World War II veteran now a ‘pillar’ of Northside’s Tabernacle Baptist Church
Ninety-five-year-old John Porter of Manchester has been through war and personal tragedy, but his dedication to his faith and community makes him a ‘real-life Superman.’
By Jazmine Ramsey
Photo: Porter, according to Deacon Debbie Burse, fellow member of the Tabernacle Church, has never missed a Sunday at church. Courtesy of Tabernacle Baptist Church
From 1939 to 1945, the world was at war. Hitler had invaded Poland; France and Britain had declared war on Germany. The war had gone on for two years before the United States joined the fray in 1941. Young men were drafted to fight to stop Hitler’s invasion and put an end to the Holocaust. One of these young men was Northsider John Porter.
Speaking with Porter over the phone, it’s immediately clear how humble he is. He doesn’t see himself as a war veteran: “I’m just a farm boy who was sent to the military,” he said.
In 1943, at the age of 19, Porter, a Greenville, Alabama native, was drafted into the military. During World War II, Sergeant John Porter served in the supply unit, providing ammunition for tanks and machine guns for the cavalry. He was shipped to Glasgow, Scotland. According to Porter, the soldiers were not getting paid during this time (privates reportedly made a mere $50 a month). Porter stayed in the military until the war ended in 1945.
In 1951, Porter was having trouble finding work.
“Back then, there were only two places for Negroes to work,” Porter stated. He moved to Pittsburgh, where he found work at a meatpacking company. He worked in the sausage department, repacking wieners and kielbasa. Later, he went on to work at an almond company for 30-plus years until it was shut down. He became a contractor shortly after that.
Like many Black Americans in the 1940s, Porter did what he needed to do to move ahead in the workforce. He was determined to find work to support himself, a reminder of how many Black Americans continuously fought to support themselves, even to this day.
Porter eventually met and married Eleanor Porter. Together, they had two children: a daughter named Joe Ellen, and a son named Lynnwood. Both Eleanor and Joe Ellen have died.
Today, Porter is one of the pillars of the Tabernacle Cosmopolitan Baptist Church in the Northside’s Mexican War Streets. He and his wife were both very active in the church; he served as a Sunday school teacher for 30 years, a church trustee for 10 years, and a missionary. While John Porter no longer teaches at the church, he continues to make an impact there.
“He is the kindest person. He is very knowledgeable of the Word. He takes his Bible out and when the pastor’s preaching, he would have his Bible, following right along with him,” said Deacon Debbie Burse, fellow member of the Tabernacle Church. “He’s always been very polite, mannerable and very alert, and never changes his demeanor. He knows the Word. He loves the Lord. He’s a pillar at the Tabernacle.”
According to Burse, Porter has never missed a single Sunday at church. His dedication to his faith and his time in the military shows his inner strength.
Now 95 years old, Porter continues to play an active part in his Northside community. He is currently a member of the Manchester Citizens Corporation (MCC), one of the oldest community development organizations in the nation. According to Porter, he does not have an important position, however, he does voice his concerns about the Northside community.
Despite suffering from two personal losses and witnessing the events of World War II firsthand, Porter never gave up his faith.
Porter played a vital role in the battles of World War II. He is a man who continues to inspire many of his fellow church members. In a sense, Porter is like a real-life Superman; he continues to instill hope in others through his actions.