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Western North Carolina Conference Branch

Women's Mi​ssionary Society

of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Expanding Elevating Empowering

"We are Women Called to Discipleship"

Our Legacy

WNCC Branch Presidents

Sis. Frances Hope, Life Member - Compiler

Sis. Candice Capers, Historiographer-Statistician

Mrs. G. T. Thurman

1896 - Term Unknown

Elected the 1st WNC Branch President at the meeting in Wilmington and served for several years.  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories of the Minnie Pearson Area by the late Sister Roberta Justice Miles)

Mrs. E. M. King

Term Unknown

 The 2nd WNC Conference Branch President, succeeded Mrs. Thurman and served for three years until 1900. 

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories)

Mrs. Minnie Sumner Pearson

Term Unknown

Wife of Mr. W. G. Pearson and a member of St. Joseph's AME Church in Durham, NC, was elected the 3rd WNC Conference Branch President.  She was a great leader in the educational, civic, and religious arenas.  Some of her accomplishments over forty-years were as follows:  Teacher in the Durham County and City Schools, President of the NC Women's Federation Club, 1st Vice President of the Women's Home and Foreign Missionary Society.  She was active in the development of the Efland Home, and institution for Wayward Girls, President of the State Federation of Colored Women's Club, Chairman of the Women's Board of Lincoln Hospital, and a member of the boards of the Warren Library and of the YMCA. Following a missionary tour in Rich Square, NC, Mrs. Pearson, founder of the Minnie Pearson Area WMS, was inspired to consider starting a society at St. Joseph's AME Church around 1889.  Pearson Memorial AME Church in High Point, NC was erected in her honor.  She departed her life on September 5, 1940.  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and Sister Willia George)

Mrs. Vera L. Holt

Term Unknown

A graduate nurse from St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, NC, and a wife of Presiding Elder, K. C. Holt was elected the 4th WNC Conference Branch President.  She was recognized for her dynamic leadership.  Her missionary involvement included serving as Vice President of the Women's Home and Foreign Missionary Society of the WNCC.  Her work did not stand apart; it was united with the work of other dedicated women.  She resigned the office due to failing health.  The Central-Western District was named the Vera L. Holt Missionary Society in honor of Mrs. Vera L. Holt.  She departed this life in May 1964.  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and Sister Angie Pugh)

Mrs. Mary Holbrook Shepard

Term Unknown

A native of Spray, NC, was a member of St. Joseph's AME Church, Durham, NC, and the 5th WNC Branch President.  Her active participation included the position of Treasurer in the Women's Home and Foreign Missionary Society of the Western North Carolina Conference.  Mrs. Shepard's active participation discontinued due to ill health.  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and Sister Mary D. McAdams)

Mrs. Hortense Duhart

Served for 12 Years

 A native of Jacksonville, FL, and the wife of Dr. T.P. Duhart.  Mrs. Duhart was elected the 6th WNC Conference Branch President and served for 12 years.  Through the cooperative spirits of ministers, officers and members, progress was made in missions and the rewards were fruitful; she was truly a productive leader.  She departed this life in June 1983.  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and Sisters Katrena Horton and Willia George)

Mrs. Verdelle Johnston

1967 - 1972

A native of Walterboro, SC, wife of Rev. D.A. Johnston, and a member of St. Joseph's AME Church in Durham, NC.  She was elected the 7th WNC Conference Branch President in 1967.  Mrs. Johnston was a lifelong learner:  teaching for 42 years in Durham, Warren, and Northampton Counties in North Carolina, as well as in Berkley County and Orangeburg, SC.  In addition to serving as Conference Branch President, Mrs. Johnston served in the following capacities:  

*1960-1964 - Chair of PME for WNC Conference

*1971 - Connectional Historiographer and author of One Hundred Years of Victorious Service, detailing the role of women's missions in the AME Church.

*1980-1984 - PME Director for the 2nd Episcopal District under the leadership of Bishop John Hurst and Dr. Dolly Adams

*Served as 2nd Episcopal District WMS President, under the leadership of Bishop H.H. Brookins

*Served as Episcopal Supervisor of the 2nd District.

Mrs. Johnston was a Life Member of the WMS and departed this life on March 22, 2011.  Favorite Scripture:  "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."  Proverbs 3:6  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and obituary from Sister Emma Devine)

Mrs. Lessie T. Morrow

1972 - 1980

The wife of M. Lacy Morrow, was a native of Efland, NC, and a member of Gaines Chapel AME Church.  She became a conference worker in 1944 and served as Area Chairperson of the Minnie Pearson Area for eight years.  Mrs. Morrow was elected the 8th WNC Conference Branch President in November 1972, serving eight years.  In 1980 she was selected as 2nd Episcopal District Chairperson for Special Missions.  She was a dedicated Christian woman with a warm and winning smile.  Throughout her work and service in the A.M.E. church and as a missionary, she kept a deep and strong belief in her favorite biblical quotation that forever guided her:  "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like an eagle, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."  

