A Laurel Church by Clair M. Jones

Clair Maurice and Barbara Edwards Jones on holiday in Switzerland (courtesy Barbara Edwards Jones).

A few weeks ago, as you may recall, guest author Mark Davis introduced us to Memphis architect Clair Maurice Jones. Jones not only designed a number of large and regionally famous Modernist works in both Atlanta and Memphis, but also many smaller works such as Weems Chapel United Methodist Church in Picayune, Mississippi.

In a comment introducing Mark’s post, I noted that I had seen another Jones church in Laurel and that I would dig those up and present them to add a little more to our library of architectural information.

So here today, I present a few pictures of St. Paul Methodist Church in Laurel. All I know about this church is from the cornerstone plaque near the entrance and the historical marker in front. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get inside this time around. The simple but bold Modernism of the building surprised me as I drove down an otherwise typical neighborhood street a while back, and I had to do a U-turn to take a closer look. I especially love the texture of the brickwork on the front facade, the most simple crosses you could make, but very effective against the otherwise smooth facade plane. The vinyl covering the eaves, although a relatively minor alteration, on this building seems more major, since it introduces a different kind of texture to the scene. Unlike Dryvit, however, it’s reversible, so maybe someday the eaves, which I assume are tongue-and-groove wood, will reappear.

Here’s the text of the historical marker:


On March 19, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke here at St. Paul Methodist Church to rally support for the Poor People’s March on Washington against economic injustice. King told the overflow audience that the marchers were going to Washington to demand improvement in the lives of poor people. This was among Dr. King’s last stops in Mississippi, before his assassination in Memphis on April 4. The Poor People’s March continued after his death, reaching Washington on May 12.

And the cornerstone plaque:

Rebuilt 1962
Rev. Henry C. Clay, Jr. Pastor
Rev. Wendell P. Taylor, Dist. Supt.
Bishop Charles F. Golden, Res. Bishop
Hirman Nicholson Tom Dunlap
Nathaniel Williams Chester Gavin
Mrs. T.J. Barnes, Sr. Mrs. Kate Price
Frank Spann Lem Heidelberg
Alex Spencer

Clair M. Jones, Architect
L.L. Delaine, Contractor

Queensburg Lodge No. 29 F & A.M.-P.H.A.
Sandy Gavin, Jr., W.M. – James C. Gilliam, G.M.

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Categories: African American History, Architectural Research, Churches, Civil Rights, Cool Old Places, Laurel

5 replies

  1. Leontyne Price sang at the dedication of this church; although she was already immersed in her operatic career at an international level. Few churches in Mississippi could have summoned her for an appearance; but this congregation’s choir is the one in which she and her mother sang as she grew up. Thanks for posting this.


  2. Wow I would have loved to have been at that service! Thanks for that information, Mark!


  3. Thank you! Also–her mother’s name was Kate Price–I suspect the same Kate Price listed as a trustee of the church in your cornerstone photo.


  4. Beautiful photos, wonderful architecture preserved and excellent story!!!! Thank you so much for this web site. I’ve learned so much and have gotten to see so many things I never knew about in our great and sovereign State of Mississippi :)


  5. Yay that’s my church

    Liked by 1 person

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