He attended a private school in Charleston, South Carolina and Gettysburg Seminary in Pennsylvania. He also did a great deal of studying on his own. Payne was the first Bishop to have formal theological seminary training. He, more than any other individual, is responsible for the AME church’s attention toward trained ministry.
Bishop Payne was ordained an elder in the Lutheran Church in 1837. He was admitted to the Philadelphia Annual Conference in 1842. He pastored churches in Washington, New York and Baltimore. He was elected the Historiographer of the AME Church in 1848. Payne was elected a Bishop at the General Conference in New York City on May 7, 1852. During his tenure, he presided over the 1st, 3rd, 2nd, and 7th Districts. He organized the South Carolina Conference in 1865, and founded Wilberforce University in 1856 where he became the first Black President of a college in America. Payne served as the President of Wilberforce University for 13 years.
He was an author of considerable merit. His book, “History of the AME Church”, is his greatest work and has been an authoritative source of history of the first 75 years of the connectional church. Bishop Payne spent twenty years gathering material for his book.
Payne was married to Eliza Clark Payne. He was the father of one child and the stepfather of four children- Julia, John, Laura, Augusta and Peter.
Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne died on November 2, 1893.
James Alexander Shorter was born in Washington, D. C., 4 February, 1817. He is of African descent. After entering the itinerant ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal church in April, 1846, he held a pastorate in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1863, and organized the women of his church into bands for the relief of the freedmen that flocked thither. He was elected bishop in 1868, and sent more fully to organize the church in the extreme southwest, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. He was one of the delegates to the Methodist ecumenical council in London, England, in 1881, and continued his travels into France and Switzerland. As president of the missionary society of his church, he has succeeded in opening the work in Haiti and Africa, whither missionaries have been sent.
Benjamin Tucker Tanner was born in Pittsburgh in 1835. In 1857, at the age of twenty, Tanner enrolled at Avery College. Rather than accept an offer from the founder, Charles Avery, to pay for his education, Tanner worked as a barber throughout his college years to earn money for his education. After graduating from Avery in 1857, Tanner enrolled at the Western Theological Seminary. He completed a three-year course of study in two years. He was ordained a deacon and made an elder in the A.M.E. Church in 1860. His first pastorate was at a church in Georgetown in the District of Columbia; later he served in a church in Baltimore. In less than six years after his seminary study, Tanner was appointed to the most prestigious church in African Episcopal Methodism, Mother Bethel in Philadelphia.
It was during the years that Tanner pastored Bethel A.M.E., from 1868 to 1884, that he turned his attention to the press, editing the Christian Recorder. After 1884, Tanner launched the A.M.E. Church Review, a quarterly that rapidly became the leading black magazine of high literary quality. Tanner watched with astonishment the gradual racial repression that led to the establishment of Jim Crow legislation in the South. He felt that racial solidarity offered the best defense for racial injustice, and he encouraged blacks to unite in the support of black businesses and the black press. Tanner believed in racial solidarity through collective action.
Tanner was consecrated a bishop in 1888 and remained active in that capacity for the next twenty years before he retired from his duties in 1908. Tanner was an electrifying preacher as well as a prolific writer. His most widely circulated book was a history of African Methodism. He authored a total of seven books throughout his long career. In one of his publications he wrote:
“…the Founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church…dared to organize a Church of men, men to think for themselves, men to talk for themselves, men to act for themselves.”
Tanner married Sarah Miller in 1858 while he was a student at the Western Theological Seminary. The couple had seven children, the best know of whom was their son, Henry Ossawa Tanner, the famous black painter. A daughter, Hallie, became the first black female to practice medicine in the state of Alabama. Benjamin Tanner was awarded a LL.D from Wilberforce University, where in 1901 he briefly served as Dean of the Payne Theological Seminary. Bishop Tanner died at the age of 88 in 1923.
Bishop Abraham Grant was born near Lake City, Fla., Aug. 25, 1848. He was born a slave. He came into possession of the arts of reading and writing before the outbreak of the Civil War; he gladly took advantage of every opportunity of adding to his store of knowledge. After the close of the Civil War, he acquired an education in missionary and night schools. . He worked his way through Cookman Institute by clerking in a Jacksonville, Fla. grocery store.
In October 1868, while present at a camp meeting at Lake City, he was led to accept Christ as a personal Savior, and joined the A. M. E. Church at Jacksonville, Florida, taking up gladly the duties of steward and class-leader that came to him. A license to preach was granted him in April 1873, and the following December he was ordained to Deacon’s Orders, and in March, 1876, set apart as Elder. During his residence in Jacksonville he received the appointment of Inspector of Customs, and also served as County Commissioner of Duval County.
In 1878 he moved to Texas, where he became vice-president of Paul Quinn College at Waco and assigned to pastor churches in San Antonio and Austin. Grant was elected bishop in 1888 and served in the South and West until 1900, when he was transferred to the Midwest. From 1904 to 1911 he was bishop for Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and California, residing in Kansas City, Kansas. He was a founder of Payne Theological Seminary in 1891, and also was a trustee of Wilberforce University. Grant had an amicable relationship with Booker T. Washington and generally supported the Tuskegean’s approach to race problems. In 1908 he campaigned for the Republicans at Washington’s request.
His shoulders have been thought broad enough to carry other weighty burdens, so he was for years the Presiding Officer of the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University; for twelve years he was at the head of the Church Extension Board of the A. M. E. Church, and for a time one-third as long was President of the Publication Board of the A. M. E. Church (Philadelphia) and President of the Board of Trustees of Morris Brown College, Atlanta, Georgia; for three years he had the casting vote of the Board of Trustees of Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina, and Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida.
Bishop Grant’s official duties have carried him across the seas; twice he has been in Europe and he has presided over Conferences at Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Monrovia, Liberia, West Coast Africa. For seventeen years Bishop Abraham Grant has been among those honored with the highest ecclesiastical authority that it is in the power of his church to bestow.