How a Texas Pastor Reached Across Racial Lines and Opened Ministry Doors

Mack Bronson and Sammy Little each filled a void in each other’s life by developing an interracial friendship. Photo by Bonnie Pritchett

STOWELL, Texas (BP) — Sammy Little looked down at the checklist in his hand. One empty box on the spiritual goals inventory he and thousands of men gathered at the 1995 Promise Keepers conference had been asked to take glared back at him.

“One of them was race related,” said Little, pastor of First Baptist Church of Stowell in southeast Texas. The rural town is just south of Vidor and Jasper, communities with tense racial histories.

The list in Little’s hand required that the white pastor honestly assess whether he counted anyone of another race among his close friends.

“And I had to be honest,” Little told the TEXAN. “I mean, I don’t want to be prejudiced but I really don’t know anybody. I’m friendly with a couple of people but we really don’t know each other. So I thought, ‘Well, I gotta get a black friend.’ So, I went and asked Mack.”

Mack Bronson managed the meat market in the local grocery store in 1995. Little was among his many white acquaintances. But Bronson, who is black, was also well acquainted with racism.

Growing up in 1950s- and ’60s-era Jasper, bigotry’s hateful expressions toward him — compounded by his father’s untimely death in a work-related accident — left him angry.

A strong work ethic earned him favor and promotions with white store managers. But he admitted good business sense, not a compassionate heart, animated his congenial relationship with white customers.

That is until Little approached him at work with a proposition.

“Sam came to my job and told me, ‘I need a black friend,'” Bronson recalled.

“That’s what he did. I’m serious,” Bronson said. “And I told him that, ‘Well, I can qualify because I’m black.'”

And he accepted the invitation.

Bronson, 72, and Little, 62, recounted the story of their enduring friendship from a conference room at First Baptist Church Stowell.

The men quibbled like old friends over the details of what happened next. But 24 years removed from that moment, they agreed God had a hand in bringing — and keeping — them together.

Depending on whose recollection is correct, the men met that afternoon or the next day at the new McDonald’s restaurant in neighboring Winnie.

There they shared stories about growing up and discovered they were “as different as daylight and dark,” Bronson said.

Their differences required working through disagreements instead of abandoning the relationship. That commitment testified to their respective — and racially divided — communities about the Gospel’s power of reconciliation.

And their friendship introduced them to people and circles of influence they would not have had without each other.

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Source: Baptist Press