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Elder W.T. Hemphill was born December 10, 1892 in Simsboro, Louisiana, the son of Tilman and Willie Anna Hemphill. The family moved several times in Brother Hemphills childhood and he attended schools in Dodson and Pollock, Louisiana. Brother Hemphill was called "Doctor" by his father from his birth as he intended to make him a medical doctor as his grandfather was before him, but God had other plans.

At the age of 12, Brother Hemphill saw a vision of the coming of the Lord and himself "tending the Lord's flock" and he knew from that day forward he was to be a minister of Jesus Christ. He became a Holiness Methodist preacher at the age of eighteen and also did mission work for the Salvation Army for a couple of years. In 1912, at the age of twenty, while ministering in Texas, Brother Hemphill came in contact with some people preaching the "Holy Ghost" message and became hungry for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He received it shortly thereafter while on his knees in a hotel room in Fort Worth, on the site of what is now the Tarrant County Convention Center. A year or two later, Brother Hemphill saw in the scriptures that the apostles baptized their converts in water in the name of Jesus, a belief which he preached and practiced throughout the remainder of his life.

Brother Hemphill was a pioneer of the Pentecostal message in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas from 1912 through the 1920's, preaching open air and brush arbor meetings, as well as on streets and in school houses when they were available. This message was unpopular at that time and it's preaching brought much persecution. Brother Hemphill was shot at while in the pulpit on more than one occasion, rotten egged, cursed and threatened with lynching, but God was faithful and many were converted and filled with the Holy Ghost. A New Orleans Times - Picayune newspaper reporter visited one of these brush arbor meetings and told of throngs of people attending, having come on wagons, horseback, bicycles and walking. Brother Hemphill was referred to in the article which was carried by other newspapers, and was seen by his mother in the Shreveport Times, "the chief apostle and high priest of the Holy Rollers". Brother Hemphill, always a man of humility, got a good laugh out of that.

It was during this time when Brother Hemphill went back to his boyhood town of Pollock, Louisiana, which was then a booming sawmill town, and held a brush arbor meeting that lasted for six weeks and in which ninety people received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Persecution ensued and one night Brother Hemphill was attacked during the alter service by a man who reportedly had "brass knucks" and he received a broken nose and loosened teeth but was undeterred and rather rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Jesus. In 1931, Brother Hemphill moved to West Monroe, Louisiana, in the Brownville Community and started a work which was to become known as First Pentecostal Church. The services started in a tabernacle but Brother Hemphill soon obtained some army barracks at Swartz which he tore down and hauled to Brownville and used the material to build the first church building on Wheelis Street. This church was pastored by Brother Hemphill for seven and a half years. In mid 1938, after the death of his wife Etta, he and his family moved to California where he evangelized and pastored for a time. In 1944, after much prayer, Brother Hemphill felt called by the Lord to return to Ouachita Parish, so moving to Bawcomville he founded a church which he was to pastor into the late 1970's, when advanced age and failing health forced his retirement. Brother Hemphill was also heard throughout Northeast Louisiana for some twenty-five years preaching on the radio program which was called "The Bible Truth Broadcast'.

He went home to be with the Lord on February 14, 1981 at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy which continues to this day, a large family, most of whom are serving the Lord, and saints in many places who heard the gospel first by his mouth and are following on to glory.

Brother Hemphill had a heart for other ministers and had many get their start under his ministry, among them Oliver F. Fauss, D.L. Welch, and "Son" Worbington. Brother Hemphill is remembered as a man of much prayer, who had calloused knees from his habit of praying three times daily. His widow Sister Beatrice Hemphill to whom he was married for 42 years, still resides in West Monroe and remains faithful to her Lord and church.

During his work for God, Brother Hemphill saw many miracles including several dead raised to life and on two different occasions had angel visitations. Only eternity will reveal how many people Brother W.T. Hemphill was able to affect for God in his sixty-eight years of ministry, too whom he was truly "your servant for Jesus sake."

 

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