In 1847 a Negro family of Poindexter's acquaintance which had previously owned slaves in Virginia joined the Second Baptist Church. The family had sold their slaves before coming to Ohio, but many of the congregation felt that they had grievous one in having sold them. It was, therefore, demanded that the money received from the sale be applied in redeeming them. This demand not being complied with, "forty dissenting brethren" with Poindexter as leader organized the Anti-Slavery services in a brick edifice at the corner of Town and Sixth streets. The Ohio State Journal reports that fifty members were added to the church by a revival in January 1858, conducted by the Reverend Mr. Shelton from Cincinnati, 3 but the church seems to have passed out of existence that same year. Poindexter returned to the Second Baptist Church, this time as pastor. He remained in this capacity for forty years, and is until July 1898, when his resignation took place. During much of his pastorate, Poindexter also worked in his barbershop, not wishing, he said, to burden his church financially.
The second Baptist Church was the oldest of that denomination among Negroes in Columbus and for many years the largest and most influential. This was due in high degree to the character, influence, and leadership of Poindexter. In the pulpit he was a convincing speaker, but he also took a prominent part if secular affairs and was quite at home in debate. He held a respected place among he prominent ministers of the city and was the only Negro member of the Pastors' Union, made up of the more able ministers of the city. He served as president of this organization for a time. His colleague, the eminent Congregational clergyman and author, Dr Washington Gladden, remembered Poindexter thus:
It was in 1858 that I first came to Columbus. During a religious meeting I had occasion to drop into a service in a building located at that time about Lazelle and Gay Streets. A black haired man, with well defined features, dark in color, was telling the Story of the Gospel. I was impressed. When I was located in Columbus some twenty-five years after, I received a visit one day from a colored preacher. "I am a neighbor of yours, "he said," and I want to bid you welcome to our work." Then I recognized the same Negro preacher that I heard a quarter of a century before. His hair was gray now, but the kindly countenance was unchanged. He always has worked for the uplift of the Negro race.4
It may be noted that Poindexter was moderator over the thirtieth anniversary meeting of the Anti-Slavery Baptist Association of Ohio held at Springfield early in September 1871, at the Second Baptist Church.5 The names of the secretary and moderator authenticate an address to the Christian church, which was then adopted, and it publication desired "in all newspapers friendly to the cause of Christ." One of the things strongly deprecated in the address was race prejudice within the church. "The prejudice which prevents God's people from meeting on terms of equality in God's house, which restrains Christians from embracing each other in affections and brotherly love without regard to color," read the address, "is the disgrace and weakness of the Church in America and we beseech you in the name of Christ to purge it out."6 Poindexter saw clearly that freedom from slavery was but a start in the right direction. Complete participation of Negroes in the religious life of America as well as in civic, religious, and political affairs was the goal to striven for.
Poindexter's ministry gave him an opportunity to express his liberalism; it also provided others with the opportunity to show their implicit faith in his thoughts and actions. His influence and friendliness extended to whites as well as Negroes. The following incident is a splendid example, for despite his adherence to the Republican Party, Poindexter had good friends among prominent Democrats. One of those was O. P. Chaney of Canal Winchester, a small town just south of Columbus. Chaney was a well known state official whose father was a Congressman. Early in November 1906, O. P. Chaney died. In accordance with a previous arrangement, Poindexter was called upon to conduct the funeral service. The Ohio State Journal reported that "Reverend James Poindexter officiated at the funeral of the late O. P. Chaney at Canal Winchester, Tuesday.
Poindexter and Mr. Chaney had been lifelong friends and many years ago the deceased exacted a promise from the veteran colored minister that when he (Chaney) died, Poindexter was to officiate at the funeral ceremony. Mr. Chaney at the time said 'Jim, you know me and what you say about me, people will believe.'7 Poindexter officiated at the funeral ceremonies of other prominent men of both races.
3 Ohio State Journal, January 29, 1858
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