Campbell, Israel S. (1815–1898)

By: Rosalie Beck

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 2, 2019

Israel S. Campbell, early black Baptist pastor and organizer, was born in Russellville, Kentucky, in 1815. He joined the Baptist Church in 1836 and began preaching a year later. Campbell ministered at churches in Tennessee, Canada, and Ohio before being ordained in Canada in 1855. He then served as a general missionary to Baptists in Louisiana from his headquarters in Baton Rouge. In 1866 the Baptist convention that met at Nashville, Tennessee, sent Campbell to Texas as a missionary. In August of 1866 he and fellow pastor I. Rhinehart organized the Antioch Baptist Church in Houston. Campbell served that church for a short time, until John Henry Yates was ordained and chosen as the resident pastor. In 1867 Campbell reorganized the African Baptist Church at Galveston, the first completely independent black Baptist congregation in Texas after emancipation. The church was renamed the First Regular Missionary Baptist Church and grew from forty-seven to 500 members under Campbell's leadership. It is known today as the Avenue L Baptist Church.

In 1868 Campbell helped organize the Regular Missionary Lincoln Baptist Association with Yates and Peter Diggs, Sr. Campbell, who had served as the moderator of Baptist associations in Michigan and Louisiana and as the president of the Freedmen's Baptist Convention for two years, became the first moderator of the Lincoln Association, the first association of black Baptists in Texas. The association encompassed an area along the coast south of Galveston and north along the Brazos River to McLennan County. It was formed with twenty churches and grew to twenty-seven churches, twenty-four ministers, and almost 2,700 members. He also worked to establish a vocational school in the tradition of Booker T. Washington. He was forestalled in 1881, however, by the establishment of Bishop College in Marshall, an academic and nonvocational institution supported by the Baptist Church.

Campbell had one child, Mary, who was married in 1873 to James Henry Washington, a member of the Texas House of Representatives. In 1890 Campbell moved to La Marque with his daughter and son-in-law, where they cultivated a small truck farm and raised chickens. In February 1891 Campbell retired as pastor of the First Regular Missionary Baptist Church. By the time of his retirement he was popularly known as the father of black Baptists in Texas. He died in La Marque on June 13, 1898, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston.

Robert A. Baker, The Blossoming Desert—A Concise History of Texas Baptists (Waco: Word, 1970). Alwyn Barr, Black Texans: A History of Negroes in Texas, 1528–1971 (Austin: Jenkins, 1973).

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Religion
  • Baptist
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Rosalie Beck, “Campbell, Israel S.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 2, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: