Notable African American Members
St. Stephen’s is blessed to have the services of
former Episcopal clergy.
The Rev. St. Julian Aaron Simpkins came to St. Stephen’s in 1940 and served until 1959. He was a native of Aiken, South Carolina, where he had served at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church. During his tenure at St. Stephen’s, the Rev. Simpkins also served as Secretary of the Colored Council, President of Church Workers among Colored People, and as President of the International Missionary Union of Charleston. He also served as Rector of St. Mark’s Church, beginning in 1951, while still at St. Stephen’s. Father Simpkins’ wife, Mrs. Fannie A. Green Simpkins, established and ran a well-attended and popular kindergarten of St. Stephen’s.
The Rev. Henry Lacy Grant, a native of North Augusta, served our parish for twenty-six years from 1960 until 1986, the longest tenure in St. Stephen’s history. Father Grant also served as the director of St. John’s Episcopal Mission Center, Inc. on the east side of the city. An ardent community worker, Father Grant was instrumental in the founding of many community programs including the Franklin C. Fetter Health Center, Operation Compenso, and the Adult Day Care Center at Camp Baskerville. Father Grant received numerous awards and citations, including the Order of the Palmetto, and a citation in the U.S. Congressional Records. His faithful ministry grew our parish in numbers and in faithfulness.
The Reverend John B. Richards (pictured above to the right with his wife, Irvin) served St. Stephen’s from 1990 – 1996 first alongside the Rev. Alanson Bigelow Houghton, as our parish began to integrate, and then, after Houghton’s retirement, with a group of clergy who oversaw the ministry of the parish. Father Richards was originally from the island of St. Vincent in the Windward Islands. He served churches in Grenada, Barbados, and Jamaica before moving to the United States. In the U.S., he served parishes in Wilmington, NC and in the Charleston area. He earned graduate degrees in divinity from Berkeley at Yale University and New York University. He was deeply learned, grounded in catholic tradition, and quoted at length, and with ease, from Shakespeare, Milton, other great poets, and of course, the Holy Scriptures, in his sermons. He is remembered fondly for his preaching, gentle spirit and great faith.
Notable African American Members
Frank P. Green
Frank P. Green, known to many as “Frankie,” was born July 30, 1921. He was one of three sons born to Mrs. Florence Pettigrew of Pineville, South Carolina. He was educated in the public schools of Berkeley County and received training in Brick Masonry at Area Trade School in Denmark, South Carolina.
He served in the United Sates Navy for several years. Upon his return to civilian life, he taught masonry at Area Trade School, worked with various construction companies, then worked independently as a brick mason until the age of seventy-eight. He was married to Leola Houston Green and had two children.
As a young man, Frank was active in the Episcopal Church in the Pineville, SC community. When he moved to Charleston in the 1940’s, he continued his affiliation with the Episcopal Church by becoming an active and faithful member of St. Stephen’s. He is remembered as a quiet gentleman who loved our church and was devoted to our life and ministry for nearly 60 years.
Clementine Robinson Ellis (Clemie) was born on June 21, 1941 in Charleston, South Carolina to George Theodore Wilson and Mary Robinson Coplin. She attended the local public schools in the downtown Charleston area and was employed at Frampton Flower Nursery, the Francis Marion Hotel, and Levi Strauss.
In 1973, Clementine retired from work to take care of her family when she met and married the late William C. Ellis.
Attending church was very important to Clementine. She was a very faithful, dedicated, and well-loved member of St. Stephen’s and served our parish in a variety of ways. Next to her family and her church, Clementine really loved being a member of Henrietta B. White #1342 which is affiliated with the Elks Lodge.
Mr. Don Henry White
Mr. Don Henry White served St. Stephen’s for nearly 25 years as our organist and choir director from 1985-2009. Don was born in Charleston and educated at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA. Prior to serving St. Stephen’s he served at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.
While serving at St. Stephen’s, and working under a number of different clergy, Mr. White also taught music at the College of Charleston. He was a member of the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists, a member of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and played on occasion for the Spoleto Arts Festival. Mr. White is remembered for his musical style, attention to detail, and faithful service to St. Stephen’s during a critical period in our church’s history.
Mr. Ted Washington
Mr. Ted Washington was the beloved son of the late Theodore and Louise Porcher Washington. He was born and raised in Charleston but also traveled the world and lived in many places. He was a graduate of Burke High School and South Carolina State University and later earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Ted served in the United States Army and fought on various battle fields including Vietnam. He was a part of the 101, 1st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division and received two Bronze Medals, a Silver Star, and the Purple Heart Medal of Honor. He had five children and eight grandchildren. Ted was a faithful and beloved member of St. Stephen’s all his life serving on the vestry several times, at the altar, and in numerous other capacities. He was a leader of our parish during pivotal moments in our history. He attended kindergarten at St. Stephen’s located where the memorial garden now sits and where he is laid to rest.
