Mt. Calvary Baptist Church is the oldest predominantly Black Church in Mesa. It began as a mission with the leadership coming from missionaries who commuted several miles each week. The first meeting place was under a tree in the front yard of the late Clara McPherson (wife and mother of the first black family to reside in Mesa). In 1918, the late Reverend J.B. Bell organized the mission into a formal church. These early members gave the church the name it bears today, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. From this humble beginning, Mt. Calvary had six known Pastors.
The first pastor was the late Reverend James Robinson. The second pastor was Reverend B.J. Bennett, who was the grandfather of the late Lottie Wheeler, wife of Reverend Jesse L. Wheeler, Pastor Emeritus). Reverend Williams, the third Pastor, served for a short time. Reverend William Hardison came to Mt. Calvary in 1934. He gave thirty-two years of dedicated, faithful and loyal service to the Church and the Mesa community. Under his spiritual leadership, the Church was completely organized with departments to meet the growth and spiritual needs at every level. The Church was relocated, rebuilt and remodeled twice before his resignation. During Reverend Hardison’s era, Mt. Calvary became involved in district, state and national endeavors and was one of the most outstanding churches in Arizona for Blacks. In 1983, the Church established a service award in his honor.
Reverend Jesse L. Wheeler became pastor in 1967. Under his pastorate, the Church continued to grow in membership and financially. Under his leadership, the Brotherhood Ministry was organized. In 1983, the Church was remodeled, choir furnishings were purchased, and a central heating system was added. During this same year (1983), the General Missionary Society established a scholarship for graduating seniors for outstanding achievement. The Outreach Ministry began under the leadership of Reverend Wheeler. The late Reverend Willie D. Willis was very effective in leading this Ministry. After 30 years of faithful service, Pastor Wheeler retired December 31, 1997.
The first ordained deacon at Mt. Calvary was the late J.D. Freeman. His wife the late Mary Jane Freeman was a loyal and faithful worker in the Junior Department of the State Convention and the second woman to become Superintendent of the Sunday School at Mt. Calvary. Mt. Calvary is well known for their involvement in the Mesa community. The late Veora Johnson served as the first black principal in the Mesa Schools. The VEORA E. JOHNSON Elementary School was named in her honor.
After the retirement of Pastor Wheeler, Reverend Jimmy Purnell served as interim minister for fifteen months until God sent us a leader. A petition to declare Mt. Calvary Baptist Church a Historic Landmark was submitted to the Historic Preservation Committee on January 13, 2002 on behalf of Mt. Calvary by Deacon Carl and Sister Lil Johnson. On August 26 2002, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church was established as a Local Historic Landmark in the City of Mesa.