Dr. Thomas Millard Denton

Pastor FBC Hillsborough, 1974-1987
In August 1974, Dr. Thomas (Tom) Denton began what would become a 13-year ministry in Hillsborough. During 1976, the Church began developing plans and raising money to expand and renovate the education building with a Day Care in mind.  The new building was dedicated on April 3, 1977 and the steeple that had been taken down in 1923 was finally replaced with a new one purchased by pledges of various individual church members.  The new spire was dedicated in honor of Mr. John Clayton on November 17, 1978 in time for the church to celebrate its 125th anniversary on November 19, 1978. The Church’s child care program began in March 1979 and continued until April 2003 when it was forced to close because of loss of children to the public school day care programs.  In March 1979, the Church raised money to purchase a new organ to honor Mrs. Lucille Brown, church organist for many years.  When it became available in 1983, the church purchased the Gordon-Barfield property on West King Street.  In 1985, James Rae and Jamie Freeland purchased the Collin’s property on Margaret Lane and gave it to the church thereby uniting the church with the parsonage property, providing more room for parking and future growth.  Ms. Wanda Hardee Kidd was ordained in 1983 being the first woman candidate to be recommended for ordination by the Mt. Zion Baptist Association. Lee Ray Greene was ordained in 1983 and Kaye Williams Crawford was ordained in 1984.  Many of the churches’ current outreach ministries began during Denton’s ministry.  The church began to participate in CROP walk to raise funds for local and world hunger in 1977.  Orange Congregations in Mission (OCIM) originated in May 1984 from discussions held earlier by the men’s prayer group.1   

Denton was born in Clinton, NC on May 26, 1947.  His family farmed and operated a country store.  He attended Mars Hill College and graduated from Wake Forest University in 1969 with a BA degree in Colonial American History and Political Science.  He holds two degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Masters of Divinity (1972) and a Doctor of Ministry (1974).2   While in the seminary, Denton served as youth director of the First Baptist Church Fayetteville, NC.  At the time, Dr. Glen Holt, a former pastor of ours, was senior pastor.  While working on his doctorates, he served as Associate Pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC.  After Hillsborough, Denton next served twelve years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church, New Bern, NC.  While there, the church installed a new pipe organ, purchased adjoining properties and built a family life center.  In addition, he served as President of Religious Community Services, an ecumenical Christian service organization, similar to OCIM.  Denton served as chairman of the Board of Social Services in both Orange and Craven counties during his pastoral tenure in Hillsborough and New Berne, and as Moderator of both Baptist Associations in which the churches were located.3  

He served two terms on the General Board and the Executive Committee of the NC Baptist State Convention and was a member of the Executive Director Search Committee in 1997 and chaired the State Convention’s Long Range Planning Committee for 1996-2000.2  

Denton is remarried.  His former wife, Connie lives in Wilmington, NC.  Since March 2000, Denton has been the Eastern Area Manager with the NC Baptist Foundation.  He and his wife, Rita, live in New Bern and between them have four children - Josh, Whitney, Alex and Erin – and four grandchildren.

  1. Minutes, 1974-87, from First Baptist Church, Hillsborough, NC Records 1853-2010.
  2. North Carolina Baptist Foundation, Inc.  Accessed on January 23, 2013 at: http://www.ncbaptistfoundation.org/tom_denton.aspx
  3. Personal Correspondence (January 24, 2013)
Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian, FBC Hillsborough; portrait photograph by Kent Murrary Studios, 2001.  Other photograph is courtesy of FBC Hillsborough, NC Archives.
Last Updated: January 25, 2013