Louise Porcher Washington
Mrs. Louise Porcher Washington was born in Charleston on August 27th, 1912 and died on July 31st, 2004. Mrs. Washington’s membership at St. Stephen’s spans 77 years joining the church at fourteen years of age. She saw our church transposed, moving with the times from a small mission church that was primarily African American to a church that is diverse and inclusive.
In no small measure, some of St. Stephen’s transformation is attributable to the catalytic input Mrs. Washington provided during a critical moment in our history. Prior to 1987, St. Stephen’s had been an African American congregation. With a changing neighborhood and dwindling number of members, survival was an issue for the parish. A number of congregational meetings were held to discuss actively integrating. Eventually, it was decided the decision would be put to a vote. Prior to the vote, in a moment, etched in the memory of our church, it is said that Mrs. Washington stood up and said, “We must do whatever it takes to keep St. Stephen’s. This is our church home. Why would we ever want to go anywhere else?” Out of deep love and respect for Louise Washington, the vote was never taken. Her faith, devotion to her family and church ran deep. Most of her children and grandchildren were baptized and confirmed at St. Stephen’s.
Alfreda Sadie Ross Mitchell
Mrs. Alfreda Sadie Ross Mitchell, daughter of the late Fred Sr. and Anna “Birdie” Robinson, was born and raised in Charleston. Educated in the public schools she graduated in the class of 1941 at Burke High School. She received a Master’s Degree in Beauty Culture from Washington, D.C. College.
She was married to Mr. Benjamin Mitchell and the two had eight children and ten grandchildren. Mrs. Mitchell was a life-long member of Saint Stephen’s and held many church and community offices throughout her life. She died on May 27th, 1993.
Alice S. Drayton
Alice S. Drayton joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in 1963, where she served as Sunday School Director, Chairman of the Altar Guild, and a frequent lay reader. She was a master educator, having received her Bachelors’ degree from Baptist College (Charleston Southern University) and her Master’s degree from the Citadel.
She spent 30 years in the service of children, retiring as a Special Education teacher from Sanders Clyde Elementary school. In retirement, Alice served on the Foster Care Board and worked in local retirement facilities. Alice and her husband of 48 years, Herbert L. Drayton, Jr. along with their six children were all confirmed in St. Stephen’s. In an article that appeared in the Chronical after graduating from Baptist College about Eastside residents, Alice said, “I think there is a common misconception about people on the Eastside of Charleston. We are not all hoodlums, and we are not all unintelligent. We have our educated, our children have the same basic potential as children who live elsewhere in the city, and our residents in general, have the same desire as do other people. There has been a stigma attached to residents of the eastside which must be removed, and I want to do my part in eradicating it.” Alice passed on Thursday April 21, 2011 and is resting peacefully in the St. Stephen’s Garden.
Melvin Ross, Sr.
Mr. Melvin Ross, Sr. was born May 20, 1929 to the late Mr. Fred Ross, Sr. and Mrs. Birdie Anna Robinson Ross. He attended Buist Elementary School and Burke High School. After high school he matriculated at North Carolina State College for two years.
Mr. Ross entered the United States Air Force on July 12, 1951. He embarked upon a twenty-year career and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Early on he attended Highland University in Las Vegas for training as a clerk-typist. The remaining years of duty involved work in personnel and communications for which he received many awards and citations. He was honorably discharged in 1971. Mr. Ross grew up at St. Stephen’s and actively participated in both the church and Sunday school. He later served faithfully for many years as the church treasurer and as a member of the vestry until his health failed. He was married to Ernestine F. Ross and the two had four daughters and ten grandchildren. He died December 31, 1993.
Richard Marshall was born on July 28, 1938 in Yemassee, South Carolina to Albertha Marshall and Jake Brown. Educated in the public schools of Colleton County, he furthered his education at Voorhees Jr. College and Benedict College where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in math. Upon graduation, he moved to Charleston.
He taught math and coached football. He married Joan Deas and they had one son, Justin.
After teaching for a while, he began selling automobiles. Because he was an outstanding salesman, he was recommended for and attended the GM Minority Dealership School. He worked at several GM dealerships in the Charleston area. Eventually, he went on to own two dealerships: one in Olathe, KS and one in Tifton, GA.
Richard joined The Episcopal Church while at Voorhees and began attending St. Stephen’s when he moved to Charleston in 1961. He served on more than one term on the vestry. He was also a life member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Richard enjoyed working with young people and was recognized posthumously for his efforts.
