January 3, 1926: At the dedication for the current church structure, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., pastor of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, delivered the sermon in which he called the building as the "most elaborate" Baptist church on the west coast.
February 29, 1926: A mass meeting was held at Second Baptist to launch a campaign to increase membership of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP to 5,000 persons.
June 1928: The 19th annual conference of the NAACP was conducted at Second Baptist, the first time the NAACP conference had been held in the western United States. Persons attending the conference included W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, and Arthur B. Spingarn. The Spingarn Medal was presented to author, Charles W. Chesnutt.
August 12, 1932: The Western Baptist Association of Southern California, an association of African-American Baptist churches, held its 40th annual convention at Second Baptist.
1940s and 1950s
September 24, 1941: Republican National Chairman (and later Speaker of the House) Joe Martin spoke to the national convention of the Women's Political Study Club, which was held at Second Baptist.
July 13–19, 1942: The 33rd annual conference of the NAACP was held at Second Baptist seven months after the United States entered World War II. Attendees included Walter White, Daisy Lampkin, Thurgood Marshall, and Roy Wilkins. California Governor Culbert Olson welcomed the delegates to Los Angeles in the opening address.
July 1949: The annual conference of the NAACP was held at Second Baptist. Thurgood Marshall, then head of the NAACP's legal activities, reported on efforts to have all cases involving racial discrimination cleared through state and national offices for unified judgment. The delegates dispatched a telegraph to Pres. Harry S. Truman and Congressional leaders, calling for prompt action in passing civil rights legislation. Rayford Logan delivered a speech condemning the United Nations for failing to take action in support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and pointed to civil rights violations in South Africa, Rhodesia, Italian Somaliland, Kenya, and the United States.
November 6, 1949: A. Philip Randolph, international president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, spoke at Second Baptist.
January 1953: Second Baptist Church opened its membership to all races. The move followed a unanimous vote by the congregation. The pastor, Rev. J. Raymond Henderson (pastor from 1941 to 1963) stated that "we are opposed to race prejudice and to the idea of a segregated church."
October 4, 1953: George Meany, president of the American Federation of Labor, appeared at Second Baptist to address the 28th annual international convention of the AFL Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
1954: The Second Baptist Church congregation raised $1,500 to print briefs filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund with the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case.
October 9, 1955: Dr. Theodore R.M. Howard, president-elect of the National Medical Association, spoke at Second Baptist to tell the background to the murder of Emmett Till in Sumner, Mississippi. Dr. Howard had asked for a meeting with Vice President Richard Nixon and Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., to urge the federal government to protect African-Americans in Mississippi.
July 12, 1961: Following a sermon by Dr. J. Raymond Henderson on "the sin of moral neutrality," a group of 12 local residents (eight white, four African-American) departed from Second Baptist Church on a bus to join the Freedom Riders in Mississippi. Parishioners donated $2,500 to buy round-trip bus tickets for the riders. The Freedom Riders walked past "a farewell throng" from Second Baptist before boarding the bus. One of the riders, Marilyn Eisenberg, an 18-year-old student at UC Berkeley, told a reporter outside the church, "This is the best thing I can do to push forward this fight for integration of one segment of the south."
May 13, 1962: A mass meeting billed as the "Citizens Protest Rally Committee" was attended by 1,200 persons at Second Baptist. The gathering called for an inquiry into the causes of violence that erupted after one Muslim was killed and six others wounded in a gun battle with police in front of the Muslim Temple. Muslim leader Malcolm X also spoke at the meeting. In his comments, Malcolm X told the crowd: "They say we hate because we tell the truth. They say we inflame the Negro. The hell they've been catching for 400 years has inflamed them. We were brought here 400 years ago in chains. And it's been 400 years of undiluted hell. If we don't hate the white man, then you don't know what you're talking about." The Los Angeles Times reported that Malcolm X's comments were met with a standing ovation, wild cheers, and thunderous applause. The pastor of Second Baptist, the Rev. J. Raymond Henderson, spoke after Malcolm X and criticized "the inflammatory speeches made today." While agreeing there was a problem with police brutality, Rev. Henderson noted that the church had been loaned to the group on the understanding that it was to be a peaceful meeting and added, "We don't want it said that the Muslims ran this meeting. We are not in favor of hating anyone."
January 19, 1964: Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Jr., was installed as the pastor at Second Baptist. He had been a minister for 16 years at Friendship Baptist Church in New York and had established himself as a leader in the civil rights movement. Dr. Kilgore remained the pastor at Second Baptist until 1985.
February 16, 1964: Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to a standing-room-only capacity congregation at Second Baptist. His sermon included the reading of an imaginary "letter" from St. Paul on Crete to American Christians. Dr. King called for "a new Jefferson to proclaim that all men are created equal," advised listeners to avoid hatred and violence in the struggle for equal rights, and predicted that the struggle would be long and hard. A youth chorus sang "I Have A Dream," composed by Mrs. Esther Hines of the Second Baptist music department. A special collection was taken at the ceremony to raise funds to rebuild three Southern churches that had been burned. Dr. King noted that the churches had been burned because their people wanted the right to vote and noted that "the fact that they were burned indicated that those churches had become so relevant and were doing enough so that somebody wanted to burn them out."
March 1964: Rev. Ralph Abernathy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference conducted an annual evangelistic service and preaching mission at Second Baptist.
