The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Bishop William L. Sheals

Teacher, preacher and evangelist, Dr. William L. Sheals has been the Senior Pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Norcross, Georgia since 1980. He received a business degree from New York University and holds theological degrees from Florida Memorial Seminary and International Bible College.

Sheals' experience in the business world includes acting as the former Vice President of the Mortgage Department of Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association in Harlem, New York. Subsequently, he managed the branch office of Beneficial Financial Company in the Bronx and worked as a disc jockey, a concert promoter and an actor and director off-Broadway. In Florida, he served as the Assistant Director of the Lakeland Housing Authority while pursuing his advanced studies there. He moved to Atlanta in 1979 to work as the Assistant Director of the Atlanta Housing Authority, but left the position after ten years to devote himself entirely to the rapidly-growing Hopewell Baptist Church, which was founded by former slaves after the Civil War.

Under Sheals' direction since 1980, Hopewell has grown from a two-acre, one-building facility with 200 members to a thirty-acre campus called "The City of Hope," with a membership of nearly 17,000, including over 60 ministries and auxiliaries. The City of Hope includes a senior citizens facility, a 500-member youth church, a child development center, a Christian Academy that teachers pre-school through eighth grade and a Bible College.

Sheals' leadership and civic service has been honored with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award for Community Service (1999) the Civic Leader of the Year Award, Gwinnet County (1995) the African American Community Service Award (1994) the Outstanding Humanitarian Award, National Kidney Foundation (1988) and the Presidential "Special Citizen" Award for acting as Director of "Ministries Against Drugs" (1989). He is the founding President of the North Metro 100 Black Men and member of the United Way Special Committee, the Rotary Club, the Human Relations Commission and the Mayor's Advisory Council.

Accession Number

A2002.026

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/13/2002

Last Name

Sheals

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Lakeland

HM ID

SHE01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Depends on audience

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Availability Specifics: No Sundays
Preferred Audience: Any

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

Father, Nothing Is Going To Happen To Me Today That You and I Together Cannot Handle.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

1/15/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak (T-Bone Smothered)

Short Description

City government official and pastor Bishop William L. Sheals (1947 - ) was the director of the Hopewell Baptist Church in Norcross, Georgia and the winner of the 1999 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award for Community Service.

Employment

Carver Federal Savings & Loan

Beneficial Financial Company

Lakeland, Florida Housing Authority

Atlanta Housing Authority

Hopewell Baptist Church

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:3130,36:25350,301:35590,454:35990,460:37430,475:43092,518:46659,583:51444,666:52836,688:78368,928:79733,957:80370,968:108190,1377$0,0:1515,18:4141,50:27286,303:32252,312:35650,350:42850,454:43570,463:45490,495:58852,631:61870,644:63942,679:73680,845:78924,932:79988,943:80520,951:81964,969:84852,1030:89664,1049:91564,1083:93084,1106:96200,1163:96580,1169:98480,1200:108500,1294:113828,1377:128644,1620:135269,1676:149430,1879:152810,1885
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Sheals' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Sheals lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Sheals describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Sheals describes his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Sheals talks about his childhood business, The Sheals Theater

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Sheals talks about delivering groceries as a youth

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Sheals talks about his childhood love of football and acting

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Sheals shares stories about his childhood experiences with discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Sheals talks about the teachers who influenced him as a youth

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William Sheals describes the role of the church in his childhood community

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - William Sheals describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - William Sheals describes how the Civil Rights Movement affected his childhood community

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - William Sheals describes when he discovered his dream of being an actor

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - William Sheals talks about being drafted to serve in the military

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Sheals describes the work he performed during his military service

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Sheals describes his occupations in the years after the Vietnam War

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Sheals talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Sheals talks about being a radio disc jockey in Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Sheals describes being a concert promoter

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Sheals remembers being called to the ministry, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Sheals remembers being called to the ministry, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Sheals talks about ending his career as a disc jockey

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Sheals talks about being hired as Deputy Director of the Lakeland Housing Authority

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - William Sheals describes acknowledging the call to the ministry

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - William Sheals recalls his first sermon

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - William Sheals considers how his experiences in radio, acting, and banking shaped his preaching skills

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - William Sheals describes what influenced him to move to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Sheals talks about being hired by the Atlanta Housing Authority

