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Record Group Number: 900000
Series/Collection Number: N2015- 7
Creator: Clausell, Bernyce Hall, 1916-2015.
Title, Dates: Clausell family papers, 1932-2021.
Amount: 9 cubic ft.
Medium Included:
Organization/Arrangement: Arranged by subject and then chronological.
Terms Governing Use:
Biographical/Historical:     Reverend Doctor Bernyce Hall Clausell (1916-2015) was born in Thomson, Georgia, to Nathan and Eva Hall. Shortly after, the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, but Bernyce and two siblings went to live with an aunt in New York when their mother died of tuberculosis a few years later. There, she began her lifelong involvement with Christian ministry.

    In 1942, Bernyce moved to Washington, D.C. to take a job as a secretary at the War Department and became involved in the civil rights movement, participating in protests against segregated lunch counters in the capital. She later worked for the Council of Negro Churches, where she met Pastor James Clausell. The couple married and moved to Pensacola in 1945, relocating to Tallahassee in 1954.

    Bernyce received some education at Howard University and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). She taught English, Music, and Science in four Leon County schools - Riley and Pineview Elementary Schools, and Griffin and Belle Vue Middle Schools - and retired in 1976.

    In 1958, Bernyce and James founded Calvary Baptist Church on Joe Louis Street near Frenchtown in Tallahassee, though the church relocated to Dale Street in 2008. James continued to lead services in Pensacola and South Georgia churches, so Bernyce managed the operations of Calvary Baptist. Alongside her work with Calvary, Bernyce conducted ministry at Florida State Prison and worked with poor communities in the Big Bend region. She earned the moniker of "Black Mother Theresa" in 1984, after making a concerted effort to raise funds and material donations for the Black community of Sugar Ditch in Mississippi, at that time reported to be the poorest neighborhood in America. She also continued her work as a civil rights activist, participating in the 1956 Tallahassee bus boycott, among other endeavors.

    In 1971, Bernyce received ordination as a Baptist minister and became the first female minister in Florida after James retired in 1978. Unanimously elected by the congregation to succeed her husband, she served as the pastor of Calvary Baptist until her own retirement in 1996. Afterward, she continued her work in the community, attended local public and political events, and was an active member of the Southern Christian Leadership Council. In 2012, she published an autobiography titled, "No Time to Die," and passed away three years later at age 98.

Summary:     This collection documents the public life and activities of Rev. Dr. Bernyce Clausell. The records include Clausell's personal files, home videos, day planners, and materials commemorating her career. The collection also includes programs and minutes from the First Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Association. Included in this collection are many of James Clausell's sermons from the 1930s-40s, given at churches in North Florida and South Georgia.

Finding Aids: Folder listing available 0
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Electronic Records Access:
Subject Access Fields: Clausell, Bernyce Hall, 1916-2015.
African American churches Florida.
African American civic leaders Florida.
Baptists Florida
Church records and registers Florida
Civil rights Florida
Women in education Florida.
Video recordings. aat
Compact disks. aat
DVDs. aat
Leon County (Fla.)
Tallahassee (Fla.)
Added Entries