The Rev. Joseph Darby, longtime senior pastor of Morris Brown AME Church, has been promoted to presiding elder of the 33 churches in the AME Church’s Beaufort District.

Darby, who was assigned to Morris Brown in 1998, has become a prominent figure in civil rights activism, interfaith dialogues and addressing community needs. He is first vice president of the Charleston NAACP branch, former first vice president of the state NAACP and former president of the S.C. Christian Action Council.

Darby said he will continue to live in Charleston and will remain in his NAACP post. However, his new AME role will take him around the district. He preached last Sunday at Grace Chapel in Beaufort.

Morris Brown, a historic 3,000-member church in downtown Charleston, is the largest in the AME’s 7th Episcopal District and has a long history of supporting civil rights. In 1969, Morris Brown was the headquarters for the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during a strike by the service workers of Charleston’s hospitals. Today, its members include such prominent figures as U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, assistant Democratic leader.

Morris Brown’s new senior pastor is the Rev. Charles R. Watkins Jr., who had been pastor of Greater Goodwill AME in Mount Pleasant. A writer and religion professor, Watkins served in the Army for 21 years as a paratrooper and in roles including an assignment to the president’s escort.