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Wesley M. "Pat" Pattillo

Associate General Secretary,
 Justice, Advocacy and Communication

Wesley M. (Pat) Pattillo is Associate General Secretary, Justice, Advocacy and Communication of  the National Council of Churches USA.

He joined the Council staff in February 2001 as Associate General Secretary for Communication, and was elected to his current post by the NCC Governing Board in November 2007, a result of the restructuring of the Council.

Before coming to the Council, Pattillo served three prominent Baptist educational institutions:

  • Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., as Vice President for University Relations, 1986-94.
  • Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, the sole surviving Christian university in the People’s Republic of China, as Director of North American Relations,1996-2001.
  • Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. the flagship institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, as Vice President for Development and Public Relations, 1972-86.

He also served as President of Jack and Ruth Eckerd's National Foundation for Youth in Clearwater, Fla., 1994-96, working with the founders to underwrite programs of intervention and rehabilitation for troubled teenagers and children.

Pattillo earned degrees in journalism and mass communications from the University of Georgia and Ohio State University.  He has held a number of media positions, including broadcast news reporter, account executive for an advertising agency, and reporter for a daily newspaper.  He later studied in the Warren Deem Institute for Educational Management at Columbia University, under a grant from the Lilly Endowment through the Association of Theological Schools.  

In the 1990's he was writer and moderator for seven annual nationwide teleconferences on congregational communications, produced by United Methodist Communications in collaboration with Religion Communicators Council, an interfaith organization of which he was national president. 

For ten years, 1985-95, he chaired the promotion and development commission of the Baptist World Alliance.

Pattillo is a member of the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Communications and Society.   He also serves as a North American board member for the World Association of Christian Communication, which works for media justice around the globe, especially in developing nations.  

At the height of the Civil Rights movement, Pattillo was part of an interfaith student delegation welcoming the University of Georgia’s first black student, Charlayne Hunter, in the midst of angry protests in the community.  Months later, as a young reporter for a broadcast station in Birmingham, Ala., his sense of justice often put him at odds with station executives who preferred that stories unfavorable to the city be watered down or ignored altogether.

"These were the days of Bull Connor (the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham who violently repressed Civil Rights demonstrations) and the horrifying bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church," Pattillo recalls. "When I spoke in defense of the demonstrators and their equal rights under the law, my parents' pastor told them, 'I think Pat has been duped by Communist propaganda.'  I was simply acting on Christian commitments learned from my grandfather, a Methodist circuit-rider, who had worked tirelessly as a pioneering advocate for racial justice in the 1940s and 1950s."

In addition to earning professional accreditation (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America, Pattillo was honored by his peers with election to life membership in the PRSA College of Fellows in 1993.  He also earned CFRE certification from the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives, and was recognized by NSFRE in 1990 as fund-raising executive of the year in Alabama.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) honored him with the national U.S. Steel Award for sustained achievement in institutional advancement. He served as chair of CASE's senior professionals division for the Southeast region.

His wife, Zelma Mullins Pattillo, is an ordained Baptist minister and a board certified chaplain. She recently retired after 18 years as coordinator of spiritual care for New Beacon Hospice, an ecumenical ministry of the Catholic and Baptist health care systems serving 22 counties in North Alabama.

The Pattillos are parents of two adult children. For almost two decades they were members of Baptist Church of the Covenant, an inner-city Birmingham congregation born in the civil rights struggle of the 1960's,  and a founding member of the Alliance of Baptists, an NCC communion.  In New York, they are active members of Marble Collegiate Church, a congregation of the Reformed Church in America, also an NCC communion.

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