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Louis H. Bland

Source: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Bland, Louis Harold (1893–1953)

By DeWitt S. Williams, and Adrianna Joi Lewis

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DeWitt S. Williams, Ed.D. (Indiana University) lives in Maryland after 46 years of denominational service. He pastored in Oklahoma, served as a missionary in the Congo (Departmental and Field President), and Burundi/Rwanda (President, Central African Union). He served 12 years in the General Conference as Associate Director in both the Communications and Health and Temperance Departments. His last service was Director of NAD Health Ministries (1990-2010). He authored nine books and numerous articles.

First Published: September 27, 2023

Louis H. Bland, pastor and administrator, was the first president of the Northeastern Conference.

Louis Harold Bland was born on June 28, 1893, in Newellton, Louisiana, and attended Baptist schools in the area. He was the eldest child of Maxwell Bland, a white plantation owner, and Catherine Monroe, a woman of mixed race. As a young man, Louis became foreman of a roundhouse crew for Southern Railway in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and later transferred to a similar position in Memphis, Tennessee.1

On May 7, 1912, Louis married Juanita Neal, daughter of James Neal, a white landowner who operated a horse farm, and Agnes Willmore, a free person of color who identified as Native American. Juanita had attended the school that James Edson White began in 1895 on the steamship Morning Star, docked on the Mississippi River along Vicksburg, Mississippi.2 Her father believed it offered the best education for Blacks in the city.3 Juanita later attended Philander Smith University (Philander C. Smith College at the time) in Arkansas. When Louis’s mother died young, Louis and Juanita raised his younger brother, Frank L. Bland, who became a vice-president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

When Louis and Juanita moved to Memphis, they were attracted to a tent meeting conducted by evangelist Sidney Scott. Unbeknownst to Louis, Juanita was praying that Louis would become a Seventh-day Adventist. Louis became enthralled with the tent evangelistic effort and ended up attending every night. They were baptized in 1915. Louis immediately became active in church work and lay evangelism. J. H. Laurence, his pastor in Memphis, noticed his leadership abilities and urged Louis to speak at public meetings and develop his potential as a preacher.4

In 1917, Bland entered full-time ministry, starting as pastor of the church in Brownsville, Tennessee. Subsequently he held pastorates in Jackson, Tennessee; Paducah, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; Detroit, Michigan; and Baltimore, Maryland.5

Louis and Juanita had six children: sons Louis Harold, Jr., Charles N., William M., and Milton W., and daughters Marjorie (Smallwood) and Doris (Arthur). Juanita supported her husband’s ministry with her musical gifts—both as a pianist and in training church choirs—and by serving in the roles of Sabbath school superintendent, church treasurer, and wise counselor to those who sought her help. She also filled her husband’s pulpit capably when there was no other resource.6

While he was pastoring in Baltimore, Elder Bland accepted the call in October 1944 to be president of the Northeastern Conference, the second of the new regional or Black conferences to be organized. With headquarters in New York City, the conference included 15 congregations with some 2,200 members from throughout the state of New York and the New England states.7 Bland’s nine-year presidential administration was noted for the purchase and erection of several houses of worship. Conference membership nearly doubled, surpassing 4,000. With this foundation the conference thrived and became one of the largest in the North American Division, with a membership surpassing 60,000 as of 2020.8

Louis Harold Bland died on Sabbath morning October 10, 1953, at 60 years of age. He was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City.9 All six of his children survived him, as did his wife, Juanita, who passed away in 1980.10

Sources

Bland, L. H. “Following the Pattern in Christian Education.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 27, 1946.

“The Death of Elder L. H. Bland.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, October 26, 1953.

Jensen, Stan. “Q & A, Adrianna Joi Lewis.” Canadian Adventist Messenger, November 2020.

Peters, George E. “The North American Colored Department Organizing Conferences.” ARH, January 25, 1945.

“Rev. L.H. Bland, Head of Adventists, Buried.” New York Age, October 24, 1953.

Reynolds, Louis B. We Have Tomorrow: The Story of American Seventh-day Adventists With an African Heritage. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1984.

Notes

  1. “The Death of Elder L. H. Bland,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, October 26, 1953, 1; Entry for Catherine Monroe and Lewis Bland, “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch, accessed September 20, 2023, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MPDB-F2Z; L.H. Bland, “Following the Pattern in Christian Education,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 27, 1946, 5, 8; Louis B. Reynolds, We Have Tomorrow: The Story of American Seventh-day Adventists With an African Heritage (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1984), 136.

  2. Stan Jensen, “Q & A, Adrianna Joi Lewis,” Canadian Adventist Messenger, November 2020, 38-39. On the Morning Star and the work in Mississippi headed by J. Edson White, see Ronald D. Graybill, Mission to Black America (Westlake Village, CA: Oak & Acorn, 2019).

  3. Jensen, “Q & A, Adrianna Joi Lewis,” 39; Bland, “Following the Pattern in Christian Education,” 5, 8.

  4. Reynolds, We Have Tomorrow, 136.

  5. “The Death of Elder L. H. Bland,” 1.

  6. Personal knowledge of co-author Adrianna Joi Lewis, great granddaughter of Louis H. and Juanita Neal Bland.

  7. George E. Peters, “The North American Colored Department Organizing Conferences,” ARH, January 25, 1945, 13.

  8. “Rev. L.H. Bland, Head of Adventists, Buried,” New York Age, October 24, 1953, 5.

  9. “The Death of Elder L. H. Bland,” 1.

  10. “Juanita Neal Bland,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID 85350754, February 22, 2012, accessed September 20, 2023, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/85350754/juanita-bland.

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Williams, DeWitt S., Adrianna Joi Lewis. "Bland, Louis Harold (1893–1953)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 27, 2023. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8JLZ.

Williams, DeWitt S., Adrianna Joi Lewis. "Bland, Louis Harold (1893–1953)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 27, 2023. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8JLZ.

Williams, DeWitt S., Adrianna Joi Lewis (2023, September 27). Bland, Louis Harold (1893–1953). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8JLZ.