Rev. Preston Taylor was an African American businessman, minister and philanthropist. In the early 20th century he was considered one of the most influential leaders of Nashville, Tennessee‘s black community. He created Greenwood Cemetery, which is the second oldest African-American cemetery in Nashville, and Greenwood Park, which was the first park for African-American communities in Nashville. A later public housing project was named in his honor.
A Disciples of Christ pastor and educator, Taylor was one of the founders of the National Christian Missionary Convention, the precursor of the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
In 1909, he helped establish Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial State Normal College, a State-sponsored college for African Americans, which later became Tennessee State University, one of the largest university systems in the state.
In 1884, Taylor moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he met and married Georgia Gordon, a member of the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, one of the nation’s most significant historically black universities. After her death in 1913, he married his second wife, Ida D. Mallory.
Taylor was appointed minister of Gay Street Christian Church, which was the “colored” congregation associated with the Vine Street First Christian Church. In 1891 he and a breakaway group left the Gay Street church and established a congregation in an office building on Spruce (Eighth) Street; in 1903 the congregation completed its own church building on Lea Avenue near Lafayette Street. Taylor was pastor of the church for 40 years, until his death in 1931. After Taylor’s death the two congregations reunited to form Gay-Lea Christian Church, now called the New Covenant Christian Church, and located on Osage Street.
In 1917, Taylor took the lead in creating the National Christian Missionary Convention (NCMC), a nationwide organization of African American Disciples churches, which he served as president from its founding until his death. In 1969, NCMC approved a formal Merger Agreement that the International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) had approved several months earlier in 1968 as part of Disciples process of denominational “restructure.” NCMC became the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A new biography, to be published this year, has been commissioned by the Disciples Historical.
[Sources: Disciples Historical Society, WikepediaA]