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Feb. 9, 1930 – Aug. 3, 2014

The Rev. Kenneth Roland Wilkerson, founder and pastor of First Timothy Missionary Baptist Church and an active member in Baptist leadership, died Sunday in Sisters Hospital. He was 84.

He was born in Mount Olive, Miss., at the start of the Great Depression. Although, as he later would say, his family was “as poor as field mice,” he learned the value of education from his mother and graduated from Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute in 1949.

After serving in the U.S. Army in Korea, he moved to Buffalo in 1953 and was hired at Bethlehem Steel Corp. the day he arrived. He later was employed at Dresser Industries.

In 1957, a year after his marriage to Jean A. Coleman, he heard the call to preach, under the guidance of the Rev. E.A. Stallworth at Macedonia Baptist Church.

He was ordained in June 1958.

With help from his wife, Mr. Wilkerson organized First Timothy Missionary Baptist Church in 1958 at 214 Howard St., serving the children of the neighborhood and a few adults.

In 2003, under his leadership, the church constructed a new building at 1463 Genesee St., on a block now designated by the city as “Pastor Kenneth Wilkerson Way.”

Mr. Wilkerson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Buffalo and a degree in theology from Ohio Christian College in Columbus.

He also studied at Canisius College and Faith Baptist Seminary in South Carolina, and received his degree in pastoral theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia.

He was first vice president of the Progressive Baptist State Convention, narrator of the “Hour of Togetherness” radio program for the Community Baptist Ministerial Conference and, for 15 years, a teacher in the Congress of Christian Workers.

Mr. Wilkerson was a founding member of the National Missionary Baptist Fellowship of Churches and vice president of the Northeast Region.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Renee A. Moore; two grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Wilkerson will lie in repose in the church on Genesee Street from noon to 9 p.m. Friday.

A Celebration of Life will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday.