History of Gospel Spreading Church History and Founders of the
The Church of God of America Gospel Spreading Church of God
Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, Founder Mrs. Mary Eliza Michaux, Co-Founder
Born on November 7, 1883 to John and May Blanche Michaux, Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux entered into what was to become a rather large family, including Phillip, Courtney, Lonnel (Louis), Julius, Margaret, Norris, Benny, Jenny, and Ruth.
As a youth growing up in the city of Newport News, Virginia, young Lightfoot attended Marshall Elementary School, where his formal education probably ended at the completion thereof, but he continued to stud and to learn both on his own and with the aid of private tutors later in life.
Since the Michaux family was in the seafood business, Lightfoot also operated a dancing school, the place where he met the very lovely Mary Eliza Pauline, whom he later married around 1906.
By 1911, Lightfoot and Mary were able to build their own beachfront home on Pinky’s beach, located at the end of Ivy Avenue in Newport News, Va.
By 1917, Lightfoot had become a prosperous businessman, working out of Newport News, Norfolk and Petersburg, VA and securing large government contracts.
Continuing his success, Lightfoot opened an additional business in Hopewell, Virginia, where both he and Mrs. Michaux later moved since the seafood business had become so lucrative.
Although Lightfoot traveled to Hopewell mainly for business purposes, God had another purpose for his life – that purpose was to make Lightfoot a “fisherman of men”. So God spoke to Lightfoot through the book of St John 4:35-36 which states: “Say ye not there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth, recieveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he the reapeth may rejoice together.”
Thus the Elder began to preach in Hopewell, Virginia in a little mission church called “Everybody’s Mission”, which the Elder had built himself. Before reading St John 4:35, 36, the Elder was not convinced that the Lord had called him to preach: therefore, Mrs. Michaux taught the word, and guest ministers preached.
Later, the Elder, himself, began to preach, secure in the knowledge that God had truly call him. By early 1919, Hopewell’s population had declined speedily, due to the cessation of World War I and the inevitable collapse of the seafood business: consequently, the Elder and his wife returned to Newport News, Virginia, still a thriving, growing town.
Arriving in Newport News, Virginia in 1919, the Elder prayed to God for several month concerning the course God would have him take. Desiring to be absolutely certain that God was leading him, the Elder-like Gideon of Old- Put out a “fleece” to God, saying, “God, if you will give me 150 souls in Newport News, I will know that you want me to begin a work here” God accepted the “Fleece”; the evidence is history.
In September 1919, Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux launched his very first old-fashioned “Gospel Tent-meeting” on the corner of nineteenth Street and Jefferson Avenue, where he remained for three months. Just as God had promised, the first 150 souls steeped out to walk with Christ. Later, the wintertime cold weather forced the Elder and Mrs. Michaux to close down the tent and move into a rented house on nineteenth Street and Ivy Avenue.
On November 22, 1919, The church of God was officially organized and established as a body of believers, called out by God through the preaching of the Gospel by Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux and through the teaching of the Lord by Mrs. Mary E. Michaux - Co-Founder of the Church of God.
By 1945, inspired by the vision God gave him, Elder has established seven churches along the eastern seaboard. Seizing every opportunity to spread the gospel, he converted an old movie theater in Baltimore into a house of worship. He transformed a storefront in Harlem, NY into a tabernacle of God. And, he built The Temple of Freedom Under God in the nation’s capitol. The seven churches and their branches are: Seven churches Newport News, VA (1919), Hampton, VA (1922), Baltimore, MD (1923), Washington, DC (1928), Edenborn, PA (1930), New York, NY (1030), Philadelphia, PA (1935), and branches Union Bridge, MD (1934), Richmond, VA (1950), and Kinston, NC (1951)
Elder Michaux made the Word of God spectacular! He was known throughout the world as a pioneer for world evangelism. He utilized the electronic and print media, and every resource available to him to spread the gospel. Elder Michaux started his radio ministry in 1929 from a bus in Alexandria, VA. He coined the world famous slogan “Willing Jesus Suffered for Victory,” using the call letters of rdio station WJSV. It tookt he nation by storm as millions of people across the world listened intently to his broadcast.
