Z Holler: Radical Truth Seeker | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Z Holler: Radical Truth Seeker

October 25, 2017
Z Holler's sermons, in process, October 2017.

PHS recently brought into the collections the personal papers of Z Holler, a radical Jesus-follower, truth seeker, and Presbyterian. Our thanks first go out to Charlene Holler and the rest of Z's family, and to our friends in Salem Presbytery who spoke up on our behalf.

Zeb North Holler, Jr. was born 2 August 1928 in Atlanta and grew up attending services at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant (Greensboro, N.C.). Z graduated from Davidson College in 1949 and from Union Theological Seminary (Richmond., Va.) in 1958. From 1950 to 1955 he was a U.S. Navy aviator. From 1960 to 1964 he was pastor of the Young Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Anderson, S.C.), and a member of faculty at the Anderson School of Theology for Laymen. Z was pastor at Central Presbyterian Church (Atlanta, Ga.) from 1966 to 1968, and at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church (Clemson, S.C.) until 1979, when he took the pastorate at his home church, Church of the Covenant, in Greensboro. 

In Anderson, Z's church hosted a group of Freedom Riders. As his eulogist put it, "While they were there, he got a call from the Ku Klux Klan. They told him to stop. Z said no." While at Central Atlanta, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Z and the church opened its building to visiting mourners, housing some and feeding more than 5,000.

Two months after Z returned to Greensboro, a confrontation pitting labor and communist activists against Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan ended with five leftists dead and more than 20 wounded. Z ministered to Greensboro's African American community and promoted inter-racial "truth speaking" in the wake of the massacre.

Upon his retirement from Covenant in 1993, with Rev. Nelson Johnson and Barbara Dua, Z organized the Beloved Community Center, a non profit devoted to racial and economic justice. In 2001, Z co-chaired the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission Project, which culminated in the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission to address the effects of the 1979 massacre, the first group of its kind in the United States.