Special from Visit Natchez

Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church will celebrate the legacy of Hiram Rhodes Revels this month with a bust in his honor created by Bob Willis of Oklahoma. The bust will be unveiled in a ceremony in the church at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at 228 N. Dr. Martin Luther King St.

The Rev. Birdon Mitchell, pastor of Zion Chapel, said he was excited about the opportunity to pay homage to Revels.

“I, along with the Zion Chapel family, am ecstatic that Hiram Revels, a former pastor of our church, the first president of Alcorn College, and the first person of color to serve in the United State Senate,  is being recognized in our community,” he said. “The Lord’s name be praised! I’m truly thankful to all who are involved in making this event possible.”

The unveiling is free to the public. It is, in part, a celebration of Revels’ birthday, according to Norma West, event organizer. Revels was born on Sept. 27, 1827.

Revels became the first pastor to serve at Zion Chapel in the 1860s, and in 1870, he became the first African American lawmaker to serve in the United States Congress. Following his time in office, Revels became the first president of Alcorn A&M College, which is now Alcorn State University, in Lorman.

Roscoe Barnes III, cultural heritage tourism manager for Visit Natchez, said that he and Visit Natchez are assisting with the event.

“We are proud of Pastor Mitchell and Zion Chapel for honoring Hiram Revels with this important work of art by Bob Willis,” he said. “We’re asking local residents and visitors alike to come out to this church program and learn more about Revels and his role in Natchez’s rich cultural history.”

The ceremony will feature music by Tony Fields and presentations by Mitchell, Willis, and Mayor Dan Gibson.

Willis is a retired pastor with a passion for telling stories through his art. His work shows a special interest in Natchez’s history. Over the years, he has sculpted several busts related to Natchez, including one of John Roy Lynch, which he donated to the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture.

Willis said he appreciates the opportunity to recognize Revels through his work.

“It was my honor to sculpt a bust of Hiram Revels, recognizing his faithful service to his community, to our Country, and to our God,” he said.

For more information on the Hiram R. Revels unveiling ceremony, call 601-807-0454.