At 95, Savannah’s Rev. Matthew Southall Brown celebrated

The Rev. Matthew Southall Brown turns 95 on Sunday and while age has slowed him only a bit, he remains active in local church pulpits and with Savannah youth for whom he continues to provide a guiding influence.

“I’m fine,” said Brown, dean of Savannah pastors and pastor emeritus at St. John Baptist Church – the Mighty Fortress. “I woke up this morning feeling 50 years old.”

“I’ve got a very viable ministry,” Brown said, adding he preached last week at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. “I’m having a ball at age 95.”

Brown pastored at St. John on Hartridge Street for 35 years, including overseeing the reconstruction of the 102-year-old structure after it burned down in October 1993. He led the congregation from the West Broad Seventh Day Adventist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard where they had temporarily worshiped into the rebuilt church in July 1997.

He stepped down in 2005, assuming pastor emeritus status, but remaining active, preaching regularly and continuing to work with local youth, instilling life’s lessons learned in an effort to steer them on the straight and narrow.

St. John was his fourth pastorate. After retiring, he returned to his family’s “home church” for four generations at First African Baptist Church.

Friends recall

“I was there when he came,” said Bobby Lockett, who was a member of St. John Baptist for 53 years.

He recalled that Brown chose him, Bonzo Reddick, Dr. George Williams. Yvonne Butler and Carolyn Downes as young members and future church leaders and that he and Reddick remained as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, for 30 years. During that time they remodeled the church twice and rebuilt it once at “the big fire” in 1993.

Under Brown’s leadership, the church family grew from about 250 members to 1,800, he said.

“He was a great leader, very transparent, and he believed in listening to others and respecting their opinions.

“You could disagree…

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