Excerpt from An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

An Hour Before Daylight

Memories of A Rural Boyhood

by Jimmy Carter

An Hour Before Daylight
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 2000, 280 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2001, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt



In Archery, a black man enjoyed the highest social and, our community believed, financial status. He was African Methodist Episcopal Bishop William Decker Johnson, whose primary religious responsibilities encompassed five Midwestern states. His home base was a combination private school, insurance company, and publishing company located across the railroad from St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church. The entire Plains community knew when Bishop Johnson was at home, and about once a year he invited our family and perhaps the Watsons to come to the worship service at St. Mark AME Church. In honor of his presence, a choir from Spelman College, or one of the other black institutions in Atlanta, would come down to sing, and the bishop would preach.

In addition to St. Mark AME Church and one still-occupied tenant house, the most important landmark in Archery now is one of the few historical markers erected in Georgia to commemorate important events or the lives of outstanding citizens. This one, in a couple of hundred words, recounts the notable contributions of a famous son, William Decker Johnson. (In one phrase, it also mentions that the thirty-ninth president of the United States was his neighbor.)

As a little boy, I was accustomed to the relatively sedate and time-constrained services of our own congregation at Plains Baptist Church, so our family's visits to St. Mark were strange experiences. The small white clapboard building was always overflowing with worshipers and would rock with music and with religious spirit far exceeding anything we ever experienced. We knew the words to many of the hymns, but we had to struggle to keep proper time with the strange, slow rhythms, with syllables often stretched into words, and words into entire verses. Soon, however, we would be rocking back and forth in harmony with the swaying bodies of the beautifully dressed choir behind the altar.

Bishop Johnson would preach, and his character seemed to change during his sermon. He was well educated and a master of the English language, but would shift to the vernacular of a semiliterate sharecropper when he wanted to emphasize a key point. His voice would sometimes become so soft that the congregation would lean forward to hear, and then he would erupt with a startling volume of sound. He used a singsong rhythm on occasion, even when quoting scripture, so that long-familiar words assumed a different meaning. There was no doubt that he dominated the consciousness of everyone in the church, and, at least during the sermon, the sense of being brothers and sisters in Christ wiped away any thoughts of racial differences. To me, he seemed the epitome of success and power.

At some time during the seemingly interminable service, when emotion was at a high point, everyone would line up and pass by the offering plates placed on a table immediately in front of the pulpit, and the church stewards would call out the amount of each offering. Daddy would always make a generous gift, acknowledged with clapping and amens from the congregation.

Bishop Johnson was certainly aware of the racial customs of the day, but he did not consider it appropriate to comply with all of them. It was understood, for instance, that he would not come to our front door when he wished to talk to my father -- but neither would he deign to come to the back. After ascertaining through a messenger that we were at home, he would arrive in his chauffeured black Packard or Cadillac, park in our front yard, and sound the horn. My father would go outside to the automobile for a conversation, while Bishop Johnson either stayed in the car or came out so the two men could stand together under the shade of a large magnolia tree. I don't remember that he ever came closer to our house. We could see them talking and laughing together, and afterward Daddy always said that they just exchanged ideas about the bishop's work and the farming situation around home.

Copyright © 2001 by Jimmy Carter

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.