Rev. “Groaning” Smith at a Monroe Church

I saw this photo: several years ago and wondered about the pastor. I still don’t know which church this was taken in. It dates to the 1930’s and was taken by the WPA. Last week I was able to find a write-up about the pastor that explains his nickname.

The News-Star, October 19, 1936, Page 5


Rev. “Groaning” Smith, negro Baptist evangelist of Natchez, Miss., will be back in Monroe Tuesday night to deliver, in his inimitable manner, one of his stirring sermons before an audence at the Macedonia Baptist church, located at North Twenty-Sixth and Breard streets.

The evangelist’s real name is Rev. J.R. Smith, but because of the groans he utters as he warms up in the delivery of revival messages, he is known among the “bretheren and sisteren” as Rev. “Groaning” Smith.

Groans, as well as hallelujahs and Amens, come from his audiences as he stirs their religious sentiments. It is said that sinners often groan the loudest and sometimes are sickened by the pain of their sins, while the saved groan with gratification for being safely on the salvation road.

At any rate, Rev. “Groaning” Smith, who visits this city occasionally and who has built up a large following, will preach at 7:30 o’clock Tuesday night at the Macedonia church. Because it is expected that there will not be enough seating or standing room there for all who want to hear him, he will on Wednesday night deliver a sermon in another part of the city, at the Zion Travelers’ Baptist church, corner of Eleventh and Grammont streets.

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