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Reverend Theophilus Caviness

Renowned pastor and civic leader the Reverend Emmitt Theophilus Caviness was born on May 23, 1928 in Marshall Texas. His parents were Lula Page and Will Stone Caviness. Reverend Caviness earned a bachelor's of arts degree from Bishop College in Dallas, Texas. He also holds a bachelor's of divinity from Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Grove, Missouri; an honorary doctorate of divinity from Virginia Seminary and College, and an honorary doctorate in law from Central State University in Ohio.

Caviness has served as the spiritual leader of several congregations, including St. Mark's Baptist Church in Picton, Texas; Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Madison, Illinois; and St. Paul Baptist Church in East St. Louis, Illinois. Since 1961, he has served as senior pastor of the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio's Glenville Community. He has also been a both a member and officer in the Baptist Minister's Conference of Cleveland and Vicinity, the Baptist Pastor's Council, the Planning Board of the Inter-Church Council, the Ohio Baptist General Convention, and the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Caviness has a long history of involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He currently serves as the president of the Cleveland Branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and is a former member of the Board of Directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

In addition to his work in the religious community, he served on the Executive Board of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Cleveland, the Planning Board of the Glenville Area Council, and the Sewer Board of Cleveland. He also worked as the executive assistant to George V. Voinovich, former mayor of Cleveland.

Reverend Caviness was married for forty-one years to concert recording artist and minister of music, James ("Jamie") Pitts Caviness. He currently resides in Bratenahl, Ohio.

Accession Number

A2004.080

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/16/2004

Last Name

Caviness

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Bishop College

Eden Theological Seminary

First Name

Theophilus

Birth City, State, Country

Marshall

HM ID

CAV01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California; Honolulu, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Do You Understand Me? Do You Read Me Real Well?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/23/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Squash, Greens, Vegetables

Short Description

Pastor Reverend Theophilus Caviness (1928 - ) is the President of the Cleveland Branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and is a former member of the Board of Directors for the NAACP, CORE, and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. He has also served as senior pastor of the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Employment

St. Mark's Baptist Church

Mount Nebo Baptist Church

St. Paul Baptist Church

Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church

Ohio Civil Rights Commission

City of Cleveland

Favorite Color

Blue, Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Theophilus Caviness's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness names his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness describes his hometown of Marshall, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his father's various jobs

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls the schools in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his educational experience in Marshall, Texas and his mentors Melvin J. Banks and Dorothy Beatrice Godspeed

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about the educational motivation he received from teachers in his early life

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls preaching his first sermon in 1946 at the Galilee Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness lists the various colleges he attended and the dates of graduation

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his initial experience in Illinois and lists the various places he lived in while there

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains how he met his wife

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his children and godchild

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains how his interest in history as a student led to his later political activism

Tape: 1 Story: 20 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls the early influences that led to his vocation in the ministry

Tape: 1 Story: 21 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains his drive to focus on studying given the lack of other opportunities during the 1950s in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains the distinct independent nature of the Baptist Church compared to other denominations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness describes the evolution of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. Inc. and its various offshoots

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness lists the various presidents of Baptist organizations that graduated from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls various leaders of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness lists the various positions he has held as a member of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains how he came to pastor at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls helping his friend Dr. Albert T. Rowan become pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about the decline in East St. Louis, Illinois from the 1950s until the present

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls what he enjoyed about Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his early impressions of Cleveland, Ohio in 1961

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness remembers hosting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in 1967

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his roles in local government in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about finding the balance between civil and religious authority

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his role model Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his role model Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains nonpartisan political philosophy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls the riots in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls the aftermath of the 1968 riots in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls HistoryMaker the Honorable George Forbes

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his peacemaking role while the executive assistant to Mayor George Voinovich of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls paying HistoryMaker The Honorable George Forbes's water bill

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness describes the partnership that HistoryMaker The Honorable George Forbes and George Voinovich

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness reflects upon his commitment to service

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his positions during Michael White's mayoral tenure in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his accomplishments with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission during the 1990s

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about receiving publicity for his flamboyant style during his time on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about endorsing Marvin McMickle's, Stephanie Tubbs Jones', and Jeff Johnson's congressional campaigns

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his support for U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his initial involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his involvement with the Cleveland Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about the contribution of women leaders in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains the Baptist churches' philosophy towards Biblical interpretation

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness shares his perspective on gay marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness explains why human rights is the great challenge of the 21st century

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness shares his philosophy of doing the best you can to help others

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness lists the various scholarships started at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about the students helped by scholarships sponsored by the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Children's Choir

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness talks about the funding for the various scholarships sponsored by the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Theophilus Caviness narrates his photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

14$2

DATitle
Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls preaching his first sermon in 1946 at the Galilee Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas
Reverend Theophilus Caviness recalls his initial involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in East St. Louis, Illinois
Transcript
Are there other special moments of transition that you associate with your childhood in that region, besides the baptism?$$The baptism--$$Other special rituals?$$The beginning, the--preaching my first sermon in 1946. We were there at Galilee Baptist Church [Marshall, Texas] on a Wednesday night, preaching from the theme of "Be ye also ready, for you know not the hour, the son of man cometh" [Matthew 24:44]. And I recall so vividly that I mentioned to that large audience that I was frightened to death but not so much frightened to be intimidated by seeing them and all like that but with the awesome task that I was embracing, that that's the thing that really frightened me and I was fearful. I wanted to do the very best job for the Lord that I could do and I was going to do--put all of what into it in order to get that done because I never knew how long life would last and you never knew when the Lord would call you home. So that was my real initiation and thrust for the ministry, doing the things that the ministry would call.$$Okay. And you said that was in 1946?$$Nineteen forty-six [1946].$$First sermon.$$I think it was about November something, 1946.$Now we're in the twenty-first century now but I do want to talk for at least a few minutes about an organization that you've been affiliated with for a number of years beginning in the twentieth century and that's SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When did you become associated with them?$$Back in Illinois when I pastored in East St. Louis, Illinois, I led the Baptist Conference [Baptist General State Convention of Illinois? National Baptist Convention, later National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.? There's the Baptist Ministers Conference of Cleveland and Vicinity that he headed, but that wasn't in ESTL, IL?] and we were trying to integrate the downtown of East St. Louis. At the time Collinsville Avenue was the main street in East St. Louis, Illinois and they did not hire one African American in any other position other than cleaning. There was no African American on the city council. So I led the movement to integrate Collinsville Avenue and I remember on Easter Sunday I selected, our group selected Easter Sunday morning to boycott the Walgreens drugstore downtown with all the Easter bunnies and what have you and we went down there and we broke that Collinsville Avenue situation where black people were able to do--be--do clerks. They were--couldn't work the fountain behind Walgreens so we broke that. We integrated that facility and that whole town. We got our first African American council person who ultimately became all black. But that was how I got my first initiation in the Southern Christian Leadership activity because [Reverend Dr.] Martin [Luther King, Jr.] was doing it in Alabama and Georgia and those kinds of things. So I was inspired by it and I invited Martin to come and he said, "I'm not able to get there. I (unclear) can you send [Ralph] Abernathy?" Well Abernathy, we couldn't get. So the best I could do then was go in his household and get his better half [Coretta Scott King] and she graciously came to East Saint Louis, thrilled our hearts with her beautiful singing ability because my wife [James Pitts Caviness] was a singer so they got along real well. So that was my initiation into loving Martin Luther King, loving the movement [Civil Rights Movement] and trying to do the best I could to help it.