Billy Graham Center

Interviews with Artis Edward Fletcher - Collection 374

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Artis Edward Fletcher

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection

Brief Description.
Oral history interview in which Fletcher talks about his childhood, education, and work as pastor of the Mendenhall Bible Church. Also discussed are John Perkins, Voice of Calvary Ministries, the black church in the United States, and racial conditions in Mississippi.
Volume: 2 Audio Tapes

Collection 374
[April 4, 2000]
Fletcher, Artis Edward; 1944-
Interview; 1987

2 Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Artis Edward Fletcher was born on January 8, 1944, in Lincoln County, MS, a few miles from the Fletcher home in Mendenhall in Simpson County. He was the twenty-second and next to last child of a prosperous black farmer, R. J. F. Fletcher. He lived and worked on the farm through his youth. At the age of seventeen, while a student at the private Prentiss Normal Industrial Institute, he was born again while attending a local church. Soon afterwards he met Rev. John Perkins, who had a great influence on his life and helped influence him to become a minister. In 1961 he traveled with Perkins to California and elsewhere in the country as a helper on evangelistic tours.

After spending brief periods of time at Moody Bible Institute in Illinois and the Southern Bible Training School in Texas, Fletcher enrolled in the Washington Bible College (WBC) in the District of Columbia. He attended school at night for a year while working at various jobs to pay for his tuition. Later he attended school part-time in the day while continuing to work. While he attended WBC, he helped start a church in Aberdeen, MD, which black people could attend. After the church was on a firm basis and had begun to grow, Fletcher left WBC to work as a pastor full-time.

Fletcher married a woman from Mississippi and then enrolled in Los Angeles Baptist College (LABC, now Master's College) in California, where his new bride Carolyn was also enrolled. He became staff minister at Glendale Presbyterian Church while he attended school and later interim pastor at another church in Los Angeles. In 1974, after finishing at LABC, he and his family returned to Mendenhall at Perkins' request to take over for him as pastor of the Mendenhall Bible Church. While pastoring the church, he was also deeply involved in the work of Voice of Calvary and later Mendenhall Ministry, both of which were begun by Perkins. The church and these organizations, while continuing to witness to the need for every person to find salvation through Jesus Christ, worked to ease the suffering and oppression of the poor, mainly black, population. This included setting up medical and legal aid services, interceding with the district attorny, and participating in the political process to try and get every citizen a fair vote. The church and ministries also provided training and other resources for local pastors and church workers. As of 1988, Rev. Fletcher was continuing in this work.

Scope and Content

Artis Fletcher was interviewed in his office at the Mendenhall Bible Church, Mendenhall, MS, by Paul Ericksen on June 26, 1987 (T1, T2). The date span of the contents of the interviews is from 1944 to the present. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. This tape is keyed to the cassette copies of the original reels of tape.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:30 Introduction
01:00 Birth in Lincoln County, MS. Influence of his father; desire of his father that his children would not have to work for anyone else.
04:00 Early family life and religious background.
04:30 Operation of the family farm. Harvesting cotton. Providing fertilizer for share croppers.
07:30 The experience of growing up with 22 sisters and brothers. Father's commitment to education for his children. Admiration for his parents and the security they provided.
09:30 Raising food needed for the family. The farm as a place of plenty. Contrast with the life of other black children he knew.
11:30 Death of his father in 1954.
12:00 Childhood awareness of segregation instilled by parents. Murder of a visitor from Chicago as an object lesson. Other lessons.
15:45 Terrorism by whites against blacks. The way to act around whites. Differences between the schooling of blacks and whites. Indoctrination of children by parents.
18:45 Torture and lynching of an accused blacked rapist by a mob.
19:45 Everyday signs of discrimination. Waiting for service in a store. Smuggling his brother out of the county for trying to vote.
22:00 Personal feeling of safety because of isolation of the farm and the financial re sources left by his father.
24:45 Fond memories of family life and prayer time. Father's belief in everyone having as much as they wanted to eat at meals. The security the children felt.
30:15 Early contacts with the church. Boring nature of Sunday School. Little preaching of the Gospel in church.
32:30 Attendance at Prentiss Normal Industrial Institute. Going to church to get the Sunday meal ticket. Hearing about salvation and damnation. Fear of not going to heaven. Fear of ridicule. Conversion.
38:00 Beginning to witness to his friends. Spending a summer with John Perkins, learning about the Christian life. Visit of the Perkins to the school in Prentiss. Trip to California with Perkins in 1961 and contact with other Christians.
43:15 Learning about Pentecostalism, ecumenicalism, different denominations, etc. Reading the book The King Nobody Wanted.
46:00 Traveling with Perkins as part of his evangelisitc team. Going away to Bible college at Moody Bible Institute, Southern Bible Training College and Washington Bible College and other schools. Return to Mendenhall.
48:30 End of side 1.