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and Sisters Willia George and Maggie Loftin)

Mrs. Willia R. George

1980 - 1987

A native of Dunn, NC and the wife of the late Dr. Charles R. George was elected the 9th WNC Conference Branch President.  She is a member of St. Joseph's AME Church, Durham, NC where she served as Unit Chair of the Mary C. Evans Missionary Unit.  Following her election as WNC Conference Branch President, Mrs. George set forth the Conference's operational slogan: "An Action Agenda:  INSPIRED, INFORMED, AND INVOLVED."  Her emphasis was on the total development of all women in the conference and the development of positive awareness of each church in the Conference.  She served as a workshop presenter at the 1980 Quadrennial in New Orleans and was co-author of Voices of the Eighties, an A.M.E. Women's Missionary Society slide presentation.  From 1987-2011, Mrs. George was appointed International Chair of four Committees:

*Hughes-Smith Life Membership Committee (1987-1995)

*Creative & Performing Arts Commission (2003-2011)

*Quadrennial Convention Banner Chair, Philadelphia (2007)

*Banner Chair, Orlando, Florida (2011)

Mrs. George was named a Life Member of the WMS in 1987 and resides in Georgia.

  (Source:  W.M.S. Histories and information from Sister Willia George)

Mrs. Shirley James Sheares

1987 - 1995

A native of Darlington, SC, and the wife of the late Presiding Elder James N. Sheares, was elected the 10th WNC Conference Branch President. Mrs. Sheares was a member of St. Paul AME Church, Raleigh, NC. She taught at Kittrell College, Johnston County Community College, and at Shaw University in Raleigh. She served in the A.M.E. Women’s Missionary Society as Local President, the Martha McCauley Area Chair, Conference Christian Social Relations Chair, Western North Carolina Conference Branch President, and as 2nd Episcopal District president. During her tenure in the Western North Carolina Conference. She was a huge supporter and promoter for the Dorcas fundraiser each year, raising thousands of dollars for missions. At the conclusion of the Dorcas Extravaganza each year, Mrs. Sheares joined in the celebration by leading in the singing of her favorite song, “What a Mighty God We Serve!” Mrs. Sheares was a guiding force and spearheaded the purchase of the Homeless Shelter in Raleigh. Over the years the name of the Shelter was changed to the 2nd District AME Men’s Incentive Shelter and later to the AME Empowerment Center. Following her passing, the Empowerment Center was renamed in her honor – The Shirley J. Sheares Empowerment Center. Mrs. Sheares was named a Life Member of the WMS in 1996 and departed this life on February 24, 2020. 

(Source: From W.M.S. Histories and information from Sister Diane Tawwab)

Mrs. Everlena Diggs

1995 - 2003

 A native of Roxboro, NC, and the wife of Rev. William Diggs, is a member of Turners Chapel AME Church, High Point, NC.  Mrs. Diggs was elected the 11th WNC Conference Branch President and has held the following positions in the Women's Missionary Society:


*YPD Director

*Vice President


*Chaired numerous other committees


*Served as Ethyel Anderson Area Chair

*Served as Minnie Pearson Area Chair

*Incorporated end of year Annual Banquets, 


*Served as Conference Branch President

*Served as PME Director

*Served as Vice President (established the first President's Retreat), *Conference raised highest amounts of Dorcas monies for three consecutive years

*Coined the phrase "The West is the Best."


*Served as Parliamentarian and 1st Vice President


*Organized annual WNCC Life Members Luncheon

Mrs. Diggs gives God all of the credit for her accomplishments.  Mrs. Diggs resides in High Point, NC and was named a Life Member in October 2005.

(Source:  W.M.S. Histories and information from Sister Everlena Diggs)

Dr. Gertrude R. Foust

2004 - 2012

A native of Mebane, NC, and the wife of the late Presiding Elder Benjamin Foust, was elected the 12th WNC Conference Branch President.  Mrs. Foust is a member of Bethel AME Church, Greensboro, NC, and her works in mission over many years include the following:


*President of the Odessa Harris WMS at Bethel AME Church, Greensboro, NC *President of Lila Mae Frazier WMS, St. John AME Church, Baltimore, MD *Organized first Soup Kitchen in the City of Baltimore and received $20,000 donation from area businessmen to assist with this effort. 

*While at St. John AME Church, Baltimore, MD, worked with the Baltimore Department of Social Services to implement a successful self-sufficiency program for low-income families, which included cooking classes, GED classes, resume preparation, dressing for success, and a clothes closet.


*Appointed as Assistant to the Martha McCauley Area Chair


*WNC Conference Branch President

*1st VP, Baltimore Conference

*Editor for the first newsletter for the WNCC entitled "Wake-up and Let's Go."


*Recording Secretary

*1st Vice President

*Editor of the first Newsletter for the 2nd Episcopal District


*Served as Connectional Commissioner by appointment

*Has attended all Quadrennial Conventions since 1971

While in Baltimore as President of the Lila Mae Frazier Missionary Society, she presented the idea to the Baltimore Conference local societies to name their society after a missionary who had dedicated their life to missions.  When she relocated to North Carolina, this idea was presented to the WNCC and now all missionary societies are named for their outstanding missionaries.

