Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
At the end of June, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II will conclude his historic tenure as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Throughout his seven years in the role, Rev. Nelson’s leadership has inspired the Presbyterian Historical Society in immeasurable ways. He has compelled and empowered us to consider how PHS, the national archives of the PC(USA), can do more to document a fuller history of the church; he has guided us through challenging and trying times with grace and compassion; and he reminds us all that history can inform, inspire, and hold accountable the denomination and its future.
Much has been shared about Rev. Dr. Nelson’s historic ministry. Not only is he the first African American to serve as Stated Clerk, the top ecclesial officer of the denomination, but prior to being elected, he served as Director of the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. As pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC, he advocated for workers’ rights, and as an organizer of Liberation Community Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN, he gathered an intentional community that reached out to its neighbors.
Nelson’s work is also an extension of his family’s generational commitment to the Presbyterian Church. His grandfather, Warren Julius Nelson, was born in the Reconstruction-era South, 132 years before J. Herbert Nelson, II was elected as Stated Clerk of the PC(USA). Warren Julius Nelson served as pastor at Goodwill Presbyterian Church in Mayesville, SC for 36 years. Rev. J. Herbert Nelson and Johnalee Nelson, J. Herbert Nelson, II’s parents, advocated for the civil rights of African Americans in the 1960s and ministered to the Orangeburg, SC community after the tragic Orangeburg massacre.
The Presbyterian Historical Society has been privileged to share about the history of the Nelson family, and we are thrilled to be the repository for the records of Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II. We hope that these records will provide inspiration and guidance to Presbyterians and researchers for years to come.
The staff of the Presbyterian Historical Society extends its gratitude and thanks to Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II for his leadership and his historic ministry.