South Memphis pastor hopes to bring change, rid community of blight

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Mid-South pastor is on a mission to improve the blight in the neighborhood where he worships.

Faithful Baptist Church has been a beacon in South Memphis for decades, but surrounding the well-kept church off Ely Street, many homes have fallen into disrepair.

Windows and doors are boarded up, trash litters the streets, and weeds consume buildings.

“I know it’s an uphill battle, but I’m ready for the fight,” said Reverend Walter Womack, who has been a pastor at Faithful Baptist Church for 20 years.

Rev. Womack reached out to WREG frustrated by what he said is the injustice being committed against inner-city communities. 

“When our children have to walk around in this kind of environment, that’s an injustice,” he said. “I don’t want to take the focus away from police reform, but our neighborhood needs reform.”

He said it’s tough to see the once-thriving South Memphis neighborhood deteriorate. 

“It’s just an eyesore here when my parishioners come on a Sunday morning,” Rev. Womack said.

Womack is also president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which promotes human and civil rights initiatives. 

“We instituted an operation Fight Against Blight some months ago, and this is the neighborhood where I pastor, and so I’m committed to change,” Womack said.

He said that change comes with cleaning up the neighborhood and promoting affordable housing.

“Instead of moving my church out of this community, I’m here to stay because I want to make a difference,” Womack said.

Womack plans to reach out to city council members and county commissioners about how they could improve the neighborhood.

WREG also reached out to the City of Memphis to see if there if anything could be done to rehabilitate some of the homes that have been forgotten by their owners. 

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