Spotlight On A Southern African American Lutheran Family


Three generations of Lutherans. Cynthia, her nephew Zack, and Cynthia’s late mother, Vienna.

This article first appeared on on Feb 26, 2014

Trinity has been blessed with many African-American members who are dedicated and supportive in every way. Many are active in the various missions of the Church and many are either currently or have in the past, held positions on the Council and the Board of Elders. Many represent Trinity as public ambassadors in the community at large and in dealings with other congregations. All deserve honor.

Today, I single out one family for special recognition. There have been many generations of African American Lutherans baptized, confirmed and ministered to at Trinity Lutheran Church. One family of third generation Lutherans is the that of Vienna D. Stovall, born 1924 in Natchez, Mississippi.

Vienna’s parents and siblings relocated to Memphis, Tennessee in 1929. Vienna married Jesse Stovall in 1948. Memphis was still a segregated society; although, blacks and whites in the area around Redeemer Lutheran Church, lived peacefully in close proximity for years.


Vienna and Jesse Stovall

In 1946 Calvary Lutheran Church, serving the same geographic area as Redeemer, was formed to minister to the black community. Vienna and Jesse Stovall, who were both baptized and confirmed Lutherans; and joined Calvary Lutheran Church at 1008 E. McLemore Avenue in 1949.

Vienna and Jesse gave birth to their first child, Cynthia, in 1952, the second, Donna, was born in 1953, their only son, Michael, born 1958, the fourth and last sibling, Lisa, was born in 1964.

In the 1940’s a private school, started to provide African-American children with a better education than was available in public schools, fell on difficult times. The Lutheran Church took over the school and named it the Cooperative Lutheran School. It was the first and only African American Lutheran parochial school in the area and was located at 826 Edith.

There were many prominent African Americans who began their Christian education at Cooperative; the late, world renowned, Memphis musician, Larry Lee, as well as the late Honorable Judge Anthony Johnson. Handel Durham, practicing attorney, Cedric and the late Charles Davis, Jr., Vernon Hence, Kay Miller, Karen Chandler, as well as Judge Jayne Chandler, who is still presiding in City Court, also attended.

One student of note, was Miss Cynthia Stovall, who started classes in 1956.

Soon after, the Stovall family relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and became members of St. Philips Lutheran Church. Donna and Cynthia continued their Christian education at St. Philips from 1958-1960. After a brief stay in Wisconsin, they returned to Memphis and Calvary Lutheran Church, where Cynthia, Donna, Michael and Lisa were confirmed all confirmed.

Upon the passing of Calvary’s pastor, Dr. Dewitt Robinson, Cynthia transferred her membership to Trinity Lutheran. In 1983 and her mother, Vienna Stovall transferred to Trinity in 1988.

Zachary Miles Stovall, the third generation Lutheran was born October 1991, was baptized at Trinity and confirmed in 2006. The Lord dismissed His servant, Vienna D. Stovall December 26, 2006. Zachary is still an active member at Trinity in his service as crucifer. Cynthia is an active participant on Trinity’s Church Council and The Outreach Ministry.

  1. What a wonderful blessing this family has been to us and our community! Thanks David, for the spotlight on our sisters and brothers in Christ.

  2. I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

    Of course, my mother finished that race; I am thankful she continued to pray and encourage me to stay in the race for Christ. David, this was a true memorial to Mother.

  3. What an honor to know this family! It is such a joy to have attended the Women’s ministry programs hosted on Sat. mornings by Cynthia. And Zach – it should be noted – is one of the tallest, most handsome members of our congregation. We loved reading the history of the Stovall family. Vienna was such a lovely lady. We miss her! Thanks – David – for this story in her memory.

  4. Wonderful family! Wonderful article!

  5. I have to add, that is was a particular honor and privilege to have known Ms. Vienna. She was such a wonderful lady, a true woman of stature and honor. She was a faithful servant to her Lord and Savior, who served as a roll model that we should all pattern our life after.