In 1960, Pastor Matthew Allen Watley wrote a letter to the postmaster general asking that a stamp be issued in honor of Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Now, more than five decades later, his son, the Rev. William D. Watley, pastor of 6,000-member Saint Philip AME Church in Atlanta, can hold the stamp in his hand.
“It means a lot personally to have this stamp published, considering it was my father’s dream in 1960,” said Watley, a lifelong member of the AME church.
Allen, the AME’s first bishop, is featured in U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage Commemorative Series and was unveiled earlier this month at Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia. Watley didn’t attend that event but had a friend send him about 40 of the Allen stamps.
At 1 p.m. on Friday, Watley and Ronald Stroman, U.S. deputy postmaster general, will be on hand at a dedication ceremony at Saint Philip, 240 Candler Rd.
Allen, along with the Reverend Absalom Jones, helped found the Free African Society, a non-denominational religious mutual-aid society dedicated to helping the black community
It is the 39th stamp in the Black Heritage stamp series, which began in 1978 with Harriet Tubman.
Watley, 68, is also an avid stamp collector, a hobby he picked up a young boy and something he later put aside as a teenager when “school, sports and girls took precedence over stamps.”
He picked up the hobby again about 15 or 20 years ago.
Watley doesn’t keep count of all his stamps, but guesses he has thousands in his collection. His areas of interests are early American stamps and African-American-related ones. His favorites are those honoring former South African president and Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela and civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who is known for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, igniting a bus boycott that helped end segregation.
Watley collects stamps for enjoyment and hopes one day his four grandchildren will share his fondness for the lobby.
The Allen stamp will hold a special place in his collection.
“I plan to buy a bunch of them and keep them,” he said.