In recognition of Black History Month, Pastor Martin Rainey was honored by the Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist Church Black History Honorary Committee for a lifetime of accomplishments.
But for long-time residents of St. Petersburg, Rainey is a pillar of the community and worthy of being honored every day.
“There are so many contributions that African Americans have made to this country, and they deserve to be observed and celebrated,” said Black History Committee Member Cora Redix.
“Our honoree is very deserving of the recognition that he’s received today.”
So celebrate they did and in style. Along with spectacular music and even a righteous drum solo from none other than the honoree himself, Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist, located at 1800 18th Ave. S., put on a skit of Rainey’s life entitled, “The Road We Travel.” It was a hit with both the audience as well as Rainey.
A man of the cloth, Rainey has been preaching for decades. He served as Pastor of the Leonard Street Church of God in Brooksville and Bealsville Church of God in Plant City. Well-known and respected in the St. Petersburg community, he has answered other callings over the years and has always risen to fulfill the Lord’s wishes.
Now, as he proudly announces his daughter Jayda for following in his footsteps and becoming a minister, he is set to embark on yet another church.
“We’ve been working to get our parents engaged, the community to engage, in education and the success of our children,” said Rainey speaking of his work as president of the Parent Support for Education Council. “So the streets of south St. Pete are apparently my church for right now.”
Rainey grew up in Harlem and remembers his time in what he labels the “asphalt jungle” selling day old newspapers and waiting in welfare lines with his family for government cheese and miscellaneous canned food items. His mother passed away when he was just a toddler, and at an early age he was prone to delinquent behavior. He learned to mug drunks in the subway station, shoplift whatever he could, and even recalls stealing money from his brother David as he worked in his tailor shop.
Eventually he arrived in St. Petersburg, which he labeled a “hick town, an unpaved mud hole,” to live with his dad and step-mom. But while attending Gibbs High School, he had a fall-out with his father, started flunking his classes and chose to quit school and join the army. He was a platoon staff sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division.
After returning home, Rainey mended his relationship with his father and earned his GED, going on to attend Bethune-Cookman College. During his youth, there were a few standout teachers that helped to guide him along the straight path, and their influence made it possible for him to come out on the other end with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Science Education and certified to teach elementary school.
Over the years, Rainey served as an educator at Wildwood Elementary, a junior college and as an adjunct professor at The University of South Florida. At the time of his retirement, he was an elementary science supervisor.
“My involvement in the community, everything that folks have said, it’s all because of Jesus Christ, my savior,” said Rainey. “From the streets of Harlem in New York, the asphalt jungle, to the pulpit, I am so thankful that the Lord waited for me to accept Him.”
And accept Him he did.
Rainey currently serves as the Minister of Community Outreach at Faith Memorial where the Rev. Dr. Bragg L. Turner presides, and who unfortunately could not attend the celebration due to an illness. Rainey is also involved with many other community organizations such as F.A.S.T. and works with the Juvenile Welfare Board. What he is most proud of, however, is his work as President of the Parent Support for Education Council, which he has been involved in for the past decade.
“Speak up, defend the poor and the oppressed,” preached Rainey in his closing remarks. He pointed out Proverbs chapter 31 and urged those celebrating Black History Month with him to check out verses eight and nine.
“You got a piece of paper?” he asked. “Write that down now, write it on the program.”
But with all the accolades bestowed upon him on his evening of celebration, he was most concerned with spotlighting his wife who came out to support him and his daughter who played the piano in his honor. And of course, Rainey paid homage to God and thanked him for giving him a mission in life.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be going, but I believe the Lord has told me what to do and where he is carrying me now,” Rainey said. “As long as I have strength and a sound mind that’s where I’ll go.”
Rainey received a plaque for his service to the community and his wife Joanne was honored with a Valentine to commemorate the holiday.
Faye Hines is the coordinator of the Black History Ministry Honorary Program that organized the event.