A calling fulfilled.
Submitted by Mr. Otis W.L. Jackson
As usual the best place to begin any story is at the beginning. About two months ago, I was turning onto NW 18th Avenue in Pompano Beach. NW 18th Avenue had been renamed Dr. B.J. McCormick Avenue in 1993 when I was 12-years old. I thought to myself as I drove past the lot where his humble three-bedroom house once stood (he moved his family there in the late 1950’s from the projects), you can still see the concrete sidewalk that led from the road to the front door of the house. I wondered how many people live in the new houses and apartments that have no idea why that street is named that. The truth was I only knew a few things myself. You see, Dr. McCormick died July 10, 1977, four years before my birth. My grandfather was a very stern man and was not easily impressed. But when it came to Dr. McCormick, they spoke of him with reverence and admiration. My grandmother shared these sentiments. The only picture of a person that hung on their wall in the dining room was his. After interviewing and researching I too now have a greater appreciation for Dr. McCormick because of his selfless contributions to society. I would like to thank the McCormick family, residents and The House of God Church.
He was born Benjamin James McCormick on August 10, 1913 in Mt. Canon, Florida (Just 28 years after the enslavement of Black people had been abolished in the USA). The young McCormick was born to an industrious family, of which he was one among five siblings. In his early teenage years, he would often leave home in search of work to help support the family. Any monies he earned he would hurriedly send back home; this was his genesis of what would become his lifelong belief and work of “serving God through serving others”. At the age of eighteen, he received a divine calling to become a minister of the gospel. In 1932 when he was nineteen years old, he married Ms. Penny Lee McDougle and to that union ten children were born. In 1934 when he would begin pastoring The House of God which is church of the living God the pillar and ground of the
truth, without controversy (colloquially called “The Pillar”) he would pastor there for forty-three years until his death in 1977.
In 1948 he helped form the Pompano Beach City Wide Ushers Union for which he and his congregation were active participants. Dr. McCormick worked with other organizations for the betterment of all people. He was interdenominational in his approach to make things better for the community. Through his intense but dignified preaching ability, many people came to know the love of God and their obligation to their community. Because of his powerful oratory ability, he was always in high demand, traveling to speaking engagements from the 1940s until the late 1970s as a traveling minister, often delivering eulogies for any family that needed comforting. There are stories of him catching the greyhound bus to go “preach a funeral” and walking to the house of the bereaved family. He never had a set salary for his ecclesiastical work. If monies were given to him, he never knew how much it would be. There were times when he accepted rice from people because that’s all they had to give. By the fall of 1956, because of his community outreach, the church located at 725 NW 3rd street Pompano Beach was bursting at the seams. People were literally sitting in chairs outside and looking in from the windows just to here one of Dr.McCormick’s powerful, uplifting sermons. Local people would lovingly say that while he had one of the largest congregations in the City of Pompano. He had the largest unofficial congregation due to all the visitors from other churches that would come on Sunday evenings. Seeing a need for more space, he and his church organized fundraisers which included a turkey dinner sale. On one day in 1956 in just a few hours, they made $118.00. That’s $1,228.00 in 2022 and they were well on their way. On April 27, 1958, a groundbreaking service was held at the new location on NW 18th Avenue in Pompano Beach where it was built in 1962, and still stands sixty years later and is on the City of Pompano Beach Historical Registry. In 1965 Mr. Benjamin James McCormick graduated from Moody Bible Institute and joined such alumni as Mary McCloud Bethune with a D.D.V. degree. During the mid-1960s and into the 1970s Dr. McCormick accomplished many great things. He was appointed the Ecclesiastical title of General Elder just below being a bishop. He preached personal responsibility for one’s actions and that you were as good as your word, He said “pull up and do better”. And when it came to changing your life” you’ll have to straighten yourself out by way of the alter.” He was a progressive preacher. As early as 1964 he was already preaching about women’s rights and liberation. He actively pursued equality for all. He was very influential in serving on the ministerial council and the NAACP. In 1971 he owned and operated a fruit store on Blount Road in Pompano Beach called Ideal Fruit Market. In 1972 he was an advisor to Florida’s Rural Legal Service and helped institute the yellow bus program, which was a relief program for migrant farm workers. Hundreds of people would benefit from this program. He also served as a consultant for the federal government for a feasibility study for the Sunshine Health Center on the farm labor camp, which is still in existence. He also worked tirelessly to rename the farm labor camp because of the stigma that came with living there. The Mae Golden community, which housed 3,000 farm working families during peak harvest season, was a success. It is now called Golden Acres Development. He spent countless hours reorganizing and educating residents in the community on how to better themselves.. He worked many hours as an indigent advocate to enhance their living conditions to bring them out of a squalid situation within the city of Pompano Beach. He worked diligently to get streetlights, city water, sewage lines and adequate police protection for the unincorporated areas of Pompano Beach.
Dr. B.J. McCormick accomplished quite a lot in his sixty-four years. It didn’t matter if you called him doctor, elder, educator, orator, activist or advocate. He did what President Abraham Lincoln called giving the last full measure of devotion. Indeed he died while preparing to serve others. Before he slipped the bounds of this world for the next, he lived out his true purpose and fulfilled his calling. We should all be so fortunate to do the same. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.