From his arrival in Buffalo in 1892 until his death in 1957, Rev. J. Edward Nash, Sr., was one of the most well-known and influential voices in the city’s African American community. Born in 1868 to two former slaves in Occoquan, Virginia, Nash went on to receive his education at Wayland Seminary, finishing his theological studies in 1892. At the age of twenty-four, he accepted a position as pastor of Buffalo’s Michigan Street Baptist Church, in part because of its legendary association with the Underground Railroad. During his notable sixty-one-year ministry, Nash developed a statewide and national reputation not only for his powerful sermons but also for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the less fortunate.
His work extended beyond the church into the public sphere and included his tenure as director and founder of the Buffalo Urban League and the local branch of the NAACP. He later served as a member of the Council of Social Agencies and was a Protestant chaplain at the Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital (now ECMC) for twenty-one years. Nash also served for thirty-two years as secretary of the Ministers Alliance of Buffalo and as treasurer of the Western New York Baptist Association.