Earl Andre Childress, II (born April 6, 1974) is an American businessman, economic rights leader, ordained pastor, financial activist, and Democratic Candidate for the U.S. Representative for Missouri's 1st congressional district. The district includes all of the city of St. Louis and most of northern St. Louis County.
He is the founder and pastor of Christ Embassy Church International, located in St. Louis, Missouri.
Early Life and Education
Childress was born on April 6, 1974, in St. Louis; the only son to Jacqueline Hayes and Earl Amos Childress. He is the middle child of four sisters. As a child, Childress knew his parents, but never lived with either. While his mother raised his four sisters, Childress was raised by his great aunt Mahaley Purnell. Purnell never had any children of her own. In an interview, Childress stated that he grew up in poverty, but did not realize his family’s economic condition until he entered high school.
Childress graduated from Lindbergh High School, in Sunset Hills, Missouri in 1992. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Lindenwood University. He currently holds several professional licenses in multiple states in the insurance and funeral industries.
During the early years of his career, Childress worked for the Kiel Center Partners, former owners of the National Hockey League team, St. Louis Blues and the Trans World Dome, former home of the National Football League team, St. Louis Rams. He served as a general manager for U-Haul and a prep cook at the Olive Garden.
Childress entered the insurance industry in 1995 working with Penn Life, selling individual, supplemental insurance products to small business owners. While working for a local welding supply store, Childress began to observe the business practices of the company’s owner. He soon realized his desire to become an entrepreneur. In December of 1999, Childress became an Exclusive Agent with Allstate Insurance Company. He used income from his growing insurance agency to start a mortgage brokerage and a credit card processing independent sales organization.
From 2004 to 2006, Childress began selling his companies. In 2006, he announced plans to launch the now-defunct American Basketball Association team, St. Louis Stunners, with former National Basketball Association player Anthony Bonner as the head. In an interview, Childress admitted the venture could have been profitable, but was not due to the league’s unstable business model. He removed his team from the league at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
In March of 1990, Childress lost his cousin, Lamont Hayes to gun violence while exiting a local convenience store at the corner of Goodfellow and Natural Bridge in the city limits of St. Louis, Missouri. Hayes was 16 years old at the time of his death. Childress had briefly spoken with Hayes via phone hours before his murder. Hayes mentioned to Childress that he would be walking home soon from his grandmother’s house. On his way home, Hayes stopped by the store, which was around the corner from Childress’ home. Childress recalled hearing the fatal gun shots while lying across his bed.
While taking classes at a local junior college, Childress met classmate Nicole Rogers. She invited him to a bible study meeting located on campus host by Bishop James Holloway, pastor of Solomon's Temple Church. Childress and Rogers became friends. Childress began attending King of Kings Church of God in Christ International, where he became a licensed minister and assistance pastor.
In the summer of 1994, Childress was standing outside of his home talking with of couple of friends and his uncle, Kevin Hayes. Hayes was telling the group of young men that everyone, including himself, should all stop selling drugs and be committed to changing their lives for the better. At the end of the conversation, Hayes asked Childress to walk around the corner to the store with him. Childress agreed, but was interrupted by a phone call from Nicole Rogers. While talking with Rogers, Childress lost his house keys, which delayed him from leaving with Hayes. On the phone and looking for his keys, Hayes locked the door so Childress could not exit. Hayes began to walk to the store alone. After a few minutes, Childress ended the phone call and found his keys between sofa pillows. Childress opened the door. Hayes was at the end of the block. Within moments he was killed in a drive-by shooting.
On June 14, 1995, Childress married Nicole Rogers. The couple lived in St. Louis City during the early years of their marriage. They later moved to St. Louis County and purchased a home.
After selling his companies, Childress explained that he did not know how to manage large sums of money at that time in his life. He lost all his money; his home was foreclosed. Childress was homeless. For a year, Childress, his wife and children lived from hotel to hotel.
While staying at a distressed hotel property, Childress learned about the hotel business. He soon started the hotel management company, Guest 1st Hospitality. He looked at how different hotels treated him and his family. He noticed that despite their financial condition, the hotels that treated his family well were profitable. These properties tend to the needs of the guests over the needs of the owner’s profits. Childress launched Guest 1st Hospitality to help turn around distressed hotel properties. Childress used the principle of placing the needs of the guests over the need of the owners to turn hotels around.
After losing everything, Childress vowed to never let that happen to him again. He began to study wealth. He realized that he had obtained the principles of creating cash flow when he worked at the welding supply store, but never followed the principles he learned of preserving wealth. He began to rebuild his company. After helping a family member to develop an estate plan, Childress founded Earl Childress Investments, a black-owned, smart venture capital company.
Childress first entered ministry at King of Kings Church of God in Christ International under the leadership of Bishop Lewis Johnson. Johnson served in leadership under the late Bishop Dwight McDaniels of San Francisco Temple. Childress became an aspiring minister in 1994. He later was issued a license to minister. During his tenure at King of Kings Church, he served as the president of Home and Foreign Missions and the president of Evangelism. During his tenure with Bishop Johnson, Childress expressed this was where he learned to have compassion for people.
On September 11, 2005, Childress and his wife Nicole founded Christ Embassy Church International, located in St. Louis, Missouri. Childress was ordained pastor with the Assembly of God. Childress served seven years with the Southern Missouri District of the Assembly of God. In an interview, Childress stated during his time with the Assembly of God is where he learned about the political spectrum of the church and government. He credited the Assembly of God’s local leadership for sharpening his political skills. In a quote, Childress went on the record by saying, “The most important thing I learned from Presbyter Jack Hembree is not to rely on what people say, but to pay very close attention to their actions. Actions are more imperative that words. On April 6, 2019, the leadership of Christ Embassy Church voted to leave the Assembly of God and to become an independent non-denominational church.
Childress is a moderate New Democrat, supporting policies such as pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible, police refinement; educate options for reproductive rights, Health Care for All and increasing the federal minimum wage. Childress is an avid supporter of legislation to reduce crime, which will prevent unnecessary incarceration in low-income communities. He is also passionate about the Inmates to Entrepreneurs, a program founded by Brian Hamilton and Reverend Robert J. Harris to assist people with a criminal background in starting their own business by providing entrepreneurship education through in-person and online courses.
Childress share political ideologies with the New Democratic Coalition. Entering the 117th Congress, the New Democrat Coalition has 94 members (93 Representatives and one non-voting member), making it the largest ideological caucus in the Democratic Party and the second largest ideological caucus overall.
President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton identify as New Democrats. In March 2009, Barack Obama, said in a meeting with the New Democrat Coalition that he was a "New Democrat" and a "pro-growth Democrat", that he "supports free and fair trade" and that he was "very concerned about a return to protectionism."
Childress is also an advocate and strong supporter of the United States Armed Forces and closing the wealth gap in America.