Formally organized in 1925, this church is regarded by the city of Knoxville as one of the leading African-American churches in the area.


  • Payne Ave. Church today
    Payne Ave. Church today

Splitting from the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Knoxville, 79 members formed the Payne Avenue Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Horace J. Bailey, in 1925. The church purchased a lot on Payne Ave. & Lithgoe St., and began renovations of a church that had been abandoned on the lot, which was completed in the early 1930s. As renovations were underway, the congregation worshipped at Green School, two blocks away. After renovations were completed, the church marched from Green School to their new home, followed by the Austin High School Band, led by Mr. Saint Clair Cobb.

Over the next 10-15 years, the membership grew so much, a larger church was needed. On the same lot and over the original church, a brick church was completed at the sum of $23,000. 1965 saw urban renewal initiated in and around the community the church served. More growth in the community and church within the next year, saw demand for another lot to be purchased for a newer and bigger church to be established. Still located along Payne Ave, this road would be renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and the church retained its original name.

From the 1970s and 80s, the church and sanctuary were expanded and an annex built. During this time, the church worshipped at Austin High School, the same school whose band led the procession to the original church. Again, after renovations were completed, did the HS band led the church back to its place of worship.

The church also established and improved many community oriented outreach programs and activities. The church and its community programs are still functioning strong to this day.