From left are Darrell Brown, Clifton Albright, Areva Martin Esq., Lady Florence Boyd, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd and Danny Bakewell Sr. Inset: Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray. (Malcolm Ali/

Guided by the motto “First to Serve,” Pastor J. Edgar Boyd leads church anniversary with an incredible awards gala  

First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles prides itself as being the church of the people.  Lead by Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, the congregation and their leadership got a chance to take a bow on Friday, June 30 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.

A who’s who of community leaders, elected officials and church members gathered to celebrate the historic African American church that for over a century and a half has been the beacon of light for the African American Community here in the City of Angels.

The night was billed as an awards gala honoring many local leaders. Sentinel Executive Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr. received the Community Engagement Award and retired banker Darrell Brown received the Financial Empowerment Award.

Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray and Pastor J. Edgar Boyd. (Malcolm Ali/

Attorney and media commentator Areva Martin and attorney Clifton Albright, who was recently voted one of Los Angeles 100 top attorneys, received the Law and Justice Award.  Also, Dr. Jerry P. Abraham was the recipient of the Health and Wellness Award, business leader Wilfred Marshall was presented the Black Business Development Award, and the Rev. Dr. Carieta Cain Grizzell received the church’s coveted “A Tie Between The Ages” Award.

While all of the honorees were deserving, the largest ovation and acknowledgment went to longtime First AME pastor, the beloved Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, who received the Education and Legacy Award.  Murray, who is 93 years young, said he was deeply honored for the award and then delivered a rousing acceptance speech that brought the audience to its feet and took everyone back to the worship service during the time when Murray led the famed church.

Rev. Dr. Carieta Cain Grizzell with her award. (Malcolm Ali/

“Tonight, we gather in jubilant commemoration.  Our presence at this intersection of the FAME journey is simply a once in a lifetime experience.  It is God granting us favor allowing us to breathe life back into our past, and to reawaken the giant spirit and images of those whose vision and labor have hallowed our past, shaped our present and made visible our future,” said Pastor Boyd.

First AME started off as Stephens AME in 1872 by several prominent Los Angeles residents.  The first meeting was held on May 17, 1872, at the home of Bridgett “Biddy” Mason on Spring Street and included church founders Robert and Henry Owens, John Ballard, Dr. D.C. Ballard and John, Carl and James Hall. This group established the Frist African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

Over the years the church has grown into one of the most influential and powerful institutions in all of Los Angeles.  It has played host to U.S. presidents, vice presidents, visiting national dignitaries, and a variety of respected leaders from throughout the world.

Pastor J. Edgar Boyd (Malcolm Ali/

The church is also known for being the refuge and providing support and advocacy during some of Los Angeles most challenging times.  Mayor Tom Bradley immediately reached out to Pastor Murray and the First AME Community during the Rodney King uprising to help bring calm and a sense of purpose to an angry and devastated community.

Mayor Karen Bass said of the occasion, “I congratulate the congregants and the leadership of both the church and the AME denomination on reaching this impressive milestone.  FAME has played a pivotal role in the life of this city, including in times of crisis.”

Community leaders and historians Bernard and Shirley Kinsey along with Ernesto Morales served as honorary co-chairpersons for the evening.  CBS News Anchor Pat Harvey and KJLH radio personality Aundrae Russell were the emcees.

Hundreds of people attended FAME’s 150th anniversary gala. (Malcolm Ali/

“For over a century, FAME has been a pillar of strength for the people of the 10th District. First AME guides our City and our community each and every day. From providing business resources to providing food and shelter for the unhoused, FAME is always the first to fill our spirits and our minds,” said Councilmember Heather Hutt.

“I applaud Pastor Boyd and the FAME family for all that they have done and will continue to do to uplift our community and make Los Angeles a better place for us all!”