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Sheals describes how he was called to preach at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Sheals describes how he was called to preach at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Sheals talks about the vision he received for The City of Hope

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Sheals describes how he acquired the property for The City of Hope, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Sheals describes how he acquired the property for The City of Hope, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Sheals talks about church bonds

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Sheals describes how he acquired the property for The City of Hope, pt. 3

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - William Sheals talks about the 1993 dedication of the City of Hope sanctuary

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - William Sheals describes how relying on faith allowed him to fulfill his vision

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - William Sheals describes the significance of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church to Norcross, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - William Sheals comments on the significance of the black church

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - William Sheals talks about the programs and services The City of Hope offers, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - William Sheals talks about the programs and services The City of Hope offers, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Sheals talks about chartering 100 Black Men of North Metro Atlanta

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Sheals describes how Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church serves the community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Sheals describes what motivated him to become an author

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Sheals describes what motivated him to write 'Pastor Help! My Marriage is in Trouble!'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Sheals talks about some of the themes in 'Pastor Help! My Marriage is in Trouble!'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Sheals shares his plans for the future of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - William Sheals shares his plans for the future of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - William Sheals talks about his beard

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - William Sheals describes his church's annual reenactment of the Upper Room scene

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - William Sheals describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - William Sheals shares a message for the youth

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Sheals talks about the challenges and advantages mega-churches face

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Sheals comments on the concepts of "black theology" and "black Christianity"

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Sheals reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Sheals narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Sheals narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

5$4

DATitle
William Sheals talks about his childhood business, The Sheals Theater
William Sheals talks about the vision he received for The City of Hope
Transcript
But--I think I was sharing with you earlier about the Sheals Theater. At the age of twelve, of developing a movie theater out of a cardboard box, mom's [Elma Sheals] lamp off her end table, a magnifying glass that was then wedged in a piece of construction paper, and then I would cut out the comics from Sunday newspaper or from a color comic book, turn the image upside down, and place it between the light and the magnifying glass, and it would show right side up onto a white wall, and I would cut off the bottom script on the bottom so I can make up the stories. On Saturdays after mom would leave to go to her job at the hospital, her room, bedroom, had the largest clear, pretty white wall, and she didn't know until I was a young adult that we used her bedroom for my theater. We would have kids lined up--sometimes 35, 40--a dime to come in for a 15-minute movie, and a nickel for your ice cup, and we would buy--my sister and I would go to the store, buy three packs of grape, orange and strawberry Kool-Aid and make the cups. And by the time the Saturday afternoon rolled around, we'd have a pocket full of money to go to the real theater. But then I would save monies; I didn't know--we didn't go to the bank at that time--go save money so that by the end of the year I would have quite a lump sum of money; we would do sometimes fifteen, $20.00 on a Saturday.$Tell me about the vision.$$The vision occurred 10 years ago. While standing at the top of the hill looking down at the--what was then the junkyard; it was a junkyard that was filled with old cars, filled with tires, filled with just ditches and holes in the ground; it was a very unattractive piece of property that was right in the back door of my church. The church then had grown to about 1500. Being 1500 and not havin' the space to expand and to grow, we built an intermediate building, which was a multi-purpose building, a metal frame building, and we began worshipping then a couple-a times a Sunday, then three times a Sunday. The first service was 6:45 a.m. in the morning, then 8:00, then 11:00, then at 6:00; we have four services--three morning services to accommodate, and we could seat a thousand people at that time, and the growth was phenomenal to be, again, in a rural area outside the city. The media start coming and writing about this little church bursting at the seams, and television cameras started coming. And while standing up on the trailer that's still there--my office used to be in that trailer--one Wednesday evening before bible study, I saw the vision of the church rising up out of the junkyard like the Phoenix, and I have a drawing right there by my desk that I drew of this vision. I ran back into my office; when I came back, the vision was gone, so I prayed and asked the Lord to bring it back and he did. And I didn't have any paper left because I drew--there was one sheet left on a legal pad, and I drew what I thought I saw, and so then the cardboard backing for the legal pad, I took a pen and began to sketch this church that you see here now, in the middle of the junkyard. And you'll see then 10 years ago, almost a duplicate drawing, except that one building is--this building we're in now is on the left instead of the right.