Rev. Jim Holley, Ph.D.
Rev. Jim Holley, has served for 43 years as Senior Pastor of one of the largest congregations in Detroit, The Historic Little Rock Baptist Church. Called by God as a young believer, Rev. Holley’s ultimate mission in life is a “Ministry of Liberation”, focused on freeing his people through Salvation, Education and Economics (SEE). Raised in Tennessee and West Virginia, Rev. Holley realized early that through education he could advocate for change. Committed to lifelong learning and education, Rev. Holley excelled, earning several advanced degrees including a PhD in Education from Wayne state University, a Doctorate of Ministry in Economic Development from Drew University, a Master of Divinity in New Testament and a Master of Science in International Relations.
In pursuing his God-given ministry, Rev. Holley was afforded the opportunity to study, work with, and learn from many pillars in the civil rights movement. Having experienced horrendous racism and intimidation in the south, his fears were heightened when similar conditions were found upon arrival in the North. So as a sophomore classmate of Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1966 at Chicago Theological Seminary, Rev. Holley found the courage to follow the lead of civil rights pioneers such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Benjamin Hooks and groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the NAACP. Soon he became actively involved in Operation Bread Basket under the leadership of Rev. Jackson and participated in protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins aimed at bringing about systemic change in the face of opposition, hatred and overt racism. He marched with Dr. King for better jobs, housing and education for Blacks in Cicero, Illinois in 1966, during which they were challenged by burning cars, bottles and bricks. He also marched with Dr. King in 1968 in support of sanitation workers in Memphis and met with rioting just two weeks before Dr. King’s assassination.
This background helped shape and strengthen Rev. Holley’s commitment to justice and social change. As a recognized local, national and international leader, Rev. Holley has continued his ministry of liberation and securing the rights of people to freedom of religion, quality education and economic empowerment. No stranger to controversy, he led a boycott and protest against discriminatory practices of a suburban Detroit Shopping Mall resulting in greater equity for business owners, employees and shoppers at that location. Committed to freedom of people of color everywhere, Rev. Holley was part of the delegation that, amid a firestorm of criticism, brought Nelson Mandela to Detroit to raise funds to fight Apartheid in South Africa. To make sure a diversity of voices are heard, Rev. Holley has raised awareness by opening his pulpit to the messages of Minister Louis Farrakhan, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, and many others advocating for truth and justice. As an active member of the National Action Network, under the leadership of Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Holley has been an outspoken advocate and voice for the disenfranchised, forgotten and disadvantaged. Rev. Holley continues to provide an avenue for the voice of the people to be heard and to shed light on current issues. As a host of several radio and television shows, he has given a platform for diverse viewpoints, information distribution, enlightenment and encouragement to the community. Appointed by the Mayor of the City of Detroit, Rev. Holley served as Community Liaison providing access to outreach programs and oversight of community initiatives.
Motivated by fore founders and his own years of involvement in the struggle, Rev. Holley has sought to guarantee the rights and dignity of his people by meeting basic needs through founding a K-8 charter school, managing a Family Life center focused on family and youth recreation, providing job training and placement programs, low income housing projects, men’s empowerment conferences, adult education and GED courses, over 200,000 pairs of shoes for needy children and food distribution for hungry families. He has fought for economic development and access attracting over 50 million dollars in business ventures and partnerships creating hundreds of jobs within the community. He has been recognized for his numerous accolades and prestigious awards including the coveted 2010 Trumpet Award for Religion/Business.
Rev Holley says, “I’m humbled and proud that my participation in the Civil Rights Movement laid the foundation for my lifelong commitment to advocating for equality and justice for all people. I have done this from the pulpit, through community activism and economic development projects, and I will continue to fight to empower our people for as long as I’m able.”
At the stroke of midnight, December 31, 2021, Rev. Jim Holley became Pastor Emeritus as he retired as Senior Pastor of the Historic Little Rock Baptist Church. Rev. Holley still remains very active in the community and abroad.