In Her Own Words: Remarkable Women in 20th-Century Florida

Bernyce Clausell, 1916-2015

"Imagine, some men won't come because they believe people will think less of them for coming to a church with a woman pastor. Imagine that."

— Bernyce Clausell [1]

Reverend Bernyce Clausell was a religious leader and civil rights activist who served the Tallahassee community and surrounding area for more than 50 years. Clausell’s civil rights activism began during World War II, while she worked at the War Department in Washington, D.C. After experiencing racial discrimination in the nation’s capital, Clausell and others protested segregation with lunch counter sit-ins. Then, in 1956, Clausell participated in the Tallahassee boycott of segregated city buses by using carpools or walking rather than taking the bus.

Clausell was a deeply religious person, and in 1958 she and her husband, Reverend James Aaron Clausell, cofounded Calvary Baptist Church in Tallahassee. Clausell, who graduated from Florida A&M University with a master’s degree in education, taught school for many years in Tallahassee, but over time she realized her true calling was in the pulpit. She became an ordained Baptist minister in 1972, and succeeded her husband as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in 1978.

Clausell actively served Big Bend community members in need by collecting food and clothing for the poor and conducting prison ministries at Florida State Prison. She retired from the church in 1996, but continued volunteering in the community until her death.

Special Classroom Program for Bernyce Clausell's Second Grade Class at Griffin Junior High School, 1961

The program for a special classroom unit on food for Bernyce Clausell's second grade class at Griffin Junior High School in Tallahassee, April 30, 1961.

Program for the 9th Annual City Wide Sisterhood and Brotherhood Day at Calvary Baptist Church in Tallahassee

The Sisterhood and Brotherhood Pledge composed by Rev. Bernyce Clausell from the program for the 9th Annual City Wide Sisterhood and Brotherhood Day at Calvary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, September 19, 1982.

Letter from Bernyce Clausell to Members of Clergywomen's Council United, 2000

Letter from Rev. Bernyce Clausell to members of Clergywomen's Council United regarding the Outdoor Outreach for Christ event in Tallahassee, April 6, 2000.

More from Florida Memory
At the Archives
  • Clausell Family Papers 1932-2015, Collection N2015-7, State Archives of Florida.

  1. ^“Alan Jenkins, “She is spreading the word of God,” Tallahassee Democrat, November 12, 1978.