On June 21, at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in the Kings Garden Ballroom, hundreds gathered for a retirement gala honoring Rev. Dr. James E. Simms, the pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church. The day had already been determined as Dr. James E. Simms Day by Pittsburgh City Council, and during the gala the list of speakers and well wishers was lengthy and impressive.
The evening was full of family, friends and stories that went back to Nov. 1, 1974. That is when Rev. Simms accepted the call to pastor St. Paul Baptist Church nearly forty years ago. His granddaughter wrote and read a poem titled “An Awesome Man of God.” Doctor Cyril Wecht spoke about Rev. Simms’ deep sense of community and the Hon. Ed Gainey called him a trailblazer. Reverend Dr. Darryl T. Canady, pastor of Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church, summed up Rev. Simms’ leaving by bringing up the titles of a few popular songs, “Neither One of Us Wants to Say Good Bye” by Gladys Knight and “It’s So Hard to Say Good Bye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men. His daughter told him that he can now spend more time in a warmer climate and Bill Fisher, a long time member of St. Paul Baptist Church and deacon emeritus, shared stories that went back to when the church was located in Garfield.
Reverend Simms said he plans to joyously embrace change and thanked everyone for sharing in this special moment. Reverend Simms was born in Richmond, Va., the son of the late Mary Simms and Rev. Obadiah Lee Simms. He was educated in the public schools of Virginia and Pittsburgh; he graduated from Allegheny Senior High School and was privileged to matriculate at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va. He studied hard and worked tirelessly, becoming a worthy student and highly acclaimed lead athlete with the Virginia Union University Football team.
Spotted at the gala: Connie Parker, Valerie McDonald Roberts, Jackie Dixon, Rev. Ricky Burgess, Tawanda Carlisle, Tom and Sarah Sumpter, Lou and Claudia Denardo, David Matter with Susan, Rev. Dr. J. Van Alfred Winsett and Rev. Hubert Hutcherson.
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