HIS STORY: The Reverend Doctor Joe Samuel Ratliff

The Reverend Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff is a native of Lumberton, North Carolina; where in 1962, he began his Christian journey by uniting with The Mt. Sinai United Holy Church of Lumberton. Seven years later, he answered his Call to Ministry while attending Morehouse College. He served as pastor of the Cobb Memorial United Holy Church in Atlanta, Georgia for eight years.

Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff was elected as pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church of Houston, Texas in February 1980. He married Doris Ernestine Gardner in August of 1980. By the year 2000 had grown it from a 500 member congregation to a mega-church of 12,000.

Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff has distinguished himself as a scholar-pastor in the African-American tradition of preaching and has sought excellence in numerous endeavors. Among them are these distinctions:



  • Bachelor's degree in History earned 1972 from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Master's of Divinity degree earned in 1975 and Doctor of Ministry degree earned in 1976 from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree awarded in 1988 by the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Post Doctoral work at Harvard Divinity School as a Charles Merrill Fellow in 1985.


Building, Construction and Land Acquisition

  • Prayer Chapel in built 1984 and renovated in 1998.
  • Worship Center built in 1986 and renovated in 2001.
  • Brentwood Credit Union/Community Foundation acquired in 1988 and renovated in 2001. At the Silver Anniversary, $1 million dollars was acquired in assets.
  • Brentwood Cottages (Transitional Housing for men with HIV/AIDS) built in 1997.
  • Joe Samuel Ratliff Lifelong Learning Center (75,000-square foot) built in 2001; It housed a McDonald's franchise-the first of its kind to be housed on a church campus.
  • Doris Gardner Ratliff Center for Child Development (10,000-square foot) built in 2000.
  • Maintenance Building (9,000-sq. ft.) built in 2003.
  • Land Acquired under Pastor’s leadership: 9 acres in 1984, 10 acres in 1986, 25 acres as a gift in 1995, 37 acres in 1998 and 24 acres in 2000 for a total of 105 acres; (24 acres sold in 2006).


Accomplishments, Affiliations, Awards & Honors

  • First African-American pastor to lead the Union Baptist Association, the largest urban Southern Baptist organization in the United States representing more than 500 churches and missions.
  • Named "Minister of the Year" by the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1985.
  • Founding president of the National African-American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Honored fir this accomplishment in June of 2014 at the SBC in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia in 1997.
  • Portrait hung in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel Hall of Fame at Morehouse, Atlanta, Georgia in 1998.
  • Keynote speaker for the 2002 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
  • Presented with the Spiritual Enlightenment Award in 2003, during the Turner Broadcasting System's 11th Annual Trumpet Award ceremonies, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Founder of the Brentwood Community Foundation which has awarded over $2.5 million dollars in Grants and Scholarships through the Brentwood Scholarship Committee to deserving youth since its inception in 1982.
  • Preacher for the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Howard University, Washington D.C. for over 20 years.
  • Preached and lectured extensively in the United States and abroad and has led mission trips and tours to Africa and other foreign countries. During his tenure as Pastor, he has hosted 30 International Brentwood Tours.
  • Elder’s Statesman at the Hampton University Ministers Conference in 2017.
  • First Elder’s Statesman at the National African American Preaching Conference at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University in 2019.
  • Life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Received 50-Year Pin in 2019.


Selected Board Affiliations

  • Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse School of Religion, Atlanta, Georgia, 1996 – 2005.
  • Former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Founding Board Member, Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
  • Former Member, The Board of Trustees for Houston Baptist University, Houston, Texas.
  • Former Member, The Board of Directors for The Houston Graduate School of Theology, Houston, Texas.
  • Trustee on the Executive Board for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc., Chicago, Illinois since 1995.
  • Board of Directors for the Washington D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. since 2006. Instrumental in raising $120 million dollars necessary for the construction of the MLK Monument located on the National Mall and dedicated in 2011.
  • Appointed to the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) by Texas Governor William P. Clements and served for 6 years.


Publications, Journals / Contributor

  • Co-author of Church Planting in the African-American Community.
  • Featured in national media outlets including CNN, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, "Eclipse”, "Black Enterprise”, "TIME” and Houston Chronicle for his work in community and economic development.
  • Featured in Southern Baptist Preaching Today, Dr. Joel Gregory, The "African American Pulpit”; and Power in the Pulpit, Dr. Cleophus Larue.
  • The “African American Pulpit” editor Dr. Frank Thomas; and “Power in the Pulpit”, editor Dr. Cleophus Larue.


Community Services

  • Brentwood Community Foundation founded in 1993.
  • Brentwood Economic Community Development Corporation founded in 1993.
  • Led the city of Houston in faith-based work with HIV/AIDS awareness, education, services, and transitional housing since 1986. Led to the initiation of the program Project WAITT (We’re All In This Together).
  • Planted over 25 Missions that became independent churches.
  • Habitat for Humanity – Sponsorship of 7 houses built in Houston, Texas.