Pentecostal Pioneers: Jesse F. Soloman
By Lajoyce Martin
To many people, he was the smiling “candy man.” He spent 14,400 hours going 250,000 miles to sell $60,761.33 worth of peanut brittle! Every penny of the money went into the church treasury to establish a church in Waco, Texas.
To others, he was a pleasing radio voice. Station KWFT reached from Texas to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. “The Gospel Church of the Air” became a daily feature. His radio ministry included KSKY (Dallas), KWBU (Corpus Christi), and KFYO (Lubbock).
To some, he was words on a printed page. While pastoring Wichita Falls, he published The Gospel News monthly.
But to those of us who knew him personally, he was the soft-spoken, kindhearted gentleman–accused of being a “softie” — who” — who stood his ground firmly when challenged by trinitarian doctors of divinity and who let the Word work.
Born on July 19, 1909, near Anadarko, Oklahoma, Jesse F. Solomon gave his life to God early. When he received the Holy Ghost at seventeen, he felt a definite call to preach. There were no Bible schools and few Pentecostal churches. Picture this penniless, frustrated young man, now in his twenties, standing between jerking freight train boxcars. But God thrust him in the ordained direction of victory.
He felt the call to “Go West, young man” so strongly that he left his wife and baby with her mother in Dallas and went to Lamesa, Texas–a small, windblown town in West Texas. Brother Solomon’s older brother, who lived northwest of Lamesa, first responded to the Pentecostal truths. Newlyweds Joe and Ruth Blackstock opened their home for prayer meetings and preaching. Others had services in their homes and in the Mungerville schoolhouse. The Lord began to bless and Brother Solomon, along with Joe Blackstock, returned to Dallas in a truck for Brother Solomon’s wife, Ollie, and his baby daughter, Christine.
Thirty miles south of Lamesa lay a tiny town called Tarzan. Various churches–Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist–took turns preaching at the school on Sundays. The Pentecostals had one Sunday a month. Brother Blackstock took the group in his truck and they spent the day.
God began to bless! Joined by W. H. Lyons, Brother Solomon conducted two revivals. Thirty were baptized and twenty received the Holy Ghost. The Solomon’s second daughter, Ada Mae, was born in Tarzan.
But the Lord pulled the reins again, this time leading them to Odessa, Texas. Brother Solomon began an open–air revival a short block from the main street. He utilized the long front porch of a vacant house for a rostrum, placing seats out front. Great crowds flocked to this meeting. Cars jammed the front and lined up for several blocks around. A cowboy led the Holy Ghost roundup. Brother Callis worked on a ranch near Odessa, and he and his wife ran to the altar and were both filled with the Spirit. This began the First Pentecostal Church of Odessa.
Sister Solomon received the Holy Spirit, and Brother Solomon baptized her in Jesus’ name. Their third child, Jerry, was born in nearby Pioneer. A small building housed the first congregation in 1937 under Brother Solomon’s leadership.
A neighboring town about the same size, Wink, needed the gospel. For five dollars a month they rented a store. One room in the back was the Solomons’ living quarters. Fire gutted a theater, so they obtained the blackened seats and cleaned them up. By spring Sunday school reached seventy.
Wink needed a revival. Steve Odum was contacted but delayed for a week, so Brother Solomon started by himself. By the time the evangelist arrived, the revival blazes burned brightly. About thirty were baptized and twenty received the Spirit. Out on a lease sat a pump house destined to be a church. They purchased it and moved it along with a small donated building that became the parsonage.
The Lord still beckoned westward, but like Jonah, Brother Solomon went another way. After a few months of reverses, he obeyed the call to Hobbs, New Mexico.
A four-week tent revival left ten people wanting to be baptized. Brother Solomon drove about the area looking for water, espying a ranch house with an earthen tank (reservoir) by a windmill. An ideal place! He asked permission to use the tank. The owner quickly agreed-before asking what church. When he found out, he ran into the house, got his Bible, and began to refute baptism in Jesus’ name. Brother Solomon took the man’s Bible and read the truth to him. Angrily the man asked Brother Solomon to meet his elder. The preacher came over late that evening. It was the same man who had earlier challenged Brother Solomon to a debate! Brother Solomon accepted and, helped by the Lord, expounded the Word for a whole week. But they had to find another place to baptize!
In one year they had a debt-free church and parsonage. Later A. H. Browning built a brick church.
After the assignment in the west was completed in 1939, the Solomon family moved to Rising Star, Texas, to put the children in school while Brother Solomon evangelized. That winter he preached for V. A. Guidroz at Pelly, now known as Baytown. Then he went on to the church pastored by O. F. Fauss.
While he was there tragedy struck at home. While playing two-year-old Floyd Daniel was burned. The Lord forewarned Brother Solomon in a dream and he started home Monday. The child only lived a short time.
Sorely tempted to give up the ministry, the Solomons reconsecrated and sought God’s will, preaching here and there. In many towns he was the first to preach the Oneness message.
