FBC NEW LIFE Leadership

Brother John McCallum


Deacon Gene A. Backous became a member of First Baptist Church in October, 1966.  He was among the church members who marched from William Street to Englewood Avenue to take up occupancy in the new church home.  He and his wife, Barbara (Minister Barbara A. Backous) were married in December, 1967.  By 1974 he was appointed a Trustee by Reverend J. Isaiah Goodman.  In 1979, Reverend Goodman appointed him a walking deacon.  He was ordained as a Deacon in 1979.
Deacon Backous highlights, in his memories, the close working relationship between First Baptist Church and Galilee Methodist Church in the 1980s.  Vacation Bible School was a joint project between the two churches.  Bible School was held one week at First Baptist and one week at Galilee.  Members of the two churches and members of other churches in the community served as Bible School teachers.  At the time, Deacon Backous was Superintendent of the First Baptist Church Sunday School and Superintendent of Vacation Bible School. 
Deacon Backous also remembers how First Baptist Pastor, Reverend Goodman, and Galilee Methodist Pastor, Reverend Walter Taylor, were the most influential of the Black Clergy Council.   Reverend Goodman served as its first president and is well-known for being the leader of the entire Council.  Reverend Taylor held the distinction of serving as Englewood’s first African American Mayor.   Other influential clergy were Reverend Andre Diaz, Pastor of Bethany Presbyterian and Reverend William Hargraves of Ebenezer Baptist Church.  The Black Clergy Council was an ardent supporter of the city workers in Englewood.  Rev. Goodman was recognized as a mentor to Councilman Jack Drakeford and policemen of all races in the City of Englewood.  When Jack Drakeford, who had been a lieutenant in the Englewood Fire Department, applied for the position of City Manager and was not initially approved for the job, Reverend Goodman was a leader among the activists who went to court to fight for Drakeford’s appointment.  First Baptist church members made donations to the funds needed to support the legal work that had to be done.  Jack Drakeford secured the position and served as City Manager for many years. 
Not only African Americans, but all races, benefited from Reverend Goodman’s support of city workers.  When Englewood wanted to use private sanitation workers, the community, led by black clergy, filled the City Council meetings to the point that the meetings had to be moved to Dwight Morrow High School.  Four council member votes were needed to pass the measure that would lead to the loss of city sanitation workers’ jobs.  Shirley Lacey and a Republican city council member voted against the plan while there were three other council members who were in favor of the plan.  The sanitation workers’ jobs were saved.
Some African American pioneers in city jobs were members of First Baptist Church.  The first African American fire chief in Englewood, James Morgan, was a member of First Baptist.  The current fire chief, Gerald Marion, grew up in Englewood, was a member of First Baptist and attended the Sunday school. 
As Deacon Backous explained, the First Baptist Sunday School was a source for drawing adults into church membership.  When he became a Sunday School teacher in 1968, there were about 300 Sunday School members.  At one time, only about 45 % of the children in the Sunday School were children of parents who attended First Baptist.  The rest were children in the community whose parents did not belong to First Baptist.  Some of those parents went to church in Montclair and other cities.  In time, they followed their children to First Baptist and became members.  At one time in First Baptist Sunday School history, there were as many, or more, male Sunday School teachers as females.  That made a great impact on the boys.     
In the 1980s and 1990s, Sunday School attendance began to decline.  While Deacon Backous served as Superintendent and Mr. Joseph Meyers served as Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Meyers became a master recruiter.   He would go out into the community and recruit the children who were the “leaders of the pack” and they would, in turn, bring their friends along with them to Sunday School. 
In addition to his outstanding service in the Sunday School, Deacon Backous had additional influence on church children.  He and Deacon James B. Jones were advisors to the Altar Boys.  Sheryl Kendrick, and Geneice Mitchell (now Minister Geneice Mitchell) assisted Ms. Anjenett Ray as directors and musicians with the Altar Boys.   Among the Altar Boys membership were Alan Smith, son of Howard and Elnora Smith, and Philip Williamson, their nephew.  The Altar Boys’ Choir made appearances in the community.  In fact, there were multiple choirs under the leadership of Ms. Anjenett Ray:  The Angels, the Choraliers, the Mass Choir; the Gospelettes Choir; the Inspirational Choir; and Peace Redeemed.  When Mrs. Goodman went to speak at Women’s Day, as far away as Charlotte, NC and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, she could take a choir to accompany her. 
First Baptist was a draw for young people in the community, whether they were church members or not.  Deacon Backous remembers how Reverend Goodman would use the church social hall so that the community teens could have a place to socialize in the 1970s.  Community teen-agers danced and ate cheeseburgers and hot dogs for a fee of $2.00 on Friday nights in the social hall.  Deacon Backous and Deacon Jones were not yet Deacons at that time.  However, they played an important part by acting as chaperones for the young people.  A plain clothes policeman was also on the premises to make sure everything was under control.  When the dances were over, Reverend Goodman would notify the police department that the dance was over and the teens would be walking home.  In that way, First Baptist was a place that young people wanted to be.  But in order to participate in the popular choirs that many wanted to sing in, the young people had to be Sunday School and Youth Department members.
In July 2013, Deacon Backous was elected Chairperson of the State Baptist Convention Laymen’s Department.  The Laymen’s Department involves men of the membership churches of the State Baptist Convention.  First Baptist has been actively involved with the Laymen’s Department in discussing the recruitment of young men from the communities into the churches.