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Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III

Pastor, Charity Missionary Baptist Church, North Charleston, SC


From the coastal community of Bennett’s Point, SC and nearby Charleston, SC, Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, son of the late Nelson Rivers, Jr. and Merelyn Rivers,  is a preacher of the Gospel and civil rights worker. He has preached at churches in 23 states. He is married to the former Carolyn Smalls of Charleston and has five children and eight grandchildren. He received his bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio, which is the first private Black-owned and operated university in America. He was ordained at the Olivet Baptist Church of Christ in Fayetteville, GA by the late Dr. Howard W. Creecy, Sr. He is pursuing his Master of Divinity at Erskine Theological Seminary, Due West, SC. He is a life long servant in the fight for justice.

In July 2014, Rev. Rivers became Vice President of Religious Affairs and External Relations of the National Action Network (NAN) under the courageous leadership of the Rev. Al Sharpton. Rev. Rivers is honored to work with Rev. Sharpton in an organization known for taking action in today's civil rights battles.


In September 2008, Rev. Rivers became Pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in the Liberty Hill community of North Charleston, SC. He is committed to preaching and teaching the “liberating good news” of Jesus Christ. During his tenure, more than 900 members have joined Charity and in 2015, the church completed a new 500-seat sanctuary and administrative building. Charity has 43 ministries and their guiding scripture is Ephesians 4:3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”


For over 38 years Rev. Rivers worked at every level of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) including President, North Charleston, South Carolina Branch; Executive Director, South Carolina State Conference; Director, Southeast Region; Chief Operating Officer, twice as Chief of Field Operations, and Vice President of Stakeholder Relations from 2008 until May 2014.


His civil rights work led to the election of more than 300 new black elected officials in South Carolina between 1986 and 1994. He was a leading organizer of the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of South Carolina when over 50,000 marched Columbia, SC, January 2000 to demand the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag. Rev. Rivers was there when the flag was finally removed from the front of the capital in 2015.


Rev. Rivers is immediate past co-president of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) and was a founding member of CAJM in 2011. CAJM is an inter-faith, inter-religious, inter-racial group of 30 congregations and organizations in the Charleston, SC area doing justice through congregational work. In 2016, Rev. Rivers was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Direct Action and Research Training Center, (DART), a national network of grassroots, nonprofit, congregation-based community organizations that brings people together

across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines to pursue justice in their communities. In November 2018, Rev. Rivers was invited and spoke at the Historic Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Al where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored.


He served on the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University from 1994 until 2014 and is now Trustee Emeritus. Rev. Rivers was president of the Wilberforce University Alumni Association, from 1994 to 1998. Under his leadership, alumni membership tripled and the alumni contributed over $2 million to the university. Rev. Rivers has appeared on BET, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, Sky News and 60 Minutes. He had a speaking role in the movie Separate but Equal starring Sidney Poitier.


He has received numerous awards for his civil rights and community work, including:

  • Order of the Palmetto, the State of South Carolina’s highest award

  • Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree, Wilberforce University

  • Induction in Wilberforce University Association Hall of Fame

  • Induction into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame

  • Medgar Evers Award of Excellence in 2004 as the top NAACP staff professional

  • Honored with month of October 2008 South Carolina African American Heritage Calendar

  • 2016 H. E. DeCosta Trailblazer Award by South Carolina African American Heritage Commission

  • 2018 Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Vision Award by the YWCA of Greater Charleston during their MLK Celebration

  • 2018 Grimke Award Recipient from The Sophia Institute


Rev. Rivers is guided by the words of Jesus the Christ found in the Gospel of Mark 10:43: “Yet it shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.” He is honored to be a servant of the people of God!

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