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Mt. Zion Baptist Church was founded in 1909 under the leadership of Rev. Sandy Lyons. The original site of the church was a one-room framed schoolhouse in the three hundred block of North Rockford. The founders were Deacon Ellis, Mrs. Kate Bell Baldridge, Rev. Alexander Brown, Mrs. Georgia Brown, Mrs. Cornelia Dallas, Mrs. Mary A. Grayson, Mrs. Hannah Hale, Mr. Jim Hale, Mrs. Ella Bell Johnson, Mrs. Corline Lollis, Mrs. Ella Suggs, Mrs. Ida Rector, Mrs. Jeanette E. Webb and Mrs. Nelie Brown Wharton.

The Rev. R. A. Whitaker assumed the Mount Zion pulpit in 1914; the congregation was forced to move from the school building with a three-day notice. With the help of pioneer North Tulsa builder C. Henry, the congregation built a framed structure called, ”The Tabernacle,” and groundbreaking was held for a permanent church home on the adjacent lot on Elgin Avenue. The congregation had managed to accumulate $42,000.00, but the building as planned would cost $92,000.00. A Jewish contractor provided an unsecured loan of $50,000.00. In June 1916, with $750.15, construction of the foundation for the new permanent church began. On April 4, 1921, the congregation moved into a beautiful edifice costing $92,000.00 and the first services were held. The congregation assumed a $50,000.00 mortgage in doing so.

The joy of Pastor Whitaker and the members was short lived. Nearly one month later, the imposing structure of Mount Zion was reduced to ashes on June 1, 1921, during the Tulsa Race Riot. Mount Zion was destroyed by white rioters who believed guns and ammunition were being housed inside the church. More than 1,000 homes and scores of businesses lay in ashes, the remnants of what has been called “The Black Wall Street of America.” Thirty-five city blocks were looted and burned. Property losses far exceeded the initial estimate of $5 million.

Afraid, shocked, and shaken, Mount Zion members gathered to access the damage and discovered that the church was in ruins. To escape the staggering debt, rather than to disband, or to join other churches, the church voted unanimously not to file bankruptcy; some left, but others gave their evenings and weekends to begin clearing the debris, readying the site for rebuilding.


The congregation would sustain further devastation upon learning that the insurance plan for the church did not cover damage due to the riot. The membership, with dignity and an unwavering faith, refused to default on what they considered to be a ‘just debt” of $50,000. After the destruction of the church during the 1921 Race Riot and Rev. Whitaker became ill and resigned. Recognizing the financial burden of the $50,000 mortgage, Mount Zion had difficulty in recruiting a new pastor.


With a diminished congregation and pressed by the debt, a padlock was placed on the doors of the church. For a time, the home of Mable B. Little became Mount Zion’s place of worship. A legal challenge was finally settled in court and Mount Zion’s doors were re-opened.

In 1937, Reverend J. H. Dotson was installed. The members held worship services in the remodeled basement of the fire-damaged church. Under Rev. Dotson’s leadership, the congregation succeeded in paying off the original church’s mortgage on November 23, 1942. In 1945, TIME Magazine reported: One spring night in 1921, flames completely destroyed the new $92,000 Mount Zion Baptist Church...It had taken the church’s six hundred member seven years to finance and build their first church.


In 1948, Rev. Dotson and the members saw the fruits of their unwavering faith and belief come to completion with the dedication of the present building. In 1957, Rev. George C. McCutchen was called to serve as the pastor. He served for 50 years, retiring in 2007.


On Palm Sunday, 1985, the Mt. Zion family broke ground on the Family Life Center. In December 2005, Heavenly Treasures Books and Novelty Store was opened on East Apache Street. The bookstore was the only black-owned bookstore in North Tulsa.

On January 1, 2008, Dr. Leroy M. Cole, was called to lead Mt. Zion. On September 5, 2008, Mt. Zion Baptist Church was listed in the National Register of Historical Places for its rebuilding efforts in the Greenwood community following the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Today, Mt. Zion Baptist Church continues to be a testimony of “standing in the gap” for its members and the Tulsa community.


Due to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Mount Zion began livestreaming virtual worship services. In-person church services continued as safe distancing and CDC guidelines were adhered to. Sunday school classes were offered by phone conference or in person every Sunday morning. Wednesday Noon Bible Study was and is currently offered via Zoom every week, and in-person and Zoom Evening Bible Study is offered every Wednesday at 7:00. Sunday morning worship service continued in-person and livestream was introduced during this time, and currently can be viewed on Facebook, the church website and YouTube.

In March of 2023, the parking lot was revamped with thirty-six additional parking spaces and several handicapped spaces. Lights and security cameras were added to the new parking areas. Several additional renovations have begun throughout the J. H. Dotson Fellowship Hall and the Family Life Center. The current renovation of the sanctuary, plus additional interior and exterior renovations are approaching completion. Mt. Zion members remain dedicated to tithing and being anchored in the Lord.

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