Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Julia Anna Pope Delk (October 1878–7 June 1951), United Holy Church of America minister, was born in Florence, South Carolina, and was the daughter of Samuel Pope, a laborer, and Emeline Pope (whose maiden name is unknown), both African Americans. Early in the 1880s the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, where Pope grew up. In 1892 Wilmington hosted a Holiness revival that attracted interracial crowds of up to 4,000 and that led to the organization of at least three Holiness congregations that became the Holy Church of North Carolina (later United Holy Church of America). Pope met Henry L. Fisher, later president of the church, in Wilmington and embraced Holiness principles. Sometime in or before 1904 she likely moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, and on 29 December of that year in Norfolk County married James Edward Delk, an oysterman. They had three sons.

About 1907 Delk and her husband moved to Norfolk, where they attended a Holiness church. After she answered a call to the ministry, they helped establish the Holy Temple United Holy Church, in Norfolk, about 1919. It was affiliated with the United Holy Church of America, which had adopted that name in 1916 and incorporated two years later. During the first decade of the twentieth century the denomination embraced Pentecostalism, perhaps also a factor in Delk's affiliation. Articles of faith included belief in the Trinity, baptism of the Holy Spirit, divine healing, and the endorsement (but not requirement) of speaking in tongues. The church was also more progressive than many other Holiness-Pentecostal denominations in its early and continued support of the ordination of women. Although some local congregations still resisted female preaching, women often received ministerial credentials at the denomination's annual convocations. Delk was ordained by the denomination, but it is unclear whether she ever acted as a minister at Holy Temple, where her husband served for a time as assistant minister and clerk of the church.

Delk exercised leadership through missions, a principal focus of the United Holy Church of America, which expanded during the twentieth century throughout the United States and into Bermuda, the West Indies, the Philippines, South Africa, and western Africa. After she and Emma Craig founded the Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary Department in 1917, Delk was elected its first president, a national office she held until her death. The following year Delk became secretary of the board of the church's new Missionary Department. Her responsibilities included fund-raising and leading meetings on missions at annual convocations. Delk and Craig, who was president of the church's Women's Missionary Convention of the Southern District, traveled to congregations in the South and Midwest organizing local mission societies, encouraging women to raise money for missions, and promoting the construction of a women's dormitory to house annual mission meetings at the Branch Memorial Tabernacle in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Delk advocated adult education, Bible-reading, and establishing Sunshine Bands to provide general and religious education for children. She preached in churches in the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean. Praised in early denomination histories as a church mother, Delk and her organizational skills as secretary of the Mission Department helped the congregations grow from thirty-six in 1918 to ninety-five in 1923.

Delk continued to lead efforts in the United Holy Church of America after her husband died on 24 May 1945. Following an illness of several months Julia Anna Pope Delk died at a friend's home in Richmond on 7 June 1951. She was buried alongside her husband in Calvary Cemetery, in Norfolk.

Sources Consulted:
Birth month and year, and other family and professional information, provided by granddaughter Yvonne Delk (2005); U. S. Census Schedules, Colleton Co., S.C., 1880 (age two on 2 June 1880), and Norfolk City, 1920 (age forty-three on 7 Jan. 1920), both in Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C,; Norfolk Co. Marriage Register (age twenty-six on 29 Dec. 1904); Chicago Defender, 1 Sept. 1935, 10 June 1939; Year Book of the United Holy Church of America Incorporated (1936), with portrait on p. 14; H. L. Fisher, The History of the United Holy Church of America, Inc. (n.d., self-published ca. 1936–1940); Chester W. Gregory, History of the United Holy Church of America, Inc., 1886–1986 (1986); William C. Turner Jr., The United Holy Church of America: A Study in Black Holiness-Pentecostalism (2006); obituary in Norfolk Journal and Guide (national ed.), 23 June 1951.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Catherine G. OBrion.

How to cite this page:
Catherine G. Obrion,"Julia Anna Pope Delk (1878–1951)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2015 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Delk_Julia_Anna_Pope, accessed [today's date]).

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