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape.
00:15 Repeat of end of side 1.
04:15 Attendance at Washington Bible College while working at the Marriott Hotel and the Library of Congress.
05:30 Call to a nearby church. Marriage, move to Los Angeles, attendance at Los Angeles Bible College. Door-to-door evangelism. Working while attending school.
08:15 Call back to Mississippi to pastor John Perkins' church circa. 1974.
09:30 Formal establishment of Mendenhall Bible Church. Relationship of the church to other churches in the area. Phases in the church's development and its expanding outreach.
11:30 Conflicts that arose when people from other churches attended Mendenhall. Church membership became synonymous with staff membership in Mendenhall Ministries.
14:00 Voice of Calvary moves to Jackson, MS. Mendhall Ministries trying to continue programs without a strong local church. Attempts to rebuild the church.
16:30 Evangelism efforts in Mendenhall. Obstacles to growth of the church.
18:15 Efforts to heal bad feelings with other churches in the community. Contacts with local pastors. Working with the district attorney to ensure equal justice for blacks and whites. A case of a supposed peeping tom.
23:15 Attendance at a conference for black pastors sponsored by Campus Crusade. Sense of ministry renewed and attempts to rebuild the church. Discovery of a need to help pastors learn how to meet the needs of their people. Development of a program for pastors in 1987.
29:30 End of tape.

Tape T2 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape.
00:30 Church members becoming more active in disciplining.
01:45 Working relationship with Dolphus Weary, coordination between the church and Mendenhall Ministry.
03:00 Effect of John Perkins' decision to separate the work in Mendenhall from the work in Jackson. Abrupt nature of the decision. Reasons why the decision caused bitterness.
04:45 Reason for the decision [static on tape]. Relationship with John Perkins. The need for reconciliation with other Christians.
06:45 Response to comments by Suzanne Griggins, MM's attorney, on the uphill struggle to get a legal services office located in Mendenhall. Unusual for services to be offered in the black community. Reluctance of whites to come to the black community. Black and whites made use of the office. Take over of the office by Mendenhall Ministries. Purpose of the office, how it serves God's purposes. A law office as a place of witness.
11:45 Fletcher's current involvement in legal services.
13:00 Redistricting of the county in order to allow blacks to be elected to office.
14:00 Fletcher's appraisal of his own personality. What he likes most about his ministry.
16:00 Limited role of his wife Carolyn in the ministry. Influence of the example of his own mother. The family budget, effect of limited income. Relaxation from fixing things.
20:00 Feedback from daughters about his ministry.
21:15 Brief halt in tape.
21:30 Advantages of being debt-free. Example of his father.
22:30 Effect of animosity from the white community. The necessity for a Christian to be obedient to Christ.
25:00 Current discouragements, the thriving of unrighteousness, the dehumanizing of people. Gerrymandering of districts to restrict black influence. Negative influence of the President's opposition to racial quotas. Federal government's lack of support for racial justice.
31:00 Beating of a young man arrested for driving under the influence; collusion between the Justice department and the sheriff's office. Encouragement comes from the Lord.
35:45 Organized Ku Klux Klan activity in the county. Intimidation of whites and blacks. Personal threats he has received, plan to blow up his house.
38:30 Effect of Mendenhall Ministries on the town. Effect of an active example of Christian life and love.
42:45 Keeping priorities straight is most difficult thing. Making disciples has priority above everything else.
45:00 End of side 1

Tape T2 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape.
00:10 Repeat of the end of side 1.
02:15 The importance of the local church as the center of ministry. Witnessing to Christ the essential aspect of ministry.
06:30 Voice of Calvary and Berean Bible Church. Importance of ministering to the total man.
08:45 The name "Mendenhall Ministry" developing out of the difficulty of raising money for the Mendenhall Bible Church.
09:30 End of tape.


The tapes in this collection were given by Artis Fletcher to the Billy Graham Center in June 1987.

Accession #87-83
February 4, 1988
Robert Shuster
J. Nasgowitz
M. Wohlschlegel

Accession # 87-83
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items listed below are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 74 minutes. One side only. Interview of Artis Fletcher by Paul Ericksen. Discusses childhood, race relations in Mississippi, influence of John Perkins, education. June 26, 1987.

T2 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 50 minutes. One side only. Interview of Artis Fletcher by Paul Ericksen. Discusses education, work of Mendenhall Bible Church and Mendenhall Ministries. June 26, 1987.

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Last Revised: 4/4/00
Expiration: indefinite