Many people may not be familiar with the name Howard Jones, but the legendary preacher paved the way stepped out on faith and worked tirelessly for decades preaching the word of God in order to bring all the races together -- under one roof -- for the Lord.
In 1958, Rev. Jones became the first black minister hired by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. As the "first," Jones faced many giants.
"It hasn't been easy," Jones told CBN News. "It really hasn't and those moments when I felt the sting of prejudice against me, I have wept. I've gone to the Lord on my knees and to the Book and said 'Lord, you have got to help me.'"
Click the play button above to hear Jones' advice on bringing the races together.
In 1952 Graham decided he was never going to speak to segregated audiences again. It was easier for Graham to preach to integrated audiences in the South. But it was far more difficult in the North.
Few blacks attended Graham's crusades in New York City that year, even though he preached to crowds of about 20,000 people. So, at the urging of a colleague, Graham sought out Jones for advice.
The two met after one of his crusades at Madison Square Garden in 1956. Jones said that Graham was "a tall, lanky, handsome fellow."
"Howard, I'm in a quandary," Jones recalled Graham saying. "I'm troubled. I'm reaching thousands of people every night here in Madison Square Garden, but I'm not reaching any blacks. What would you suggest that we do?"
"I said if blacks aren't coming, go where they are," Jones said. Not understanding at first what he meant, Jones suggested he "go to Harlem."
Graham took his advice. He preached to thousands of blacks at Salem Methodist Church and later went to Brooklyn. Famed singer Ethel Waters rededicated her life to Christ at one of the events.
And slowly, African Americans began attending the crusades.
Praying Through the Hard Times
Jones remembers how hard it was for him personally at some of those events. He said he sat on the stage with the other ministers in the BGEA, but quickly realized he wasn't welcomed.
"Many a night on the platform I was lonely and some people didn't want to sit next to me," Jones said. "But Billy realized what I was going through, and he was always aware of my problems and he made it easier for me, but I had to just hang in there."
Graham received quite a bit of hate mail from people saying they would revoke their financial support if they didn't fire Jones and return to segregated crusades.
"He showed me a lot of the letters," Jones said. "Some I can't use the words, but some whites wanted to know why you would fool around with these people, and some said if you're going to integrate your team we will not support you. We will not give you money, so they used all kinds of pressures on him, but he said I don't care. I'm going to stick by my guns."
Evangelizing Around the World
Jones preached the gospel around the world. He was one of the first blacks to spread the Good News in Africa. Being a missionary in Africa wasn't easy either.
"I went to a white college and I heard missionaries say that if blacks come, they won't be accepted. But I was determined that I was going to prove them wrong," Jones said.
And he did. Early in his career, Jones had a very successful radio show that aired throughout Africa on Sundays.
It would later be the ticket that allowed him to travel to the Continent.
"I'm preaching right across Liberia into Ghana, Nigeria, reaching thousands and millions of people. And the station wanted me to say, 'This is Howard Jones a black American preaching from Cleveland,' so that the audience would know who I was," Jones said.
"And that really did the trick, because when I got there, they said praise the Lord, you're a brother," he said. "And they came around me and some said, 'You're lighter than we are, but you're still a brother.' And a couple of them rubbed my hair and said, 'Well, you've got the same hair as we have, so you're one of us.' Oh we had a time!
His wife Wanda got in on the action, too.
"They had never seen a black American man or woman before," he said. "The white missionaries stood back a little bit to say this is Howard's hour and Wanda's hour."
His wife eventually went to Nigeria and spoke to some 3,000 women.
"There's one thing about travel," Jones said. "It broadens your horizons and teaches you not to be so bigoted and self centered. Because when you travel, you see people of different colors and different races. And if this book is right and Heaven is made up of all races, all nationalities, then we'd better start getting along with one another."
Bringing the Races Together
Jones has always had a heart for diversity. He believes that the church should lead the way.
"We need more people to take a stand because the race problem is still with us as you know. And it's got to start in the church," Jones said.
"Just take a stand. Simple as that. In other words, if it's an all white church, the pastor ought to take a stand and say that we're going to integrate the church and let all races come," he said. "That's the way it's going to be in Heaven, and I've often said in my sermons that if we can't adjust to that now, what will we do when we get to Heaven? There's no segregation there."
Jones says we must all work together to build God's kingdom.
"The bitterness, the anger, the hatred -- these are things that will destroy a black man or a white man or a yellow man or a red man. It doesn't make any difference as to race. So I feel that we have a job to do."