Embracing the idea of an ambitious and resourceful young named Mark Johnson, Elder began publication of “The Victory Cry”, a newsletter which was the forerunner of “The Happy News” newspaper. The first issue of “The Happy News” appeared in 1933. Its expansion and continued development has been due in a large part to the tireless efforts of its two dedicated editors down through the years. :The Happy News” today is a 12 page tabloid with worldwide circulation, carrying the Work of God to both young and old.
Elder Michaux, foreseeing the possibilities of harnessing the power of television for evangelism, became the first African American TV evangelist. His weekly service featuring the “Happy Am I “ choir aired each Friday night from 7:30-8:00 PM on WTTG_TV. He envisioned that the media would become a potential influence for reviving the spiritual life of the county. And to that end, he created the Radio Church of God, a worldwide ministry, so that people from all parts of the county and the world could hear the Word of God and fellowship with other believers right from their homes.
Elder Michaux was a man far ahead of his time! Booking agents and Hollywood producers offered him lucrative contracts, and in 1942, he collaborated with Jack Goldberg to produce a commercial film entitled, “We’ve Come a Long, Long Way”. The film, which was released in 1943, was a short black and white documentary, featuring commentary by Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune and Major R.R. Wright, as well as footage of Dr. George Washington Carver, Joe Louis, Paul Roberson, Lena Horne, and Bill Robinson to name a few.
Music was another medium that The Elder used to capture the imaginations of the people and make the gospel come alive. Elder learned early on the music would attract people and always had a spirited choir and the Happy Am I Band accompanying his dynamic preaching. The original Happy Am I Band provided an outlet for many talented musicians. He enjoyed tapping his foot and waving his fist in time to the music as the Band played “Happy Am I”. The song “Happy Am I” so expressed Elder Michaux’s philosophy, that he adopted it and made it the church’s theme song. Inspired by Elder’s enthusiasm, a long tradition of gospel music was born and has flourished in the church. Many of the choirs and special groups supported Elder’s preaching ministry and often traveled with him.
Sister Michaux shares her husband’s vision and his passion for lost souls. Together they traveled extensively, standing faithfully side by side as they turned the eyes of the nation toward Christ. No revival service was complete without Sister Michaux’s lifting voice leading the song service. However, her special call was for the hearts of young people and particularly women in need of a savior. She could often be found ministering to prostitutes and down-trodden women from whom the world had turned away. She believed young women should live clean and modest lives and she was a role model for them. Sister Michaux also understood that young people needed to be taught to live godly lives.
To that end she organized The Purity Club to guide and instruct the youth. The Willing Workers was established to provide an opportunity for women to fellowship and gain an understanding of their new life in Christ, while at the same time, creating beautiful craft projects. She was a gracious and kin “Proverbs 31 Woman” shoes life reflected the spirit of God. Even to this day, her nuggets of wisdom still ring true in our hearts: “Be a Peach Out of Reach” and have “Obedience, Love, Reverence, and Respect: first to God , then to Leadership, and then to one another”. She loved young people so much, that she and Elder adopted a little Eskimo girl and raised her as their own. She brought so much love and joy to their lives, and remained in their home until she married and returned to her native Alaska.
When it appeared that Elder’s vision for worldwide spiritual revival was dimming, he did as the Old Testament prophets did: he called a solemn assemble and sanctified a Ten-Day Fast. The revival ended with an All-Night Prayer Service that included foot-washing, a symbol of humility, and the serving of Holy Communion. Today the saints still fast and pray for spiritual revival in the church and a closer walk with God. Part of Elder Michaux’s vision included bringing the saints together for accountability, encouragement, and fellowship. For this purpose, he organized Family Groups and Group Meetings. Group Leaders were appointed to provide individual spiritual counsel, and to show care, love, and encouragement to group members.
