The Rev. Dr William Lawson Turley, 80, the pastor of the Mount Gilead Baptist Church for the last 55 years, died Wednesday at the Veterans Administrative Hospital in Washington after a stroke.
"In the month of September 1923 I was in the vincinity of Sixth and Trumbull streets NW and I saw a little frame building which was Mount Gilead Baptist Church," Dr. Turley recalled in a 1973 interview.
"I went in and sat at the rear of the building and enjoyed the service," he said. He went on to explain that he was introduced to members of the congregation and invited to preach on the following Thursday.
After assisting in other capacities, he was offer the job of pastor.
"I accepted the call and preached my first sermon as pastor on Sunday, Oct. 7, 1923," Dr. Turley said. "Mount Gilead is the only church that I have ever pastored! I rejoice in God!"
The church Rev. Turley had entered in 1923 was founded on the campus of Howard University in the Mott School annex, and had 23 members. By 1932, the membership had grown and the church moved to 1625 13th St. NW.
Dr. Turley oversaw the purchas of additional pieces of property adjoining the church. He led the church out of debt and saw its membership rise to more 700 members.
From 1953 to 1970, he served as moderator of the Bethel Baptist Association. He donated both time and money to charities.
Del. Walter E. Fauntry hailed Dr. Turley as "a remarkably consistent man in both his personal and public life."
Born in Pennsylivania, Dr. Turley was reared on a farm in King George County, Va. He came to Washington in 1951 and attended the Howard University School of Religion and was ordained in 1921.
After jobs as an elavator operator, bus boy and janitor, he served as director of an Army ambulance train in France during World War I.
Following the war, he operated valet shops at Dupont Circle and C Street NE, then went into the junk business for a time before becoming a minister.
Dr. Turley received an honorary doctorate from the Lynchbury Seminary and College in 1955.
His wife, Annie Cash Turley, died in 1949.
He survived by a sister, Bertha Schumpert, of Washington. CAPTION: Picture, DR. WILLIAM LAWSON TURLEY