April 15, 1904 is shown as the birthdate of Thomas Carroll Callahan on his headstone. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Callahan and was born in McCormick, South Carolina. Idella Thomas became his wife on June 24, 1930, in Hillsborough County, Florida. The same year, he joined the First Baptist Church of Lakeland, Florida. City directories and census records show the couple living in Lakeland, Polk County, Florida where T.C., as he came to be known, worked as a janitor, grocer, and yardman.
No record has been found of when he joined the ministry, but an obituary reports he served as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Davenport, Florida, Antioch Baptist Church of Beesville, Florida and prior to becoming pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Kissimmee on June 1, 1947, he served in Boca Grande, Florida.
He was described by friends and relatives as gentle and caring, always preaching sermons of “reaching out to lost souls”. The church membership grew from one hundred twenty-five to four hundred fifty during his thirty eight years as pastor of St. Luke, a position he held until he died on May 31, 1985. Rev. Callahan was survived by his second wife Candether, two sons and one daughter.
Following the death of Idella in 1978, Rev. Callahan married Candether Brewer Shaw on June 30, 1979. Candether passed away in Hillsborough County on December 5, 1985, just a little over six months after her husband.
During the most turbulent time for African Americans in the early 1960s, Rev. Callahan was President of the Osceola Chapter of the NAACP. He also served as President and Vice President of the White Kissimmee Ministerial Alliance, the only Black pastor; President of the Ministers Association and was a member of the First South Florida Association Pension Board. Rev. Callahan pushed to have streets paved and improvements made in the Black neighborhoods.
His concern during those many years in Kissimmee was not only for his church, but the entire community. It was also during his tenure at St. Luke that a major fundraising drive began for a new sanctuary. Bake sales were held by the ladies of the church with the mainstay of the sales being Bertha Stallworth’s Sweet Potato Pie.
Sources: “Osceola County Centennial Book”, 1987
“Osceola Sun”, July 13, 1977
St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church