Addie Ward Capers
Mrs. Addie Ward Capers was born on March 22, 1925 at 54 Hassell Street in Charleston to George Ward and Louise Robinson Ward. She was educated at Avery Institute and Burke High School. Following the faith of her mother; who was also a member of St. Stephen’s, she confirmed her faith at a young age and became a lifelong member of St. Stephen’s.
She was a member of the church’s maintenance team, assisted with Sunday School, and was the first to initiate and volunteer for fundraiser events.
On March 21, 1953, she married Herman Capers Sr. and to this union had five children. She was a caterer and cook professionally, loving wife, mother, and grandmother…but most of all, a faithful servant of God and her beloved St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. She transitioned to her heavenly home on August 4, 1999.
Emma Louise Elizabeth Watson
Mrs. Emma Louise Elizabeth Watson was born in Charleston on January 9, 1947 and raised by her grandmother, St. Stephen’s parishioner, Emma Bailey. She died on November 28th, 2008. She was a longtime and faithful member of St. Stephens. She served on the vestry, the altar guild, and was also a committed Sunday School teacher.
Mrs. Watson was determined that the church be a positive and ever-present force in the lives of the children of the church. When her daughters, LaShawn and Tia, were young, she encouraged and made possible the youth group activities, trips, fundraisers, community service. Planning parties for the younger children became a part of the activities the teens enjoyed. She had a warm and welcoming presence and a generous person. She was devoted to her family and her church and we celebrate her legacy each year in the Emma Watson BBQ with the proceeds going to support our ministries to children and young people.
Growing up on the east side of Charleston Barbara would frequently visit St. John Mission Center. Her Parents lived across from ” the Center” as it was called in the neighborhood. Through those visits she grew a bond with Father Henry Grant and his wife Mrs. Grant. Mrs. Grant became Barbara’s mentor. He encouraged Barbara to pursue a career in nursing.
Throughout her career, she found her passion as a Public Health Nurse at Franklin D. Fetter Health Clinic.
In the early 1970’s, Barbara became a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. She was a faithful member for over four decades. Every summer she looked forward to organizing the vacation bible school. Along with other active members of the church, she would also bless the members and visitors with ” Tea Time” where everyone would greet each other over refeshments.
Barbara had a strong bond with her St. Stephen’s family over the years. Her true passion within the church was Sunday School. She loved to tell the children stories and read scriptures. She grew a special bond wioth many of the members of St. Stephen’s. They would spend hours together, enjoying the loving spiritual guidance. She made sure her daughters, Katrina and April were just as involved as she was. The girls were acolytes, in the choir, greeters and helpers. Barbara’s bond with and love for the Lord gave her the strength to face all her medial issues later in life. The love that she received from her St. Stephen’s family made this difficult time much easier for her. We know Love conquers all!
Charles G. “Charlie” Shine was a faithful and longtime member of St. Stephen’s for more than 50 years. He arrived, with his wife Thelma, in 1964 during the ministry of Father Henry Grant who Charles originally met as a fraternity brother, but came to know even more through Father Grant’s famed East Side Mission.
During Charles’ many years at St. Stephen’s, where he raised his family, he held many leadership positions serving on the vestry and as senior warden several times most notably when our congregation integrated (with the then all-African American congregation welcoming white members) in the late 1980’s. Charles’ leadership during this critical period in our history, serving alongside then Priest-in-Charge Alan Houghton, helped to save our congregation from having to close our doors. As such, it is easy to count this saint of our church as a part of the founding fathers and mothers of the “house of prayer for all people” we are today. In more recent years, Charles mentored many in the parish and served on the Rector search committee that brought Father Adam and his family to St. Stephen’s.
Herbert Drayton, Jr.
Herbert joined S. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in 1963. he and his wife Alice raised six children grounded in the Christian principles he was exposed to in the church. His gifts to St. Stephen’s were truly foundational. During the lean years he was a part of the core group who extended their value, voice and vision to do the little things that consistently had a big impact.
Palm Sundays were green because of this leadership to find, harvest and deliver the creatives. He was always a apart of the ad hoc grounds-crew that kept the exterior well-manicured. If there was a beautification project that required painting or refinishing his hands were always ready to hold a paint brush or floor sander.
While St. Stephen’s has a rich and storied history that encapsulates many families and friends, Herbert’s workmanlike approach to all matters at hand was one of the many reasons that we will stand as examples of what “a house of prayer for all people” looks like. During his lifetime, he had to have an abundance mentality to accept our transition into a racially integrated church. He saw and enthusiastically embraced God’s call, alongside other giants and gems like Charles Shine and Emma Watson, to open our doors to be a beacon for many in society who struggled to find a church home.