The story of Second Baptist in downtown Little Rock is a tale of courage.
Following Jesus has led us down some unique pathways and unexpected twists and turns.
Second Baptist was established in downtown Little Rock by 11 members.
Second Baptist began a ministry for USO soldiers returning from World War I by hosting dances and socials for them. In response, someone from the downtown business community burned the church building down. Following the arson, Second Baptist worshipped in a Jewish synagogue.
This decade was marked by creative ministry ventures including a “Hope House” for prisoners, a Christian center of the gifted and talented in music and the arts, the first accredited Kindergarten in Arkansas, and a full-scale daycare to support working mothers who had entered the workforce.
Second Baptist stood for the integration of Little Rock Central and committed itself to work of racial justice and reconciliation within the church and without.
Second Baptist purchased Lake Nixon Day Camp, formerly a segregated private club. Second Baptist immediately integrated the camp and ran its first Summer Day Camp in 1969. Lake Nixon is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
In this decade, Second Baptist ordained its first female deacons and committed itself to supporting Women in Ministry.
Second Baptist began the first RAIN ministry to victims of AIDS in the state of Arkansas.
Second Baptist was instrumental in the formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas.
Second Baptist joined the work of Together for Hope, a rural poverty initiative, in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County, Arkansas.
Second Baptist established MLK Reads, a structured literacy program at MLK Elementary in Little Rock. Volunteers from the church, Children’s Hospital, Central Arkansas Water, and other businesses, have been matched with students who were behind grade level reading. To date, 60% of these students have graduated out of the program.
Second Baptist formally voted to become a welcoming and affirming congregation for all people, by adopting the following statement: Because our identity is found in Christ, we welcome all people, regardless of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, physical and mental ability, and nationality into full participation in the life of this congregation.
The deacons of Second Baptist approved a formal, public statement on our Convictions and Beliefs about Systemic Racism, with specific policy asks. Click here to learn more.
Encompassing 200+ acres and a 34-acre lake located just west-southwest of Little Rock, the Lake Nixon Outdoor Center is minutes from the heart of the capital city.
Yet it feels like a world away.
For the first part of the 20th century, Lake Nixon operated as a commercial entertainment and recreation venue featuring a variety of activities and amenities. These included a swimming beach that provided relief from the summer heat.
In the summer of 1966, two young African American women sought admission to Lake Nixon and were denied an opportunity to pay the membership fee.
In response, they charged the lake’s ownership with violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The resulting legal case, Daniel v. Paul, eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a landmark 7-1 decision that drew national attention, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. This set an important precedent in the application of the Civil Rights Act to membership-based establishments.
Before the conclusion of the legal proceedings, Dr. Dale Cowling, pastor of downtown Little Rock’s Second Baptist Church, led his congregation to purchase the lake and surrounding property, with the help of generous giving commitments from ten church leaders and their families. The church envisioned Lake Nixon as a ministry to children and families of all races and backgrounds, offering a summer day camp that served the needs of working families and provided opportunities for young people to encounter God through the outdoors.
Still a ministry of Second Baptist Church, the Lake Nixon Outdoor Center encompasses the Summer Day Camp–celebrating its 50th year in 2019–a unique Outdoor Preschool, recreational facilities for group rental, and more.
The LNOP seeks to be a pristine, sacred space where God’s presence may be sensed through worship, education, recreation, and sanctuary.
2020 Dr. Molly Marshall
2018 Dr. John Perkins
2017 Ruth Shepherd
2016 Brent Walker
2015 Dr. Charles Kimball
2009 Ben & Leonora Newell
2008 Rev. Cheryl Allen
2007 C.C. Mercer, Annie Abrams, Jim Powell
2006 Dr. Jimmy Dorrell
2004 Dr. Denton Lotz
2003 Johnny & Sharon Heflin
2002 Keith Jackson
2001 Millard & Linda Fuller
2000 Senator Dale Bumpters
1999 Dr. Jimmy Allen
1998 Lewis “Red” Johnson, Sr.
1997 Dr. Dale Cowling
1996 Jay Heflin
1995 Senator David Pryor
1994 Judge Elsijane Roy
1993 Dr. Keith Parks
1992 J. Clark Hensley
Brooks Hays Award
Brooks Hays was one of Arkansas’ most honored sons.
His career was quite unique in its application of Christians principles and Christian faith to a life of public service in government. A Sunday School teacher at Second Baptist Church, Hays was also an influential member of Congress who lost a re-election battle in 1958 because of the tide of unreason that was sweeping the South in resistance to school desegregation. He was defeated after he undertook the role of mediator between President Eisenhower and Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus in the Little Rock Central High School crisis.
In adversity, however, he fashioned a career more illustrious than the first. Hays became advisor to presidents (Kennedy and Johnson), a distinguished lecturer at leading universities, and a leader in ecumenical relationships. Throughout his entire career, Hays modeled for us how personal Christian commitments can transform the public arena. He remains for us an example of courage, wisdom, generosity of spirit, graciousness, growth, and faithfulness, which is why we continue to grant an award in his honor every year.