In the decade of the Civil Rights Movement, in the South, an Arkansas man named Paul Holderfield, Sr., better known as Brother Paul, made a change in his own life that rippled into a change in his family and later, a change in his community of North Little Rock.  


For North Little Rock natives and those who inhabit the areas surrounding the central Arkansas community, this story may not be one that is new, but one that is important nonetheless. Part of Holderfield’s story will be depicted in Paul’s Promise, a movie that chronicles his life and the legacy he left behind.


Paul Holderfield Jr. is the son of Holderfield Sr. and is a family member of Brother Paul committed to continuing his father’s life’s work. 


“It was so surreal to learn that people wanted to make a movie about my father. When I learned who wanted to make it and why they wanted to make it, it all made sense,” Holderfield, Jr. said. 



(Photo courtesy of Paul’s Promise)



Two years ago, in the summer of 2020, with the backdrop of racial turmoil, Holderfield Jr. explained that a production company reached out in hopes of creating a movie about Brother Paul, and his story of creating a church, Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene, and the soup kitchen and food pantry, Feeding and Loving All Men Equally (F.L.A.M.E.). Friendly Chapel is well known for the stance it took on integration and its legacy of boasting more than 50 years of racial reconciliation. 


Paul’s Promise stars Ryan O’Quinn – who plays Brother Paul – Linda Purl, Shari Rigby, Nancy Stafford, Josef Cannon and Dean Cain. The movie was written by Vitya Stevens; directed by Matthew Reithmayr and produced by O’Quinn, Michael Davis, Heather O’Quinn and Taylor Cole. 


(Photo courtesy of Paul’s Promise)


“Ryan O’Quinn reminds me so much of my dad, even when he’s just being himself and not in character. He’s emotional like my father, he thanks others like my dad, he stands like my dad and he lifts Christ, just like my dad,” Holderfield Jr. said. 


Brother Paul & O’Quinn Comparison


Holderfield Jr.’s biggest hope for this movie is that it will be a chance for people to see the difference that Jesus makes. “Even if they’ve never thought much about Christ, my greatest hope is that they would at least be inquisitive about what is happening,” Holderfield, Jr said, explaining that the Holderfield family does not want any money from this project in the possibility that it creates any profit. 


Who Brother Paul was:


Holderfield Jr. describes his father’s story as a unique one in which his dad realized his prejudiced beliefs were in fact, wrong. To fully understand, readers have to understand who Brother Paul was, which was a lot of things. 


The son of a sharecropper, Brother Paul grew up in Scott, a small town outside Little Rock. Holderfield Jr. explains his father didn’t stay in school for long, because he spent  helping his father working and picking cotton instead.

Not only accustomed to the hard work of physical labor, Brother Paul also was exposed to the hard work that takes place inside of a boxing ring. Brother Paul and his brother, Buddy, both trained as boxers. Not only did Holderfield Sr. win the Arkansas Golden Gloves Championship twice, but he also reached the National Golden Gloves finals. In his career as a professional fighter, Brother Paul won several fights. Buddy also won several titles professionally. 


(Photo courtesy of Holderfield, Jr. )



With a background in fighting and farming, Holderfield then became a firefighter with the City of North Little Rock. His days of firefighting provided him a first-row seat watching the integration of Central High School unfold. 


“My dad was acting foolish with the other firefighters and they were all just doing what they had been taught. When my dad saw a friend, Jimmy Lipkin, he refused to shake his hand because he was scared of what the other firefighters would think,” Holderfield Jr. recalled. He further explain this moment proved pivotal in his father’s life, and became a moment that his father was determined to never repeat. “He called my mother and told her that he knew he had been taught wrong. He promised to never do anything like that again, and he didn’t care what people said about it.” 



Lipkin was Brother Paul’s good friend, a man who often drove him to the North Little Rock Boy’s Club, where he practiced his passion, fighting. 


Not only did Brother Paul keep his promise, but he also remained a servant in the community. While Holderfield Jr.’s dad was protecting families from fires, he also found ways to get involved with athletics. Vestal Park was a happening place in the world of baseball, and Brother Paul was heavily involved in the ins and outs of the diamond. 