In 1941, Elder Michaux had made an enormous impact upon the nation. He exploded upon the social and political landscape as a vocal supporter of civil and human rights for all people and equal housing and equal job opportunities for the poor. When he saw people hungry, he fed them. In the summer 1933, elder Michaux assumed the management of McFadden’s Café, a health food café’ located at 1727 Seventh Street NW Washington, dc. Under Elder’s management, the restaurant flourished and became the forerunner of the Happy News Café’, where meals were cheap and free to those who had no funds. He provided housing for the homeless. He provided housing for the homeless. A Home for Evicted Families was established in Washington, DC. There people lived on The Common Plan and were taught to manager their money and their lives. Everyone contributed their wages to the General Fund and all bills were paid. There was plenty of good, wholesome food for all. The sick were taken care of and all doctors bills were paid. Clothing was provided for everyone and the rest of the funds were divided, not necessarily equally, but all had what was required to live comfortably. And while he was teaching people how to live, Elder was feeding them the Bread of Life.
Elder Michaux’s dream was to establish a farm and a Nation Memorial to the Progress of Colored People. In pursuit of this goal, he purchased a large parcel of prime land along the beachfront in Jamestown, Virginia and spend much of his lifetime pursuing his dream. On October 20, 1992, The Elder was afforded the signal honor of having a memorial marker dedicated to his life’s work unveiled in Williamsburg, Virginia. This marker recognized the historical significance of the spot believed to be the place where the first African Americans landed in this country.
The marker stands on the originally purchased by Elder Michaux, the beachfront of the James River acknowledging the entry of the first Africans in British Colonia America in Virginia in 1619. It reads, A FAMOUS AFRICAN-AMERICAN”S DREAM “ The earliest African-American national radio and television Minister and advisor to three American presidents, The Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux purchased the lands around you in 1936. His dream was to establish a farm and national memorial to the progress of African-Americans in this country. The first African-American in British Colonial America landed in Virginia, possible at Jamestown in 1619.”
Elder’s vision casued him to desire to make the gospel big! He envisioned big things, knowing that nothing is impossible with God. He dreamed of way to improve the lives of working men and women. And it came to pass. In 1940’s he constructed a 594 unit housing development known as Mayfair Mansions in Washington, DC. Later, he added to ita 617 unit apartment complex known as Paradise Manor Apartments incorporating a large playground and a shopping center. The dream had become an reality. He was described by one business associate as “the most unbelievable black businessman in history.“ In the JET magazine, Elder Michaux was reported to be the first black man to get a $3.5 million U.S. loan. The value of the total project at one point was calculated to be more than $15 million dollars.
Elder Michaux was not afraid to weigh in on political issues. This fearless “Man of God” led marches and demonstrations often bringing along the choirs and large groups of the saints, bearing signs, and wearing sack cloths and ashes to symbolize man’s humility before God. Elder Michaux desired to break the international barriers that were stopping the spread of Christianity. He carried out this mission by dropping Bibles in the Russian language over Russia, in hopes that someone would find them and read the Good News. Presidents and world leaders sought his counsel. When they signed legislation , he was there. It was upon the Elder’s request that President Roosevelt approved the 13th Amendment Stamp celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In keeping with his belief that there could be no peace in the world without “The Prince of Peace”, Elder Michaux went to foreign shores as a Goodwill Ambassador and messenger of the gospel of peace. A charismatic leader who attracted a diverse group of friends and acquaintances that reached from Hampton, VA to Hollywood.
Elder Michaux was a showman. Following the Great Commission give in St Matthew 28:9 “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost;“ , Elder conducted summer revivals in many cities and always climaxed these campaigns with a gigantic baptism, featuring the famous cross choir with soul inspiring music and demonstrations. His efforts to make the gospel exciting and enticing compelled him to produce spectacular dramatic productions each Sunday during the month of August. These pageants along with the performing human cross choir drew thousands from across the country. The Annual Baptism, beginning in the Potomac River from the side of a boat, grew to include huge parades with hundreds of buses in Washington, DC culminating in a big Baptismal Service at Griffith Stadium. Ar one time, he baptized 800 people in Griffith Stadium and the crowds sometimes numbered from 25,000 to as many as 45,000 persons. In the early 1950’s, Elder Michaux transported barrels of water drawn from the river Jordon to baptize his candidates.
By October 1967, when Sister Michaux died, much of the Elder’s vision had come to pass. Elder Michaux felt that he had fulfilled God’s purpose for his life, and prepared to pass his mantle on. And so, on Sunday, October 20, 1968, exactly seven day shy of one year, he joined Sister Michaux ineternal rest.