Fuller, William Edward
Fuller believed that he had been sanctified in 1895 after he retreated to a cornfield for a time of intense prayer.
Clergyman. Fuller was born in Mountville, Laurens County, on January 29, 1875, the son of the sharecroppers George and Martha Fuller. Orphaned at age four, Fuller was reared by his aunt, Ida Fuller Vance. He was converted in 1892 and joined the New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church. The following year he received his license to preach. In 1895 Fuller married Martha Wright. They had five children before her death in 1905. His second wife was Emma Clare Wright, whom he married on March 10, 1910. They had seven children. After Emma’s death, Fuller married Pauline Birmingham, who was also a pastor.
Fuller believed that he had been sanctified in 1895 after he retreated to a cornfield for a time of intense prayer. After reading about a third blessing, the “baptism of fire,” in issues of The Way of Faith, edited by J. M. Pike in Columbia, and hearing Benjamin Hardin Irwin preach about this baptism of the Holy Ghost on his preaching tour in South Carolina in 1896, Fuller returned to the same cornfield in 1897 and had another intense religious experience when he received the third blessing.
Around that time Fuller and his family moved to Abbeville. He attended the meeting in Anderson in 1898 when Irwin and Joseph Hillary King organized a new national denomination, the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association. At that time Irwin ordained Fuller, Isaac Gamble from Kingstree, and Uncle Powell Woodbury from Marion as evangelists. Fuller devoted himself to organizing African American congregations for the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association. Within two years he had helped found more than fifty congregations in South Carolina and north Georgia, including churches in Abbeville, Greenwood, Belton, Greenville, Seneca, Greer, Spartanburg, Columbia, and also Atlanta. A dynamic preacher, in 1904 he claimed to have spurred some five hundred conversions. Fuller also served on the denomination’s executive committee until 1908.
At a meeting in Greer on November 24, 1908, African American members of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association formed a separate denomination, first called the Colored Fire-Baptized Holiness Church. Fuller became its first general overseer and then its first bishop in 1922. He also published The True Witness, the new denomination’s first periodical. He remained the presiding bishop and unquestioned leader of the group, which became the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church of God in 1922 and the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas in 1926, until his death on January 20, 1958.
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–––. The Old-Time Power. Rev. ed. Franklin Springs, Ga.: Advocate Press, 1986.