Rev. Dr. Cecil W. Cone
The third pastor of Saunders Memorial was Rev. Dr. Cecil Cone. Rev. Cone was a noted Theologian, Pastor, Educator, Lecturer, and writer. Throughout his childhood, his parents instilled in him core values: faith in God, academic excellence, social justice and civil rights; values he instilled in the members of Saunders.
Dr. Cone answered the call to the ministry at the tender age of thirteen. By the age of 16, he had been appointed to his first church. His rich pastoral ministry includes the privilege of serving as Senior Pastor at several AME Churches throughout Arkansas, Jacksonville, Florida and Detroit Michigan including Saunders Memorial AME. After moving to Atlanta, GA he joined the ministerial staff at St. Phillips AME Church in Atlanta, Ga.
Dr. Cone received his Associate of Arts degree with honors from Shorter College in North Little Rock. In 1957 he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Philander Smith College. After teaching school for one year, he entered Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois where he earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1961. He was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology and Philosophy from Emory University in Atlanta in 1974. During his tenure at Emory, he was the recipient of a Rockefeller Doctoral Fellowship.
In 1993 he went back to school and earned a Masters of Arts with honors in Counseling Psychology from The University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Dr. Cone served as, President of Edward Waters College (EWC) in Jacksonville, Florida. President of Turner Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Dean of Jackson Theological Seminary in North Little Rock Arkansas, Professor of Systematic Theology at B.F. Lee Seminary in Jacksonville, Florida, Professor of Black Theology at Emory and Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, and Professor of Black Theology at Spelman College.
Dr. Cone was always on the forefront of the Black Liberation struggle as a writer and activist. During the 1960's he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Detroit, Michigan and in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. He was a key organizer and spokesperson in Civil Rights marches in Little Rock. In 1992, Dr. Cone was arrested, along with others in a group who delayed a Jacksonville City Council meeting to protest racism and the city’s minority set-aside plan at that time. Dr. Cone also participated in interruptions of Duval County School Board meetings in 1990 and 1991 to protest desegregation issues.
Dr. Cone was a gifted orator and prolific writer. He lectured throughout the United States and around the world. He is also the author of The Identity Crisis in Black Theology. Saunders Memorial is proud of the rich legacy of social justice and community activism that Dr. Cone planted in its members and which lives on today. (Edited from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Apr. 1 to Apr. 7, 2016)