The catalyst for the establishment of the Rainbow church of Christ began with the almost daily conversations between two devout Christian men. Real estate auctioneer Leslie C. King and his office manager Grady Medlin. James B. Allen, who served as Lt. Governor of Alabama and later a U.S. Senator, was also brought into these initial conversations. King and Allen were partners in developing real estate on Rainbow Drive and it was obvious to them that the city of Gadsden was growing in their direction.
The time was ripe for a family of God’s people to begin meeting on
Rainbow Drive. The movement received a major push when King and Allen agreed to donate land from their holdings along Rainbow Drive, Emerson Street, and Sangster Road, as well as donating significant amounts of money as well.
Lamar and Fleeta Millican hosted an organizational meeting at their home on November 26, 1956 with 19 people present. Their enthusiasm created a second meeting hosted at the home of Claude and Maurine Pruitt. The group did not want to be devisive so elders and preachers from throughout Etowah County were invited to hear the plans.
The group announced its firm intentions to establish the Rainbow church of Christ and formed a search committee to look for a preacher. The first worship service of this congregation was held in the Striplin Annex School, now known as Eura Brown Elementary School, on December 23, 1956. Clyde Hale of Nashville, TN was the guest speaker that day. They only met at Eura Brown for a short time as the construction plans for a permanent facility moved forward. The land that had been donated by King and Allen was to be the site for the new church building. While construction was ongoing the church met in a house owned by Leslie King at 1024 Sangster Road.
Next, Jack Austin, a charter member and real estate builder was authorized by the board of trustees to begin work on construction of the main building. Construction began in the early part of 1957 and was completed in the summer of that same year. Plans called for construction in units to provide for congregational growth. The first unit consisted of an auditorium which was used for worship and for Bible study. When Bible classes were in session, fold-able walls made classrooms. The first meeting for the new building was on Wednesday, August 14, 1957, with an open house on October 6, 1957. Today this part of our facility houses our Rainbow Kindergarten and Child Care.
These are the charter members as we have them: James B. Allen, Jimmy Allen, Jack & Martha Austin, Clara Bishop, Gladys Burns, Helen Cloud, Bessie Dodd, George F. Erwin, Christine Erwin, Sarah Foote, Roy Harris, Sr., Anna Mae Harris, Roy Harris Jr., Mike Hughes, Ora Mar Hughes, Curtis Keenum, Louise Keenum, Leslie C. King, Gladys King, Mary Catherine King, J. Polk King, James F. McCarver, Betty McCarver, Milton Medlin, Maggie Medlin, Fleeta Milican, Geraldine Cox Mintz, Marshall & Hassie Moon, J.W. Moon, Bessie Moon, Betty Newton, Ed Pesnell, Jean Pesnell, Joyce Pitman Alford, Blondella Pruitt, Gary Pruitt, Penny King Richards, Evelyn Yarbrough. With God’s help, these individuals are responsible for our beginning. We owe them so much appreciation for the rich heritage they left us.
Over the course of our 60 years Rainbow has only had 12 different preachers. Willie H. Johnson was selected to be the first preacher at Rainbow. After Brother Willie left, Charles London took that position. Following Brother London, men like Leon Burns, Billy Joe Watson, Fred Baker, Jimmy Vest, and Larry Mitchell faithfully filled our pulpit.
Then in 1976 Gordon Smith was hired. During Gordon’s tenure of over 20 years the congregation thrived. The current auditorium was built to accommodate Rainbow’s growth. There was a weekly TV program produced by Butch Jones and his team that featured Gordon and reached thousands of homes in the Gadsden area. After Brother Smith left, Jerry Weldon became Rainbow’s next preacher. Following him, was Bruce Tucker. When Brother Tucker left, Rainbow’s elders asked the associate minister, Norman Flynn and the youth minister, Blake Jones to share the pulpit for a while, as Blake transitioned from youth ministry to the pulpit. Blake continues to be the preacher today having served this congregation for over 20 years.
The pulpit hasn’t been the only ministerial position filled here at Rainbow by some great men. Associate ministers such as Tim Gentry, Bill Dodson, Steve Worley, and Norman Flynn have been a tremendous asset to the work here. In 2021, one of our former Elders, John Bowling, was hired as the Associate Minister. In 2018, Rainbow created a new ministerial position, Outreach Minister. Dave Lasseter, the youth minister at the time, transitioned into that role and began overseeing Rainbow's successful outreach program. Dave has served Rainbow since 2011. We have also had some great youth ministers working diligently with our young people like Mark Smith, Mark Hawk, Philip Medlin, Philip Brooks, Chris Barnett, Blake Jones, Will Smith, Kevin Cline, Dave Lasseter, Justin Smith and Austin Girts. Austin, our current youth minister, has faithfully served us in that capacity since 2021.
Ray Cox officially served as our church secretary, but he was one of the greatest evangelist in the history of our congregation! During his time on staff, he not only spearheaded our World Bible School ministry but he used technology to increase productivity. The Rainbow Correspondence System that he began has been adopted by numerous congregations. He also led the charge to develop Agape Bible Studies Online, a website that is responsible for teaching the truth to many people throughout the world. Due to the hard work of he and Norman Flynn, a World Bible School office was established in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Africa that opened in 2002. It’s work continues to go strong resulting in over 2,500 baptisms and over 40
congregations established. Through his work in the Prison Ministry, he began the New Life Behavior Network of Alabama and then served as its first Director of Operations. It was also Ray's idea to start a daycare here at our building, which continues today. Lord, send us more men like Ray.
Where would we be without the shepherds? Through the years, these men that have led us closer to the Lord: George Frank Erwin, Gurnie Foote, Grady Williams, Marshall Moon, Tim Gentry, Elmus Honeycutt, George Fulton, Willis Lorren, George Elliott, Bill Dodson, Tom Shiflett, Paul Baker, Bob Stringer, Dyer Honeycutt, Kerry Lee Johnson, Norman Flynn, Bobby Golden, Eugene Brown, Steve Ellis, Craig King, Mike Bowdoin, John Bowling and David Wallace.
We are so thankful for our current shepherds and the sacrifices they and their families make for us. Doyle McCarver, Chris Mikle and John Wallace.
Through our shepherd’s vision we have continued to grow from that original facility built 60 years ago… we’ve seen the additions of our educational wing, auditorium, fellowship hall, additional parking lots and now over 5 acres of land in Rainbow City, that is waiting for the next phase in our family’s history. While our facilities have changed considerably in the last 60 years, the hearts of those who fill them have not and that is in large part due to the continued leadership and vision of our elders, our shepherds.
We are thankful for all of our elders (past and present) who have loved us as they do their own (physical) family. They have shown us what it means to have a servant’s heart and have sacrificed so much for our family here at Rainbow.
Our thanks to Ray Cox (the entire Beacon staff) and Philip Medlin, (the son of Grady Medlin) for being such great historians when it comes to our story here at Rainbow. Much of what you read here is based on their research and writings.