First Union Missionary Baptist Church

Trail Marker

610 38th Avenue, Meridian, MS

First Union Missionary Baptist Church has been called the headquarters of Civil Rights activities among Meridian churches. It was the location of numerous meetings, and its pastor at the time, the Reverend R. S. Porter, served as president of the local unit of the NAACP.  Church member Obie Clarke also served as local NAACP president for many years. The church was instrumental in forming a group that served as armed watchmen to protect African-American leaders and churches from Ku Klux Klan attacks.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had already achieved national prominence in the Civil Rights movement, spoke at First Union a month after the disappearance of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. The church was overflowing with members of Meridian’s African-American community who had become frustrated by the lack of progress in the investigation.

On August 7, 1964, the church would again be filled, this time with mourners at Chaney’s funeral. Crowds gathered at four area churches and marched through Meridian, meeting at First Union for the funeral service. Mississippi Congress of Racial Equality leader Dave Dennis delivered a passionate, and often quoted, eulogy.

Directions to next marker (James Chaney): Continue down 38th Avenue to Davis Street; turn left on Davis Street to 37th Avenue; turn left on 37th Avenue and continue to 8th Street, turn right on 8th Street and continue to 29th Avenue; turn right on 29th Avenue and continue out of town (29th Avenue will merge with Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Drive/31st Avenue) until the road ends at intersection with Valley Road; turn left on Valley Road; and continue approximately 2.7 miles to Fish Lodge Road, turn left on Fish Lodge Road and continue approximately 0.9 miles to grave site on right.

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