker 1948-1963. During the administration of Dr. J. L. Brooks, the Association instituted tenure which limits officers to a single four year term. Since that time, a prestigious list of Moderators has served: Dr. G. A. Sellers, Dr. W. P. Diggs, Dr. E. B. Burroughs, Dr. Vandroth Backus, Dr. Henry McGill, Dr. E. F. Hampton, Reverend W. L. Thompson, Dr. Mack T. Hines, and Dr. Ralph W. Canty, Sr.
Currently, Dr. Henry B. Peoples, pastor of Zion Canaan Baptist Church serves as Moderator. Dr. Peoples, a native of Timmonsville, resides in Florence. He is a graduate of Johnson High School in Timmonsville and Morris College School of Religion in Sumter. He holds a baccalaureate degree in business administration from Ashford University in Clinton, IA with further studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD and the University of Biblical Studies, Bethany, OK. He is also a 1996 graduate of the Strom Thurmond Institute of South Carolina Municipal Government, Columbia, SC. In May 2007, the St. Thomas Christian College of Jacksonville, FL conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Theology degree. Dr. Peoples formerly served as Mayor of the town of Timmonsville as well as a former member of the Timmonsville Town Council.
One hundred and thirty years after its inception, the Pee Dee Association is still poised to provide a leadership model for its member churches, and for other associations across the state and nation. While operating a salaried office, maintaining a headquarters complex with more than thirteen acres, providing dynamic educational opportunities and leadership modules for its member churches, the association continues to lead the state of South Carolina in support of Morris and Benedict Colleges, and other associations in the country in support of Historic Black Institutions of Higher Learning.
We have in place a 501(c) 3 organization: The Booker-Brooks-Ham Foundation which will open new avenues for cultivation and development of our churches and communities. We have commissioned the creation of a federal credit union and are encouraging our churches to develop a system of investment clubs to fuel the credit union and to expand economic development in the community. A disaster relief unit has also been commissioned and a number of self-help and other economic development initiatives are on the table. It is also the plan of this association to have in place within the next year a dynamic and comprehensive youth program.