Celebrating Black History Month in the WNCC: Rev. Sophia Joyce East

February 28, 2022

By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian

The Rev. Sophia Joyce East (January 25, 1906 - May 4, 1996)

The Rev. Sophia Joyce East (January 25, 1906-May 4, 1996) was the first African-American woman to serve as a pastor in the WNC Conference.  She and the Rev. Emma Ruth McLean were the first two clergywomen to serve in the North Carolina Conference of the Central Jurisdiction.   (The Rev. McLean served in the North Carolina Conference following the 1968 merger.)

The Rev. East made her profession of faith at a very early age at Lovell’s Chapel Methodist Church in Pilot Mountain.  At the age of ten she taught her first Sunday School Class.  She organized and was President for five years of the Methodist Men’s Club at her home church, where she also served as Lay Leader for ten years.  The Rev. East was licensed to preach in 1958, ordained Deacon in 1960, and ordained Elder in 1964.  As a Local Pastor, she served Piney Grove (Walkertown) 1963-69, Elkin-Jonesville Charge 1970-71, and Ramseur Circuit 1972-81.  She retired in 1981.

            In retirement the Rev. East managed the senior citizens' lunch program, was a member of the Yadkin Valley Development District, Inc., and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program; served as a pollster with the Surry County Board of Elections; and volunteered with the Surry County Department of Social Services and the Surry County Schools.  She was also active in her home church, Lovell’s Chapel UMC, in Pilot Mountain.  The Rev. East is featured in the book, Hope and Dignity: Older Black Women of the South, written by Emily H. Wilson.

Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:
Bishop L. Scott Allen (May 4, 1918-September 18, 2004), the first (and to date, the only) African-American to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Effie Miller (September 17, 1930-September 1, 2008), a leader in the Western North Carolina Conference and the United Methodist Church, especially with regard to the United Methodist Women.

The Rev. Dr. J. C. Peters (July 10, 1925- July 2, 1998)the first African-American to serve as a District Superintendent in the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mr. Clarence Winchester,  a leader in the North Carolina Conference (Central Jurisdiction) and in the WNC Conference.

Dr. Isaac Miller (September 26, 1920-November 1, 2008), a leader in Higher Education and in the United Methodist Church.

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