(Photo courtesy of Paul’s Promise)



Arvis Harper, known as the first Black starting quarterback in the 1970’s at North Little Rock prep, was a multi-skilled athlete from the time he was a child. At Vestal Park Brother Paul eventually had the opportunity to coach Harper in the sport for which he would later become a professional.


“Harper was great, he ended up being a professional baseball player for the Houston Astros. No one had picked him, but my dad did while he was coaching for the fire department,” Holderfield, Jr. explained, noting that his father was able to coach Harper for three years. 


(Photo courtesy of Paul’s Promise)



Holderfield Jr. remembers his dad for a lot, including his work ethic. During 1969, 12 years after the incident that changed his mind, Brother Paul was working hard and spending as much time as possible with his mother, known for her vigilant prayers, who was sick. 


“My grandmother was a prayer warrior in every sense of the word. I know she prayed for all of her kids, but my father was the youngest, and she really prayed fervently for him,” Holderfield, Jr. said. 


In the same year, Brother Paul began taking his wife, Barbara, and their kids to church, where he was baptized. 



(Photo courtesy of Holderfield, Jr.)



“We all started going to church regularly, and my brother started bringing his friend, who happened to be Black, with him. It was then that my parents started to be met with a lot of prejudice,” Holderfield, Jr. said. 


Starting Friendly Chapel: 


In looking at the prejudice that they observed in the church they attended, and in many churches throughout Central Arkansas, Brother Paul and his wife, Barbara, prayed for a solution. 


“My father who was uneducated and a fireman, felt led to start a church. He wanted a church where everyone was welcomed and a church that everyone could attend,” Holderfield Jr. said, citing his grandmother’s prayers as a reason for this calling.



(Photo courtesy of Holderfield, Jr.)



The incident that had happened years prior had started a snowball effect, creating a highlight of good within the community. Friendly Chapel was created as a way for everyone to be welcome to worship, no matter their skin color. Holderfield, Jr. now serves as the pastor at Friendly Chapel, which is located at 116 S. Pine St.


Holderfield, Jr. explained further that when his father became a christian, he also started feeding the kids that attended the North Little Rock Boy’s Club. 


“My father knew what it was like to be hungry, and he knew what it was like to watch his mother say grace over a meal that had no food. He sat down many days for meals with no food.  He always had so much respect for his mom,” Holderfield, Jr. said. 




Bro. Paul with Lipkin. (Photo courtesy of Holderfield, Jr.)


When his dad became passionate about starting the church, he sought help from his neighbor and good friend Jim Wetherington. Although it broke every rule for the Boy’s Club, Brother Paul started holding church at the venue. 


“We [the church] wanted to be a sermon seen in that neighborhood, we held activities and we loved the people. The neighborhood might not have wanted us there when we started the church, but they came to love the church in the community,” Holderfield, Jr. 


This mission continued in the practice of the soup kitchen, which is still running. 


“My dad would give away everything he had to help others in need. Other people saw love in action. There were a lot of pastors and a lot of preachers in the area, but people truly saw love in the way my father lived his life,” Holderfield Jr. said. 


Brother Paul’s Legacy: 


Brother Paul died in January of 1998, after a lifetime of fighting injustice and fighting for good, as well as pushing for equality in a historically tense time period. Holderfield, Jr. took over as the lead pastor at the time of his dad’s death and to this day has continued his father’s life’s work.



Paul Holderfield, Jr. (Photo courtesy of Friendly Chapel)


Eventually, Holderfield, Sr., had about eight blocks of the road that leads to the Friendly Chapel named after him, Brother Paul Drive, formerly known as Arkansas Avenue. About 10 years after the fact, Holderfield Jr. said the road was renamed again in to connect Hilary and Bill Clinton’s roads together on the presidential bridge. 


Brother Paul accomplished a lot of noteworthy things around his community, which did not go unnoticed. In everything he achieved in his life, he made sure to respond in giving back as much as he could. Holderfield, Jr. remembers his parents speaking often about retirement and travel before they decided to start the church and his parents being entirely selfless after they started the church. 


“I’ve met a lot of people, and a lot of people know the Holderfield name because of my dad and my uncle Buddy. My dad gave everything he had away. He didn’t leave me any money or property, but he left me an example of a committed life filled with purpose. I’ve never met anyone as wealthy as myself because of it,” Holderfield, Jr., said. “He left me a legacy to live by.” 





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