Mrs. Foust resides in Greensboro, NC and was named a Life Member in 1986.  Her favorite Scripture is:  "O taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him."  Psalm 34:8

(Source:  From W.M.S. Histories and information from Sister Gertrude Foust)

Mrs. Frances H. Hope

2012  -2013

A native of Hillsborough, NC, and the wife of the late Leroy Hope, is a member of Flat Rock AME Church, Hillsborough, NC.  Mrs. Hope was elected the 13th WNC Conference Branch President in 2012.  She was exposed to the works of missions at an early age and has served in the following positions in the Women's Missionary Society:


*President - 1996-2003 and 2010-2012

*PME Director - 2003-2009

*Recording Secretary - 1968-1975


*Creative Arts Chair - 2001-2003

*Minnie Pearson Area Chair - 2003-2006


*1st Vice President and Chair of Commission on Christian Social Action - 2006-2012

*Elected Delegate to 16th and 17th Quadrennial Conventions in 2006 and 2010

*WNC Conference Branch President - 2012-2013


*Served as Delegate to 16th and 17th Quadrennial Conventions in 2006 and 2010

*Served as WNCC Strategic Initiatives Coordinator for 2012 Prison Fellowship Angel Tree


*Served on Credential Committee as Delegate to the 16th WMS Quadrennial Convention in Philadelphia, PA

*Served on Registration Committee as Delegate to 17th WMS Quadrennial Convention in Orlando, FL

Mrs. Hope began her tenure full of excitement, kicking off with a themed retreat - "Seat at the Table" - in the Western North Carolina mountains.  The retreat was well attended and generated much excitement and cooperation as the conference began its work.  Early in Mrs. Hope's term, it was determined that the revised term limits provision in the 2012-2016 Constitution and Bylaws required everyone serving on a level would have to sit out for one year.  Mrs. Hope's service on the Conference level included seven as 1st Vice President and one as Conference President, thereby causing her to serve for only one year.  But God is good - the works of the WNCC WMS did not diminish during that year.  The missionaries participated in the AARP Subscription Drive; the WMS Magazine Campaign; the District Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Initiative; Breast Cancer Awareness; the collection of food, personal care items and cleaning products for the AME Incentive Shelter; distribution of food to the Second Harvest Food Bank, service at soup kitchens; feeding and clothing of the homeless; and participation in informative workshops on Domestic Violence and the WMS Constitution and Bylaws.

Mrs. Hope was named a Life Member in 2013 and resides in Graham, NC.  Her favorite scripture is:  "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

(Source:  Information from Sister Frances H. Hope)

Mrs. Nikki Walker Lyons

2013 - 2021

A native of Raleigh, NC and the wife of Rev. Dr. Steven L. Lyons, is a member of St. Paul AME Church, Raleigh, NC.  Mrs. Lyons was elected the 14th WNC Conference Branch President in 2013 and has held the following positions in the Women's Missionary Society:


*2nd Vice President, Treasurer, and PME Director - Addie G. Stroud WMS, St. Paull AME Church, Raleigh, NC

*President - Pankey-McLaurin WMS, Allen Chapel AME Church, Laurinburg, NC

*Member - Sarah Allen WMS, St. James AME Church, Winston-Salem, NC

*Member - Cates-Hester WMS, Mt. Zion AME Church, Hillsborough, NC


*Martha McCauley Area Chair, 2006-2012

*1st Vice President

*Membership and Recruitment Chair


*Served as Conference Branch President

*Elected Delegate to 17th Quadrennial Convention in 2011 in Orlando, FL

*Implemented new electronic registration process

*Implemented Generational Breakfast

*Implemented Pearl Recognition Awards

*Supported domestic violence prevention and abuse organizations

*Provided Summer Food Service Feeding Sites

*Initiated adopt a school projects, given support to children in Foster Care

*Partnered with Alamance County Habitat for Humanity


*Most funds raised for Dollars for Missions and Dorcas Extravaganza

*Appointed By Bishop James Levert Davis as Board Chair for the Shirley J. Sheares Empowerment Center.


*Delegate to 17th WMS Quadrennial Convention in Orlando, FL

Mrs. Lyons resides in Knightdale, NC and received her license to preach from the AME Church on February 9, 2018.  She and her husband opened the Steven L. Lyons Funeral Home in Raleigh in 2012.


Mrs. Diane Tawwab

2021 - Present

Mrs. Diane H. Tawwab

2021 - Present

Our current President was elected as the 15th Western NC Conference Branch President on April 29th, 2021.  Her vision for the Conference is in threefolds: Engage, Embrace and Empower every missionary to complete the divine assignment. Teach to Engage.....Embrace grant writing to make a difference: further impacting the communities we serve and beyond. Empower through shared, timely and relevant information.  Equipping missionaries across the Western North Carolina Conference to serve their communities and beyond. 

President Tawwab is a serving member of Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC. Her passion and commitment to the work of Missions is evident by her service on all levels of the Global Women’s Missionary Society. God as the head of her life; Sister Tawwab has faith that the... “Best is Yet to Come”.

Sis. Tawwab resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband Mikel Tawwab; they are a blended family of four daughters, one son and twelve grandchildren.  She is the eldest of four siblings.