February 15, 2006
John Porter, a civil rights movement leader and pastor of the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church for 38 years, died at 69 years old on Feb. 15, 2006. Porter attended Alabama State University in Montgomery, earning a bachelor’s in history and English. While in Montgomery, he met Martin Luther King Jr., then-pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Porter accepted King’s invitation to be a pulpit associate, and the two became close friends. Later, Porter studied for a Master of Divinity degree at Morehouse College in Atlanta, working at Martin Luther King Sr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. He graduated in 1958 and began pastoring First Institutional Baptist Church of Hamtramck, Michigan. About four years later, Porter answered the call to serve as pastor of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. In 1969, Porter led the church in building a new 12-acre campus on Montevallo Road. He and his wife, Dorothy, improved the church’s music and cultural arts programs. At the same time, Porter was active in the civil rights movement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He assisted in the SCLC’s efforts in Albany, Georgia, and was a leader in the Birmingham campaign. From 1974 to 1977, Porter served as an Alabama representative for House District 39. Gov. George Wallace appointed Porter to the Alabama State Board of Pardons and Paroles from 1977 to 1989. Al Sutton took the pulpit when Porter retired in 2000.
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