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The History of Grace Baptist Church

Grace Baptist Church was originally constituted as the Grace Tabernacle Baptist Church on October 22, 1941. A group of 66 people met in the old County High School Building and organized the church which was to be a Missionary Baptist Church, fundamental and cooperating fully with the Watauga Association of Baptists, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

 
Rev. M.K. Cobble (1941 – 1944)
Rev. M.K. Cobble (1941 – 1944)
Rev. M.K. Cobble was called as the first Pastor of our church. Rev. Cobble moved to Elizabethton from Knox County with his wife and two children, Howard and Ruth, and preached his first sermon December 14, 1941; serving until June of 1944 when he moved to First Baptist Church of Mascot, Tennessee. Rev. Cobble led the church to purchase the Old Hopkins Warehouse Building located on the Southside of “E” street for $3,500. This building was the church’s first official campus.
 
After Rev. Cobble left the church was without a Pastor for four months. It was during this time that the congregation moved in August 1944 to the old Memorial Methodist Church Building located on East “F” street. This building became available because of the merger of two Methodist churches. Grace actually purchased the property in November 1944 for $17,000. This building was to house Grace Baptist Church for the next 23 years.


Rev. R.A. Pettitt (1944-1949)
Rev. R.A. Pettitt (1944-1949)
Rev. R.A. Pettitt was called as the second Pastor of Grace Baptist Church on October 15, 1944. HE moved to Elizabethton with his wife and two daughters. Barbara Ruth and Carol Lynn from New Jersey. Rev. Pettitt remained Pastor of Grace until 1949. At this time, he Accepted the call of a church in Greensboro, N.C. In 1978 Rev. Pettitt died of a heart attack.


Rev.  Mahlon Thomason (1950-1954)
Rev.  Mahlon Thomason (1950-1954)
Rev. M. Thomason became the third pastor of Grace Baptist Church in 1950. He and his wife with two daughters, Rebecca and Judy moved to Elizabethton. A son, David, was added to their family during their ministry here. During this time an addition was built on the back of the building which in included a baptistery and several class rooms. Rev. Thomason resigned as Pastor early in 1954 to enter Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and to pastor in Paintsville, KY. The church spent the rest of 1954 without a pastor.


Rev. Roy Tippett (1955-1959)
Rev. Roy Tippett (1955-1959)
Rev. Roy Tippett Became the fourth Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in 1955. Rev. Tippett resigned in 1959 and moved to Virginia.


Rev. Walter St. Clair (1959-1963)
Rev. Walter St. Clair (1959-1963)
Rev. Walter St. Clair followed Rev. Tippett in 1959 as the fifth Pastor of Grace Baptist Church. Rev. St. Clair and his wife Connie moved to Elizabethton form the Overhill Baptist church in Dallas, TX. Rev. St. Clair’s ministerial thrust was evangelistic. During his ministry he had a heart attack. After recovering completely, he resigned in 1963 to enter the field of full-time evangelism.


Rev. Fred Billings (1964-1972)
Rev. Fred Billings (1964-1972)
Rev. Fredrick P. Billings became the sixth Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in February of 1964. He and his wife Elizabethton and their family moved to Elizabethton from Dallas, TX, where Rev. Billings was involved in full-time evangelism. “Brother Fred” as he was affectional known, led the church in a progressive ministry. During his ministry the church built a parsonage in Superior Acres. The billings family moved into the new home in August, 1964. In the fall of 1966 the church purchased property on Broad Street with frontage of 274 feet and extended back to Thomas Boulevard. Groundbreaking for their new building was held in October 1967. The new building was dedicated May 19, 1968. Brother Fred left in January of 1972 to assume a pastorate in Portsmouth, VA. After suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while preaching a revival, Brother Fred died in October of 1974. His family brought his body back to Grace Baptist for his funeral.


Rev. Leslie Bruce (1972-1985)
Rev. Leslie Bruce (1972-1985)
Rev. Leslie L. Bruce became the seventh pastor of Grace Baptist church in September of 1972. Pastor Bruce and his wife Phyllis and their daughters, Beth and Lee Anne, moved to Elizabethton from Elizabeth City, N.C. where Rev. Bruce had pastored Calvary Baptist Church for six years and graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. During his ministry an additional adjacent lot was purchased. Rev. Leslie resigned in 1985.


Rev. Ron Owens (1986-2004)
Rev. Ron Owens (1986-2004)
Rev. Ron Owens followed Rev. Bruce as the eight pastor in 1986. A Southern Seminary graduate, Rev. Owens lead grace Baptist church to establish an early Sunday Morning worship service and some of the largest Sunday morning attendance the church had seen. Under Pastor Ron’s leadership Sunday Morning attendance reached 320 in 1995 and baptism rates of 7 to 22 per year.  Gifted in pastoral care, he led the church in building expansion of a new sanctuary, library, and choir room. Pastor Ron switched gears in 2004 when he resigned to begin work as a full time Chaplin in Kingsport, Tennessee. Rev. Owens was named Pastor Emeritus in 2014 for his faithful and loving service of 18 years to Grace Baptist Church.


Rev. Chris Hughes (2004-2011)
Rev. Chris Hughes (2004-2011)
Rev. Chris Hughes succeeded Rev. Owens to become the ninth pastor of Grace Baptist Church in 2005. Rev. Hughes served as the interim pastor in 2004 following Rev. Owens.  A gifted bible teacher and musician, Grace Baptist church was blessed under his ministry. Rev. Hughes resigned in 2011.


Pastor Travis Tyler (2013- Present)
Pastor Travis Tyler (2013- Present)

Pastor Travis, an east Tennessee native, came to Grace Baptist from CrossRoad Church of Georgetown, Indiana.  He and his wife Becki moved to Elizabethton with their three children Asher, Adalynn, and Xander. A Southern Seminary graduate, Pastor Tyler continues to lead the church to have a Great Commission focus. Under Pastor Tyler’s leadership the church has established a GriefShare ministry, Common Ground (a contemporary worship service), and a DivorceCare ministry.