Black History Month Spotlight: Major Dale Simmons
Major Dale Simmons’ childhood was spent in the projects of Chicago, where he faced poverty and physical abuse. He didn’t know anything about The Salvation Army beyond the existence of a building about a mile down the road.
“There was an elderly lady who paid my friend and me $0.50 a piece to walk her down to The Salvation Army corps,” said Major Dale. “Across the street from the corps, there was a candy store, so after we dropped her off, we would go spend our change, play some video games, and go back to get her.”
One day, his friend was not able to join them, so 9-year-old Dale assisted his neighbor alone. When they arrived at the corps, the officer son and some of the corps kids were playing ball on the lawn beside the building and asked Dale if he wanted to join. He gladly joined in and soon became a regular at the weekly gathering. “And just for the record, I got the whole dollar that day!” Major Dale joked.
When his new friends attended vacation Bible school that summer, Dale tagged along and was soon attending church services on Sundays. Before long, his family began to join him at the corps, but they never felt like black culture was truly celebrated in the predominantly Caucasian congregation. That all changed when he met Majors Stephen and Diane Harper, Salvation Army officers who embraced the Simmons family and recognized great potential in Dale.
“Up until then, I had never seen my people or culture represented,” shared Major Dale. “Majors Steve and Diane Harper combined the church and culture for me. At that point, I knew this is what God wanted.”
Thirty-four years later, Majors Dale and Becky Simmons have one goal in mind: to embrace diversity while reflecting the local community in Michigan City, IN. Since their leadership began in Michigan City, they’re congregation has naturally began diversifying, welcoming more black families as well as a Latino family. “We’ve created a blended ministry here,” said Major Dale. “Our hope is that it will stay that way.”
“Just recently, the fire chief told me, ‘One thing we appreciate about you is that you have become part of the community,’” Major Dale added. “That’s exactly what we want to do.”