Right the Record: John Alfred Holmes, Sr.


Letter from the General Assembly


  • John Alfred Holmes, Sr. was born to John T. Holmes and Willie Gertrude Fields Holmes.
  • He was the grandson of Charles H. Fields, the son of one of the founders of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, of Lignum, Virginia in 1866.
  • John Alfred Holmes Sr. received his elementary education in a one room school where he was instructed by the Reverend Willis Madden, a mulatto property owner and heir to the Maddensville Tavern.


  • John’s father, John T. died, leaving the nine-year-old boy without a father. This compelled him to become the “man of the house” until he resided with his uncle, Albert Fields, in the District of Columbia.
  • Enrolled in Dunbar High School where the Reverend Willis Madden observed his student and mentee take upon himself the role of family provider and leader.
  • Upon finishing high school, John was licensed as a preacher and began pastoring at 18 years of age.
  • Rev. John A. Holmes, Sr. was one of the founders of the Wayland Blue Ridge Baptist Church Institute with Dr. John M. Ellison, Dr. Evans, and Ms. Lena Smith Trustee of Virginia Union University.
  • Served as Vice Moderator, and then Moderator of the Wayland Blue Ridge Baptist Association, Incorporated and Vice Moderator of the Piedmont Baptist Association. President of the WBRB Minister’s Conference, Moderator of the Ministers, and Deacons Union.
  • As a bi-vocational preacher, John Holmes was also an insurance agent for the Richmond Beneficial Life Insurance Company. Later the company merged with and became the Universal Life Insurance Company where he stressed the need for insurance, endowments, and financial stability.


  • Became pastor for Mt. Olive (Olivet) Baptist and was Andrew Taylor’s pastor, and Rev. Holmes desired for the insurance company to hire him.
  • After Andrew took the insurance exams and passed, he began working for Richmond Beneficial Life with Rev. Holmes.
  • Partner with Andrew Taylor to purchase the building as a local office under the ownership of J. A. Holmes et ux and Andrew E. Taylor et ux.
  • Upon Andrew Taylor’s death, Thomas Holmes, son of Rev. Holmes purchased the Andrew Taylor Family’s interest.
  • The building at 214 East Davis Street remains in the Holmes family.


  • Recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s General Assembly as one of the last Circuit preachers with House Joint Resolution 270.

Portrait of John Alfred Holmes


  • Rev. John Holmes Sr. died. He is survived by three sons, John Alfred Holmes, Jr., Thomas Edward Holmes and Rev. James Lee Holmes; one daughter, Dorothy Lorraine McMillan; four granddaughters, Carmen McMillan, Rolanda Richards (Reggie) and Christel and Kimberly Holmes; daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Holmes; son-in-law, James F. McMillan; and a host of nephews, nieces and extended family and friends.


  • Ida B. Gibson Holmes died on October 8, 2013. They are buried at Canaan Baptist Church Cemetery in Reva, VA.

A special thank you to James “Chuck” Holmes for the sharing of his father’s bio.

Learn more about the people

Right the Record

Honoring the lives of African Americans in Culpeper, Virginia

Learn about Right the Record