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Dr. Freeman Reflects on Becoming Minister at Mt. Horem Baptist Church

Thomas F. Freeman

Sound | 1973, interview recorded 2012

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  •  Dr. Freeman describes his initial reluctance to accept the position at Mt. Horem Baptist Church. 
  •  Dr. Freeman on divine intervention 
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  •  I interpret my coming to Texas as the hand of God guiding my life.  
  •  And so when I went back to my church [in Virginia], I told them that I felt it was God's will that I come to Texas  
  •  and that I would not remain in Richmond, Virgina.  
  •  I had no idea of pastoring in Texas.  
  •  In fact, I came under contract NOT to pastor.  
  •  Prior to my coming, the experience that they [TSU] had with a pastor  
  •  caused them to gar against getting into that hole again,  
  •  for they felt that the pastor . . .  
  •  time was such that the church pulled him away from the duties and responsibilities at the university,  
  •  and they didn't want to repeat that, so I came under contract NOT to accept.  
  •  And I didn't worry about it.  
  •  A student at my class pastored the Mt. Horem Baptist Church  
  •  and invited me to deliver a message at the church.  
  •  Before the time for me to deliver the message, he passed.  
  •  And the deacon called me and said that according to the schedule,  
  •  you are supposed to preach such and such day,  
  •  I said, "That's alright!" Since the minister had passed.  
  •  He said, "No, we want you to come."  
  •  So I fulfilled the speaking engagement.  
  •  Following the speaking engagement, three of the women of the church cornered me,  
  •  and said, "Son, don't you know that God wants you to pastor this church?!"  
  •  And I literally laughed in their faces.  
  •  I said, "Pastor THIS church? I can't pastor ANY church!"  
  •  Alright. For three weeks, the church turned over in my sleep all night along, just turned over.  
  •  At the end of three weeks, Dr. Lanier, who was the first president,  
  •  called me into his office and said, "Tom, I think we've been unfair to you.  
  •  I'm going to release you from your contract, so if you're called, it's alright with the university."  
  •  He knew nothing about that experience.  
  •  Two weeks later, I got a telephone call from one of the deacons,  
  •  and the telephone call said, "You have been selected as our minister, and we expect you Sunday!"  
  •  I said, "I'm sorry, but I have to take my debate team on a trip, and I can't be there Sunday."  
  •  Now I will be happy to come back on next Sunday, but I don't think you really want me.  
  •  And so I didn't accept the church.  
  •  I had representative from each of the organizations to meet with me during the week,  
  •  and after I met with all of the organizations,  
  •  I called a church meeting and said,  
  •  "I don't think you want me, and I'm not so sure I want you.  
  •  But, I will give you 3 months to look at me, and I will look at you for 3 months.  
  •  And if at the end of 3 months, we don't want each other,  
  •  it's alright with me! It won't cause any problems."  
  •  We had that 3 months, and it has stretched into 63 years.  
  •  That's the history. Now, an outsider doesn't understand, but it has to be God.  
  •  There's no way Dr. Lanier could have released me on his own without divine intervention.  
  •  And I could not have stayed in any congregation for 63 years if it had not been the intention of God!  
  •  So I am a servant of his; if he wants me for 63 years, I'll give him 63 years.  
  •  If he wants me there for more, I'll be there for more! Whatever he allows! I will accept.  
  •  I didn't mean to be so long, but I told you this history. 
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This video, produced by TAMI, is composed of excerpts from an informal interview with Dr. Freeman voiced over a home movie from his film collection. As Mt. Horem celebrates Freeman’s 22nd Anniversary at the church, Freeman gives the history of how he became their minister when he moved to Texas. The interview was conducted by TAMI’s Madeline Fendley on September 10, 2012 at Dr. Freeman’s office at TSU.
Dr. Thomas F. Freeman was born in 1919 in Richmond, Virginia, where he also spent his childhood and attended college. Freeman left Virginia temporarily to serve a nine month contract at Houston's Texas Southern University in 1949. Many decades later, Dr. Freeman is still a professor and debate coach at TSU, on campus six days a week, and has helped multiple generations of young Texan African-American students find their voice and rise to new heights of scholarly achievement. A pillar of the Houston community, Dr. Freeman also has ministered at Mt. Horem Baptist Church for more than 65 years, still delivering sermons every Sunday; taught Religious Studies at Rice University for 20 years; helped found Houston's Model Cities program; founded and served as Dean of TSU's Weekend College; was the Founding Dean of TSU's Honors College; and over the course of his teaching career, taught and influenced many prominent African-Americans leaders, including Otis King, Barbara Jordan, and Martin Luther King, Jr.