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Church celebrating pastors 90th birthday
Superintendent Maurice Cotton of the Highlight Church of God and Christ will be celebrating his 90th birthday Sunday at the Lathrop Community Center. His wife, Minnie Lee Cotton, and other family members will be there for him in proxy. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT
LATHROP – Maurice Cotton of the Highlight Church of God and Christ will be celebrating his 90th birthday this weekend.

For the past 35 years, he’s been the superintendent of the house of worship located at Lathrop Road and Cambridge Drive.

A special event is planned for the Cotton family patriarch on Sunday at the Lathrop Community Center, 15557 Fifth St. beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Due to health-related issues, Maurice Cotton will likely miss his special day. “I don’t want to risk him being outside, especially in this weather,” said Minnie Lee Cotton, his wife of 64 years and assistant superintendent of the church, earlier this week.

She’s expecting family – included are nine children along with numerous grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – and the “Old Faithful 40” of the congregation to be in attendance at the special function honoring her husband.

City of Lathrop dignitaries are also scheduled to be on hand to provide special recognition to Maurice Cotton, according to granddaughter Elizabeth Burse Cotton.

“We have 130 coming so far but we’re expecting about 200,” she said.

That was the population of Allensworth, a rural community in Tulare County where Maurice and Minnie Cotton settled in 1947. They owned a soul food hamburger wagon while Maurice Cotton also worked the land, picking cotton at the nearby farms.

Allensworth was a self-governing town having no more than two traffic signals, one hotel, and 27 African-American families, recalled Maurice Cotton in a 1989 Fresno Bee story.

Life was simpler back then. The Cottons lived in a house with no running water.

“We had to haul in our water (from the well), strain it and then boil it,” Minnie recalled.

She added, “I never liked Allensworth, but I loved him – that’s why I stayed there.”

Not much remains of the town. What’s left is known today as Col. Allensworth State Historic Park.

Maurice Cotton, who is a second-generation Pentecostal pastor and Army veteran, moved his family north to Stockton. They lived in a complex for families of military veterans in Sierra Vista.

“It was clean at first,” Minnie recalled. “But then it got crowded and it became too much.”

They also had a place of worship in South Stockton, using a place on 10th Street, Winnie Cotton said.

The Cottons later moved to Lathrop, establishing the Highlight Church of Christ and God about 35 years ago.

“We’re not a big congregation but we do offer a good (worship) service,” Winnie said.

Maurice Cotton has stepped aside from the pulpit in recent years. He’s since turned things over to Randolph Kirkland and his son, Marvin Cotton.

The landmark birthday event for the older Cotton will include dinner along with a power point presentation, capturing memories of yesteryear.

Attire is semi formal and a money tree will be available.

For more information, call 916-346-4767.