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|THE CALLAWAYS —Rev. Dr. William C. Callaway with First Lady Leona. (Photos by J.L. Martello)
And the 79-year-old ex- Marine and former Golden Glove Boxer who hails from Columbus, Ohio has no plans of slowing down.
“I’ve just begun to preach. I’m ready to move forward and excited about doing more and preaching better. My goal is to keep pressing on,” Callaway said.
Reverend Callaway’s dedicated congregation recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as pastor of the 300-plus member church located at 451 Park Avenue in Clairton, with a black-tie banquet at the Lemont restaurant on Mount Washington. The city of Clairton made Park Avenue “Honorable Rev. Dr. William C. Callaway Avenue.”
“Each year they keep these anniversaries a secret,” he said with a laugh. “All they ask me to do is get the morning speaker for Sunday service.”
Callaway accepted God as his personal savior in 1952 and accepted the call to preach God’s word two years later. He was licensed to preach by the Refuge Baptist Church in Columbus in 1955 and ordained to the ministry by the Bethlehem Baptist Church in McKeesport.
He became the head of the Mount Olive First Baptist Church in 1962. Under his leadership, the church paid off the mortgage of the previous renovations in less than a year, a new parsonage was purchased and paid for, improvements were made to the existing church building and numerous programs were instituted to allow members to participate in worship services and activities.
In 1986 Mount Olive went into major construction.
An educational wing was added to the existing building.
The educational wing includes; the dining room was remodeled and a garage that houses two church vans was built. In addition the sanctuary was completely renovated. Callaway led the “debt free in ‘93” movement and the church paid off construction costs in September of that year.
“Reverend Callaway is highly respected among his peers in the community (both locally and nationally),” said Pamela Kelley, co-chairperson of the pastors anniversary committee. “He is dedicated to the cause of Christ and exemplifies a life of service to Him. In these times when we see religious leaders coming under scrutiny because of their actions, Rev. Callaway stands apart in his generation, as a shining example for a generation of young preachers to follow.”
Under Callaway’s hand many have answered Christ’s call on their lives including Rev. Alvin Coon, Rev. Leroy Harris, Rev. Donald Russell and Rev. Charles Wade.
Callaway served 10 years as a member of the Clairton City School District board of directors, 18 years as a trustee board member of the Clairton Library and is a board member of the Pastoral Care Committee of McKeesport Hospital.
He has earned numerous awards as well. Some of those awards include the Clairton Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award, NAACP Award for Outstanding Community and Civic Service, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association for Outstanding Contributions to Public Education and the House of Representatives for Outstanding Community Service.
When he was a young boy, Callaway could always be found in someone’s church or at a prayer meeting. So it would seem natural that he would choose preaching as his vocation.
But that was not the case.
“I thought that if God put a message in me—put on the whole armor of God so that you can withstand the wiles of the Devil—a seven-minute sermon I preached at a church in Ohio—I wanted to get that out and I’d be done with it. I never thought of a life of preaching and I didn’t think I’d be preaching here for 50 years. I figured I’d be here five to seven years and that was it.” Callaway said. “But God planned it this way. I found a wife and we have three kids and six grandkids, which keeps me here in Clairton.”
During his five decades as head of Mount Olive First Baptist Church, Callaway learned some invaluable life lessons that he passes on to the younger sect of the Clairton community.
“The greatest part of Christian living is to wait on the Lord. Do all you can and then wait on the Lord,” he said.
When he isn’t preaching the Word of God to his flock at Mt. Olive First Baptist Church, he can be found cheering on the Clairton Bears Football Team, bowling and spending time with his wife, Melba Leona Callaway.
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