In the late 1980s, Rev. Holsey Hickman came to Dallas, Texas and began working with the Greater Dallas Community of Churches and joined the St. John Missionary Baptist Church. He was the Chaplain at Lew Sterrett Jail, Dallas, Texas. He would travel all over Texas worshipping in Texas prisons. Once he introduced Rev. Isaac Johnson to Chaplain Albert Holmes, Senior Chaplain at the Beto One, now Beto, Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas. Chaplain Holmes asked Rev. Johnson if his church could provide worship services at Beto One Unit and of course Rev. Johnson said yes. After a couple of visits to Beto One, Rev. Johnson saw the need for ministry was more than St. John alone could provide and he sought the participation of other churches from the Dallas area. January 1991 marked the beginning of the worship Ministry at Beto One. The Saintsville Sanctuary Church of God in Christ was the first church to lead the monthly worship services. Elder Raymond Jones preached and the Saintsville choir sang.
Every month the Lord sent a church to lead services including Antioch Fellowship Baptist, Concord Missionary Baptist, Faith Memorial C.O.G.I.C, Friendship West Baptist, Golden Gate Baptist, Hamilton Park United Methodist, Johnson Chapel Baptist, New Birth Baptist, Pilgrim Rest Baptist, The People of God Praise, and St. John Missionary Baptist Churches. Chaplain Holmes gave the group the name – Coalition of Afro-American Churches.
The Pen Pal Ministry began immediately under the leadership of Sisters Debra Young and Carolyn Johnson of the St. John MBC.
The first informal meeting of the Coalition was held the first Saturday in May 1991 at St. John. The focus of the meeting was to secure commitments from churches to participate in monthly worship services and contribute to the Indigent Fund designated for the purchase of soap, toothpaste and deodorant for indigent inmates. Chaplain Holmes attended the meeting and provided a much-needed orientation to the demographics of Texas prisons, a profile of inmates at Beto One, and the rules for going into a Texas prison. Chaplain Holmes hosted a volunteer appreciation banquet for all volunteers at Beto One including Coalition members in August 1991. Rev. Johnson, Sister Floristene Johnson and Debra Young attended.
Chaplain Holmes requested support from the Coalition for his Christmas efforts at Beto One. The Coalition sought contributions from participating churches and anyone or group willing to donate so that the Chaplain could purchase hygiene products and an apple, orange, and Christmas candy for every inmate at Beto One. Contributions ranged from $1900 to $4774 in 1994. Chaplain Holmes would deliver the bags personally to each inmate. Rev. Isaac Johnson accompanied him in 1993 and was inspired by the experience.
Christmas at Beto One became Christmas at Beto One and Coffield in 1995. Efforts were begun early for commitments from Coalition churches and concerned persons to donate to this ministry now that Chaplain Holmes was gone. Rev. Johnson was adamant about keeping this ministry. The goal was to give one bar of soap, one tube of toothpaste, one stick of deodorant, one apple, one orange, some small pieces of candy and a message card to every inmate at every adopted unit. Fundraisers were tried including golf tournaments and but Rev. Johnson felt our time was better spent in ministry and the churches could just donate to the ministry. Several churches agreed to have their children decorate the bags used for the gifts with Christmas symbols and to say “Merry Christmas to Our Brother in White from (their first name) which because the signature slogan. The first goal was $18,000 for 7400 bags (4050 for Coffield and 3350 for Beto.) Our first Christmas ministry alone was December 21-22, 1995 to Beto One and the Coffield Units. Since then we have prepared bags for up 15,000 inmates at Beto One, Coffield, Mark Michael Hughes, Gatesville and Boyd. Currently we serve the Beto Unit, Mark Michael Unit, Dawson State Jail, Boyd Unit, and the Dawson State Jail. 10,300 bags are prepared annually.
Services to the Trusty Camp at Beto One began in 1992. Rev. Gerald Whitaker was named the coordinator for this ministry. Services were held in the Trusty Camp every Sunday morning. Currently Trusty Camp Services are held every Sunday morning except the first Sunday and the fifth Sunday when it is held in the afternoon for the general population also.
1993 brought several new beginnings. The worship ministry expanded to the Mark Michael Unit and to the Coffield Unit. Bishop Cooper was the first Coordinator for the Michael Unit. The Worship ministry is now in the Beto, Mark Michael, Boyd Prisons and in the Dawson State Jail for women.