August 29, 1964: Journalist Louis Lomax spoke to a group of 50 civil rights leaders at Second Baptist. Lomax urged civil rights leaders to speak publicly against rioting in Philadelphia. He predicted it would be "a long, hot fall" in Los Angeles and encouraged the leaders to go "into the homes, poolrooms and, if necessary, the dens of iniquity" if they wanted to achieve true leadership. He chided some in the group as publicity seekers, "Many of you got on the freedom train just in time to get on TV."
November 1964: After FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called Dr. King a "notorious liar," Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Jr., pastor of Second Baptist, called for Hoover to either apologize for his statements or to submit his resignation. Rev. Kilgore noted that he had known Dr. King since he was three years old and recalled "dandling young Martin on his knee more than 30 years ago." Rev. Kilgore released a telegram he had sent to President Johnson expressing "grave concern" over Hoover's comments.
March 17, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at Second Baptist two weeks before he was assassinated. Delivering the sermon at the Sunday worship service, Dr. King spoke against the Vietnam War, declaring that the United States was involved in a "senseless, reckless, immoral and unwinnable war." He noted that John F. Kennedy had been courageous in admitting he made a mistake after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and continued, "It is time for somebody in Washington to say we made a mistake in Vietnam." Dr. King also said that white racism was "still a glaring reality in our country," and charged that the U.S. Congress, dominated by the rural South, "stands as a stubborn force in the way of social progress."
April 5, 1968: African-American leaders gathered at Second Baptist in a show of unity following the assassination of Dr. King one day earlier. The gathering was attended by leaders including Augustus F. Hawkins, Tom Bradley, and Gordon Parks. There was "a roar of applause and cheers" from the crowd of 2,500 when a recording of one of Dr. King's speeches was played. The Los Angeles Times described the service: "Men in suits and women in Sunday dresses were outnumbered by youths, who wore berets, sweatshirts with portraits of Negro leaders and casual clothing. The mood of the meeting was constructive, rather than antagonistic. The meeting did not serve as a place to air blind bitterness against 'the honkie.'"
October 25, 1968: Rev. Ralph Abernathy, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led followers on a mule train from 103rd Street and Central Avenue to Second Baptist. Rev. Abernathy told the crowd that the two mules pulling his carriage were named "George Wallace" and "Ronald Reagan." At Second Baptist, Rev. Abernathy urged African-American voters to vote their conscience. Without formally endorsing Hubert Humphrey for President of the United States, Rev. Abernathy warned that the other candidates (Richard Nixon and George Wallace) would "turn back the clock" on civil rights.
1970s and Beyond
May 1972: Coretta Scott King appeared at Second Baptist to announce her endorsement of Yvonne Braithwaite in her campaign for Congress. Traveling to Los Angeles to continue her husband's nonviolent movement, Mrs. King commented on the shooting a few days earlier of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace: "We are victimized by the same kind of evil force and I think until we stop this force and heal the sickness of this nation, we will all be destroyed."
October - November 1974: Second Baptist hosted a series of national speakers in a forum called "The Quality of Life." The speakers slated to appear at Second Baptist as part of the forum included Rev. Jesse Jackson of Operation PUSH, Vernon Jordan of the National Urban League, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Robert McAfee Brown of Stanford University, and John R. Hubbard of the University of Southern California.
September 11, 1977: United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young spoke on the subject of illegal immigrants at Second Baptist. Young called the United States "a stew" rather than a melting pot, noting that "the onions and the garlic and the meat won't fully blend, but they all contribute to the flavor." He said that immigrants from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Orient, like European immigrants before them, were people "searching for a new truth, a new possibility, a new kind of freedom of expression."
February 8, 1979: A group of 131 African-American preachers gathered at Second Baptist and formed "The Gathering," an ecumenical group seeking to reduce an increase in police brutality.
March 1979: Mayor Tom Bradley spoke from the pulpit at Second Baptist to encourage members to vote in the upcoming city elections. Bradley told reporters at the time, "The black church has been a center of activism. It achieved the right to vote. It has tried to inject into political service a kind of ethical and spiritual value ... the church can speak without retaliation by employers, by powerful business interests."
May 16, 1980: Former Governor Edmund G. Brown and Vice President Walter Mondale appeared at Second Baptist, and Brown announced his endorsement of Pres. Jimmy Carter in his re-election campaign.
September 20, 1981: Former Vice President Walter Mondale spoke at Second Baptist, criticizing President Reagan's budget cuts for "closing the door" on the poor and disadvantaged.
October 1987: Rev. William Epps became the pastor of Second Baptist Church. Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., served briefly as pastor from the time of Dr. Kilgore's retirement at the end of 1985 until shortly before the appointment of Rev. Epps.
February 19, 1994: A group of African-American ministers held a press conference at Second Baptist Church denouncing "persecution frenzy" directed at singer Michael Jackson, who had been accused of child molestation. The ministers criticized press coverage for trying and convicting Jackson in the media.
December 2000: Mayoral candidate James Hahn spoke at Second Baptist and criticized the conduct of the November 2000 presidential election in which African-American voters said many of their votes were not counted and voting was made difficult in Florida.
2001: Second Baptist Church received a grant from the Getty Trust to help rehabilitate the historic church building.
2007: Second Baptist Church commenced a $5 million renovation of its sanctuary complex.