Bethlehem Temple

Rev. Dr. J.C Smith  Biography


Pastor J.C. Smith is a native of Montgomery, Alabama. He grew up with his parents and siblings on a farm in Montgomery County, Alabama. At age 21 he entered the military service and served his country for two years (1951-1953). After an honorable discharge he continued his education and graduated from the Weaver's School of Real Estate in 1958. 

While in Montgomery, Alabama he worked along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy from 1955-1957, in the Montgomery Improvement Association during the Bus Boycott. He was a driver during the bus boycott and regularly attended the mass meetings (every Monday & Thursday) where Dr. King and other local pastors spoke. His participation in the Montgomery Bus Boycott is documented in the Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, AL and at the Lorraine Museum in Memphis, TN.  He also worked as an insurance salesman for North Carolina Mutual from 1958-1962. He also was the owner and operator of Smith's Clothing Store for one and a half years.


In 1963 he moved to Harvey, Illinois and became a licensed Real Estate salesman with Blake Realty Company. He also became a journeyman carpenter. He worked for about ten years for several general contractors before forming his own remodeling business. Upon accepting his call to preach in 1964 he enrolled in the Chicago Baptist Institute Seminary and graduated in 1972. Under the leading of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Smith organized Bethlehem Temple MB Church in 1969 with five members. He served as pastor from its inception until the LORD called him home in 2016. Under his leadership the church experienced phenomenal growth and is still a staple in the South Suburbs and in the greater Chicago area. In June 2001 he extended the ministry of Bethlehem Temple to the Northwest suburbs in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. In October, 2003 BT purchased and moved into its own building in Elk Grove Village.

In the spring of 2002, he received special recognition from the YMCA for community service at their annual "Night Under the Stars" and in July, 2002 Pastor Smith was presented with an honorary Doctorate Degree from the Mt. Carmel Theological Seminary in Fresno, California. For eight consecutive years, Pastor Smith and the church has operated a Summer Day Camp for children ages 4-15. In 2001, the first Summer Basketball Camp was held under the direction of Rod Higgins from the office of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. In 1995 Bethlehem Community Development Corporation was organized with Rev. J.C. Smith as Executive Director, and under BCDC, the Bethlehem Village Housing Complex, a 72-unit building (which is now 100% occupied), was built across the street from the church. 

He served as president of the Progressive Baptist State Congress from 1996-1999. At the same time he also was vice president of South Suburban Ministers Fellowship. Pastor Smith served as president of Progressive National Baptist Convention Moderators Council for four years (1992-1996). In 2003 Pastor Smith was elected and served as President of the Progressive Baptist State Convention of Illinois until 2007. For over 40 years Pastor Smith served his community as a school board member (Dist. # 147); and for 20 of these years he served as president. He also served two years as vice-president of the National Caucus of Black School Board members (1980-1982). In August 2000, he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California. Pastor J.C. Smith has been listed in Who's Who Among Black Americans (1977-1978) (1980-1981) and Pastor Smith received numerous awards for his service to his country, community and Church. Pastor J.C. Smith was married to Willie M. Myricks-Smith for 60 years, 4 monthes, and 9 days.  He was devoted to his family (5 biological children & their spouses, 17 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren) and it is the place where his service began.Pastor Smith’s legacy will live on in the lives his biological family and through his church family.  His work formed the strong foundation and the “shoulders” that we stand on, and that shapes our ministry to future generations.