The first Summer Revival at Beto One was held the first three consecutive weekends in June. The theme was “Facing the Realities of Our Problems.” Preachers and churches participating were Rev. Derrick Coleman, Kingdom Harvest COGIC, Rev. Ronald Henderson, Hamilton Park UMC, Rev. George Gregory, Johnson Chapel Baptist Church, Rev. C.B.T. Smith, Golden Gate Baptist Church and Rev. Gregory Spencer, The Church at Philadelphia.
1994 would bring Chaplain Holmes’ service at Beto One to an end after his acceptance of a promotion to Regional Chaplain. Rev. Larry Thacker assumed the Senior Chaplain position at Beto One. Rev. Wesley Greenfield was appointed Coordinator for the Coffield Unit.
During the November 1994 meeting of the Coalition of Churches of Afro- American Churches at the St. John MBC, the need to formally organize the Coalition as an organization in the State of Texas was determined. The name was officially changed to “Coalition of Churches in Prison Ministry to reflect the inclusion of all churches sharing the need to minister in prisons and to reflect God’s comprehensive concern for all persons. Sister Floristene Johnson drafted by-laws that were adopted in January 1995. Membership dues were $10 for individuals and $25 for churches/organizations. The Officers were Rev Isaac c. Johnson, Coordinator, Rev. David Campbell, Vice Coordinator, Floristene Johnson, Secretary, and Rev. Ivory Williams, Treasurer. Rev. Charles Walker and Bishop Cooper were Coordinators at Beto One; Rev. Gerald Whitaker was the Trusty Camp Coordinator. Rev. Washington Jones was the Coffield Unit Coordinator, and Debra Young was the Pen Pal Coordinator. Membership changed but several churches have remained with the Coalition. Dues are now $25 per individual and $50 for a church/organization.
Currently the leadership titles of the Coalition have been changed to Director and Assistant Director.
1995 members were Dannie Arnold, Rev. William Cole (Munger Avenue Baptist), Daryl Davis, Rev. Sam Fenceroy (Pilgrim Rest BC) Rev. Holsey Hickman, Rev. James Jeffrie Jr., Carolyn Johnson, Charles Johnson, Rev. Isaac Johnson (Founder), Floristene Johnson (Co-Founder), Rev. Donald Parish (True Lee Baptist) , Louis Robinson, Belinda Taylor, Hopewell Baptist. Charles Walker, Rev. Cleveland Thomas, representative, Golden Gate Baptist Church, Rev. Keith Hall, representative, Hamilton Park UMC, Hopewell Baptist Church, Johnson Chapel Missionary Baptist, Rev. Washington Jones, representative, Friendship West Baptist, New Friendship Baptist Church, New Mt. Gilead Baptist, Madean Locke representative, Pilgrim Rest Baptist , St. John Missionary Baptist, True Vine Baptist Church, Rev Alvin A. Robertson, Betty Malone, Maxine Gardner and the True Lee Missionary Baptist. Many other churches, ministries and individuals have joined the Coalition through the years.
Sister Floristene published the first issue of the Coalition’s newsletter in February 1995. It has been published every other month since then. She applied to the Secretary of the State of Texas and subsequently received official notice chartering and placing on record the Articles of Incorporation of the Coalition on May 25, 1995. She then made application to the Internal Revenue Service for a determination of tax status as a Section 501 (c) (3) under its tax code. This tax exempt status was granted July 14, 1995.
Saturday School began at Beto One and the Boyd Units in the late 1990s and the early 2000s respectively. Bible classes are taught every other Saturday usually the first and third Saturday. Dales vary by the Unit.
New Convert Classes began in April of 1995. Beto One Chaplain Thacker indicated there was a need for bible teaching who were new Christians in the faith. A seven week course was initiated on Saturdays. Certificates of Completion are provided and refreshments are prepared. Study materials are purchased for each participant.
May 22, 2012 brought a significant change for the Coalition. Rev. Isaac Johnson, the visionary founder and leader passed away after complications from a stroke. Rev. Lee Brodie was selected to continue the leadership of the Coalition. Floristene Johnson, Co-Founder still remains and provides support for the Ministry.