Call to Ministry

Having accepted a call to Baptist ministry, Claypool was ordained in 1953 and went on to earn two degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky:  a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1955, and a Doctor of Theology degree in 1959.  From 1957–1959, Claypool served as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Theology at the seminary.  During his years at seminary, Claypool also served as pastor of churches in Kentucky and Tennessee.  His first ministry assignment after receiving his doctoral degree was associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia.  In 1960 he was called to be pastor of Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, a position he held until 1971. In 1967, Claypool was named Outstanding Young Man in Religion by the Louisville Jaycees.

“Because all of my forebears were
slave owners, ... I was trying to help
repair where I felt like my kind had hurt.
I was scared a lot of the time.”

While in Louisville, Claypool was active in denominational activities and civic affairs, serving as President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and member of the executive board of the Louisville area Council on Religion and Race.  Having maintained a collegial relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., Claypool was visibly committed to Civil Rights and known for taking a stand on important issues.  While in Atlanta in the late 1950s, Claypool was involved with King in the early stages of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and he later served as treasurer for the organization’s Kentucky Chapter.  Crescent Hill was one of the first congregations in the area to integrate. He spent the next fifteen years as pastor or co-pastor of Baptist churches in both Fort Worth and Lubbock, Texas, and in Jackson, Mississippi.

Claypool on the radio. Claypool participated in a weekly Louisville radio program called “The Moral Side of the News,” which expanded his audience beyond the pulpit, 1964.


A Crisis of Conscience, 1964, Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, KY.  Claypool examines race relations, poverty, and religious differences across cultures.


Commemorative Service, 1988, 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL. Claypool discusses the great inspiration he drew from the sermons of his friend Martin Luther King, Jr. at the service commemorating the 1963 bombing.

John the Baptist, 1982, Second Baptist Church, Lubbock, TX.  Claypool explores how John the Baptist led people to face their challenges, bringing them "out of denial and into openness."

Claypool attending the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission’s annual meeting where he was elected chairman, 1978.

Preaching at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, c. 1960s.

In 1982 Claypool married Ann Wilkinson Scheyd, a notable psychiatric social worker and therapist, who had a faculty appointment at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. They remained together until John's passing. “I think we are such kindred spirits,...John is the most deeply spiritual, loving man I have ever known.” 1995.