Pastorates in Lubbock, Wichita Falls, and Dallas followed and a son, David Jesse, arrived. In Dallas, Darlene Marie was born. After evangelizing with a trailer in West Texas and New Mexico, the Solomons took Eldridge Lewis’s church in Corpus Christi after his tragic death in an explosion.
Upon request, Brother Solomon became president and business manager of Southern Bible School at Milford, Texas, founded by the L. C. Reeds. The board had voted to close the school, and Brother Solomon spent a year overseeing the closing.
Later this special family went to Waco, Texas, and took Brother Defee’s church at 202 Bosque Street. While pastoring the church, Brother Solomon started new works in Corsicana and Marlin. They bought a Methodist church at 1601 Clay Avenue as well as a home. Donna Paulette, the last of the Solomon children, joined the team.
Spliced in between 1950 and 1956 were other pastorates and home missionary efforts that included Fort Worth; McLeod, Texas; Citrus Heights, California; and McGregor, Texas. But Waco was home, and the district board gave Brother Solomon permission to build a new work in north Waco, where he pastored for twenty-two years. This made the seventeenth church he had founded.
In 1959 the building burned, destroying everything. Discouraged, Brother Solomon became ill, requiring hospitalization. The flock scattered, but God was not asleep. Something good was about to happen! First the testing, then the blessing.
An unused church complete with seats, organ, piano, Sunday school rooms, kitchen, dining room, baptistry, and an air conditioner caught Brother Solomon’s attention. The trustees of the building gave Brother Solomon permission to use everything free with an option to buy within a year. When the year was up, Brother Solomon offered the people fifteen thousand dollars for the property and they accepted. The Sunday school reached an average of 250 to 300.
The church outgrew their facilities. About four blocks down the street sat a much larger church for sale. The auditorium would seat 450, with two upstairs Sunday school rooms and a fifty-by-sixty-foot annex at the back. It also had a kitchen and a fellowship hall, all air conditioned. Next to the church sat a three-bedroom brick parsonage and next to that a two-bedroom frame building with almost a block of paved parking area. They bought everything for four hundred dollars a month, and when Brother Solomon resigned in November 1977, the church only owed twenty-seven thousand dollars of the original rice of seventy-five thousand dollars.
Two great families contributed much to the growth of the north Waco church–the Johnny Bensons and the Robert Daywitts. Other assistants were the Lindsay Longs and the Regie Francises. For more than two years, H. F. Wilkins was associate pastor. Each pastor had been preaching for fifty years, so they put their “time sheets” together and celebrated “One Hundred Years of Pentecostal Ministry” with a mighty week of teaching and preaching.
On October 8, 1977, the Solomons celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with gifts, best wishes, and money from friends and relatives all across the country. They rejoiced over their seven children, the establishing of seventeen churches, radio programs over fourteen stations, and pastoring twenty churches. It was a memorable celebration! Five days later, on October 13, Sister Ollie Bessie Solomon, a faithful wife and mother, passed away.
Brother Solomon’s colorful ministry included serving as state Sunday school director of Texas (1936-38) and superintendent of the North Texas and Panhandle area in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. He served in the latter capacity from 1940 until the merger that formed the United Pentecostal Church. After the merger, Brother Solomon was the first home missions secretary for Texas. He also served for twenty years on the Texas District Board.
Later Brother Solomon married the former Mrs. Ruth Blackstock, a faithful companion until his death on May 20, 1986. Assisting at the victorious funeral services of this gallant soldier were Brothers W. H. Dean, J. D. Drain, Billy Moore, Paul Hosch, and Laurance Blackstock. From the eulogy of his stepson, Brother Blackstock, we glean the following summary:
“And so that’s the way an obituary goes. It gives the birth and the death of a man. But obituaries can never sum up the total of a man’s life. It can’t give the details of Floyd Solomon’s life. It cannot sum up the lifetime of loving, caring, laughing, giving–the joys, tears, and sorrows; it cannot put all of the emotions of seventy-six years into just a few minutes.
“Death has its limitations; there are some things death cannot do. Death cannot rob you of memory. I remember years ago he preached a funeral for a family member that had not lived in the fear of God. I wondered how Brother Solomon was going to approach the service. He said something like this: ‘I’ve never seen a man so bad but there were some good things to say about him, and I’ve never seen a man so good that there were not some bad things you could say about him.’ So death is limited; it cannot rob you of treasured moments.
“Also death cannot rob you of the power of love. The Bible says that many waters cannot quench love, and neither can floods drown it. At the cemetery today we will bury the remains of a body, but we will not bury one ounce of love. All the love that we had yesterday, we still have today.
“Death is further limited in that it cannot destroy hope. We do have a hope beyond the dark veil of death that we will meet again–we will embrace upon the other shore.
“So thank you, Brother Solomon, for blazing the trail before us and showing us how to live life in a good, rich, and beautiful way, for living in such a way that we can have hope in your experience, for the hope that we will meet you again around the throne of Jesus Christ ”
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS COMPILED BY MARY H. WALLACE, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1992, PAGES 217-224. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.