(The Dallas Examiner) – During one of the most historic passing of batons, Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. announced that Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church, would succeed him as president and CEO, July 16, as part of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual Convention held at the Apostolic Church of God in the Woodlawn Community of Chicago. But it would not be until Sept. 1 that Haynes would officially take on his new position.
For many, the news was sudden, but the journey to head the prestigious national office began about four decades ago.
Haynes said he met Jackson at a pivotal time in his life – in 1981, when Haynes was a junior in Bishop College. The college was celebrating its centennial year and Jackson was the convocation speaker.
“I was wrestling with my own sense of what I was gonna do with my life,” Haynes reflected. “I was a vicarious student of Martin Luther King Jr. – reading everything about him in the library at Bishop College. And here comes to campus this dashing, charismatic, eloquent, you know, Rev. Jesse Jackson and I’m blown away.”
That was the first time Haynes met Jackson. He was captivated by the man’s message and his full presence. At a time when Haynes – a third generation minister – was wondering what God was going to do with him as a minister of the gospel, he witnessed Jackson ministering to the people outside the confines of a church building.
“I said this is it right here, and so I began to follow him,” Haynes recalled with enthusiasm.
A year after Haynes graduated, he was offered the pastoral position at the small but growing Friendship-West Baptist Church, located at 7505 S. Polk St. at the time.
The next year, when Jackson campaigned for U.S. president, Haynes said they began to develop a relationship. Jackson invited him to speak at several events, including the Rainbow PUSH Convention, The Wall Street Project and King’s workshops on many Saturdays.
Jackson has also come several times to speak at Friendship-West.
“I was being exposed to Rainbow PUSH, exposed to the mind and the mission of a Jesse Jackson, and that exposure has, in a real sense, helped to shape so much of my own sense of what ministry is all about,” Haynes revealed.
By 1990, the church began to grow more rapidly, pushing them to need a larger building. In the meantime they held worship services at Faith Temple Seventh-Day Adventist Church, located at 825 W. Pentagon Pkwy.
Over the years, as hundreds of members became thousands, the church would move two more times. In 1991, the church moved into its new home at 616 W. Kiest Blvd. and then one more move to 2020 W. Wheatland Road.
At the same time, Haynes’ reputation as a community leader, civil right activist and social justice advocate continued to grow – from throughout the city to across the nation.
Haynes reflected on how the relationship between him and Jackson developed through the years. Yet, said he never expected to succeed him as president and said it was definitely not an overnight decision.
“Honestly, his family, I guess about eight years ago, when I spoke at an event there and one of them joked to me, ‘You know, you need to be the next president.’ And so I laughed, and I did not think anything more about it,” he recalled. “The next time I spoke, same conversation. But again, I’m not taking it seriously. And then four years ago I was speaking at the national NAACP convention in Detroit and Rev. Jackson was there and after I got through speaking, came up to me. ‘I really need to talk to you about, you know, succeeding me as the president of Rainbow PUSH.’ And so I laughed it off.”
Haynes said he thought it was an April Fool’s joke, which he refused to be tricked.
“So, the next thing I know, he gets some board chairs and some sponsors of Rainbow PUSH to sit down and talk with me. They invite me to Chicago. The conversation is serious,” Haynes shared. “He started calling me. I mean Rev. Jackson is one of these individuals – he’s gotten where he has gotten because he’s relentless. He does not give up. He started calling me like every day and he would ask me, ‘Ok, where are you?’ I tell him, ‘I’m speaking here.’ He said, ‘Imagine if you were speaking there as the president and CEO of Rainbow PUSH.’”
Still, Haynes did not think Jackson was serious. He said, Jackson told him, “You’re there with a big message, but if you’re president and CEO of Rainbow PUSH you have a bigger platform on which to give your big message.”
He said Jackson told him to think about it. The two continued to talk several times throughout 2019.
“Shortly thereafter, COVID hit,” he said. “And for me, it was a break in the action because he wasn’t calling me every day, talking about being the president and CEO of Rainbow PUSH. So it’s been a four-year conversation at least. And then in April of this year, he called me and said, ‘It’s time.’”
Haynes looked at his watch and asked, “For what?” Jackson told him it was time for him to be the president and CEO of his organization. He knew Jackson was serious and they began a series of conversations, as well as negotiations with the board chairs of the various corporations that comprise Rainbow PUSH.
“And we finally came to say yes in July, or a few days before, because it literally took all of that time for me to say yes,” he said. “Because again, Jessie Jackson is one of my personal heroes. He’s an icon, he’s a legend. And you know, I never thought I would be succeeding him as president of this great organization. But I’m honored.”
In preparation for his new role, he said he made a point to meet with the board.
“During that meeting with the board, we did some brainstorming in terms of what’s needed for such a time as this,” he said. “And so that was a wonderful experience in terms of first order of business that hasn’t taken place just yet.
Next week: Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, exclusive interview – Part II: Priorities and changes for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition