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By 1970, the Methodist Church had decided it was high time to unite its congregations and end its segregation policy.The Rev. Henry Joyner Jr. was appointed to Atlanta’s all-white Calvary United Methodist Church on Gordon Street. The North Carolina native was said to have been the first black minister to receive such a pastorate. He, along with his then-wife, Anne Wofford Joyner McKenzie, and their son, Henry Joyner III, served five years at Calvary.

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At the time, the West End community was undergoing demographical change. Whites were moving out and blacks were moving in. Member by member, Calvary’s racial make-up began to reflect that transition, said Mrs. McKenzie, who later divorced the reverend.

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“Before long, all the whites were gone except for three or four,” she said. “Then blacks started cming in. [The Calvary] assignment was one of his proudest moments, that and when he got a commission to go into the Army as a captain chaplain.”

On Friday, Rev. Joyner of Atlanta died from complications of renal failure at Sunrise Assisted Living in Buckhead. He was 79. A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday in the chapel of Murray Brothers Funeral Home, which is in charge of arrangements.

Rev. Joyner grew up poor in segregated Greene County, N.C., where his parents were tenant farmers. He never finished high school because of his work in the fields. At 17, he joined the U.S. Air Force and earned his GED while stationed in Springfield, Mass.

After his military stint, he enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in English. Rev. Joyner was a stickler for diction, which contributed to one of his more powerful traits in the pulpit.

“He could deliver a prayer,” his former wife said.

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