W. J. Gaines (Wesley John), 1840-1912
Wesley John Gaines was born on October 4, 1840 in Wilkes County, Georgia to slave parents. He was the seventh of fourteen children. Gaines was sickly as a child. He took advantage of the time spent on his sickbed by secretly teaching himself to read. Gaines' father was a member of the Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church, South, and in 1849 Wesley John Gaines converted to Christianity.
After the Civil War, Gaines was licensed to preach in the M.E. Church, South. But at his brother William's urging, Gaines left the M.E. Church, South to unite with the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. In 1867, Gaines was ordained an elder in the A.M.E. Church, and he spent the next 20 years serving in various pastorates in Georgia. In 1885, Gaines was elected a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Throughout his ministerial career, Wesley J. Gaines continued to further his education. He helped found Morris Brown College in Atlanta. In 1891, Gaines was made Vice President of the newly founded Payne Theological Seminary. He died on January 12, 1912.