The call from the podium was “the Rev. James Simms,” the response from the congregation was “heavenly sent.” It appears that is how the congregation feels about their pastor, that he is heavenly sent. On Nov. 14 more than 200 attended the 35th pastoral anniversary of Rev. Dr. James E. Simms of St. Paul Baptist Church at The Grand Hall at the Priory on the North Side.

WE ARE FAMILY—Austin Simms, Malik Couch, Eboni Simms Talley, Ray Talley, Rachael Couch, Mimi Washington and Rev. James Simms.

Reverend Hubert Hutcherson, pastor of Shiloh Community Baptist Church, served as master of ceremonies. Reverend Hutcherson said Rev. Simms has always stayed the same and he (Hutcherson) has listened and learned from him. “I thank him for the many years of mentoring. He even lets me win at golf from time to time.”


Valerie McDonald Roberts brought greetings from Allegheny County in the form of proclamations and Deaconess Jacqueline Martin welcomed the well-dressed crowd to the celebration. The Simms Singers Reunion Choir delivered the gift of song while Felicia McFarland did a graceful liturgical dance. A candle marking the date of the event and appropriately tagged Heavenly Sent was at each place setting. However, the bound program that was made to resemble a hymnal was the talk of the luncheon. It was a beautiful token that will last forever.

After a scrumptious lunch, trustee Robert E. Nicklos presented Rev. Simms.

Reverend Simms is a native of Richmond, Va. At an early age his family moved to Pittsburgh. He has a diverse career serving in both religious and public sectors. He has served as director in several departments in city government including The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, Pretrial Services and The Public Housing Authority. He also served as the executive assistant to mayors Richard Caliguiri and Sophie Masloff.

Under his leadership, St. Paul Baptist Church in the East End of Pittsburgh, relocated from Broad Street in Garfield to a completely renovated building at the corner of Fifth and Penn avenues in Point Breeze. Reverend Simms was elected to Allegheny County Council representing District 10. He was president of County Council and chairperson of its Budget and Finance Committee.

He is the proud father of three: Rachael, Eboni and James (deceased), and grandfather of Malik, Austin, Mimi, Sydney, James and Ayden. The celebration continued Nov. 15 at St. Paul Baptist Church where Rev. Joseph Ross of Mt. Olive Baptist Church proclaimed the gospel and call to discipleship.

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