Biographical / Historical
Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux was born on November 7, 1884, to John and May Blanche Michaux in Newport News, Virginia. He worked in the family seafood business and expanded it through government contracts to supply food during World War I. At the conclusion of the war, he began to preach, first establishing a mission in
Hopewell, VA, near Fort Lee before returning to Newport News with his wife. They founded the Church of God in 1919 and held services in a tent before purchasing a building at the corner of 18th and Jefferson Streets for the newly-incorporated Gospel Spreading Tabernacle Building Association in 1921.
Over the next several years, Elder Michaux became a pioneer evangelist, using new technologies to spread the gospel. He continued to hold tent meetings in Newport News and Hampton, and introduced radio broadcasts, first in Newport News over a portable station in the 1920s and from a bus in Alexandria, Virginia in 1929. He created the Radio Church of God as a worldwide ministry to enable domestic and international audiences to hear the Gospel while still in their homes. By then he had become known as "The Happy Am I Preacher," so named after his chosen theme song. Eventually, Michaux began televising his services on the DuMont Television Network, becoming the first African American television evangelist.
In addition to his radio and television evangelism, Elder Michaux founded the "Good Neighbor League" in Washington DC as a social welfare service to the community, providing housing to renters who had been evicted, and eventually purchasing and running a restaurant known as the "Happy News Café" feeding patrons who could not otherwise afford meals at a low-cost. His presence in the nation's capital also made possible the development of a 594-unit housing complex, Mayfair Mansions, designed by African American architect Albert Cassell, funded by a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and completed in 1946.