Clarence Fielder, history professor emeritus at New Mexico State University and teacher in Las Cruces Public Schools for more than 50 years who died in 2015 was a much-loved educator. He was also a passionate preservation advocate who led restoration efforts for Phillips Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.), the first African American Church in Las Cruces.
Now Fielder’s own history will be preserved for future generations when his archive of papers, photographs and videos of his life and the restoration of Philips Chapel are donated to the City of Las Cruces Museum System. Phillips Chapel Restoration Group will give a public presentation about his life at 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main Street.
“Beyond his distinguished career as an educator and his role as a community leader, Clarence was the soul and guiding spirit of the project to restore the oldest extant African American church building in New Mexico,” said Beth O’Leary, NMSU anthropology professor emerita who worked closely with Fielder on the restoration, which was completed in 2014. “Built in 1911, it also served as a school for Black children during the period of segregation in the Las Cruces Public Schools (1925 -1954).”
Fielder led NMSU faculty, students and community volunteers in restoration efforts Philips Chapel was founded by Fielder’s grandfather and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to the African American Community. The church is located at 638 N. Tornillo Street.
“The Clarence H. Fielder Archive will preserve for posterity the record of Clarence’s life, the restoration of Phillips Chapel and the history of the African American Community of Las Cruces,” O’Leary said.
Information from NMSU