Rev. William “Rick” Badger Retires from New
Beginnings Alliance Church
Saving People and Souls
|The photos are of Rev. William "Rick" Badger's retirement party and last
service at New Beginnings Alliance Church.
“I ran across a gospel tract left by Campus Crusade for Christ,” Badger recalled. “I remember reading that tract and I wanted to make sure that I would go to
heaven. I ended up getting down on my knees in the college dorm and asked the Lord to come into my life and save me. I asked 5-10 times and finally it dawned on
me that He heard me. And then I started to have a hunger for God’s Word. We started a little bible study on campus. It wasn’t a campus group. It was just students
who got together and formed their own bible study. And then the Lord kind of changed the direction of my life.”
While Badger’s mom wanted him to become a lawyer, Badger decided to pursue the ministry upon graduation and enrolled in Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
where he studied for 1-2 years. To support himself, he got a job at an accounting firm.
“I had a part time job doing set-up and mail runs and that kind of stuff,” Badger said. “I had just gotten to Chicago and got this job. They wanted me to make a bank
run. I’m thinking it was a little money. It was thousands of dollars in cash. I guess they wanted Moody students because they knew that we wouldn’t take the
money and run. We took public transportation. I was just sitting there thinking that all of these folks knew that I had all this money and I would get robbed. I was
carrying thousands of dollars.”
After he finished at Moody Bible Institute, Badger went home to Philadelphia to preach his first sermon.
“I was arguing against my calling myself,” Badger said. “I went to Moody just to find out about God’s word. I wasn’t going there to preach. I wasn’t planning on
becoming a preacher. But as I was learning, I thought, ‘Man why am I getting all of this and then keeping it to myself?’ In November 1978, I preached my first
sermon back in Philadelphia at Corinthian Baptist Church and got licensed for the ministry. I grew up in the church. And I figured that if I ever did preach, those
who knew me would have to authenticate my call. I wasn’t living in Philly at the time, but I preached my first sermon there.”
On the lay side of his life, Badger had gotten a degree in government and social work, which included being an intern in a juvenile probation office in Zanesville,
Ohio. After leaving Moody, Badger got his first professional job at the juvenile court in Cook County. It was quite the eye-opening experience.
“Being a juvenile probation officer had its challenges,” Badger said with a smile. “But I enjoyed it. At the time, I was assigned to a place called Grand Blvd. on the
south side of Chicago. They had the high rises there, Ida B. Wells and Robert Taylor. They had 19-20 floors. You had to walk up the stairs because the elevators
weren’t working. They had beautiful lake views. I’m not surprised that eventually all of those properties were taken down and they have condos now because they
have a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. Grand Blvd. was interesting. It had those projects. It had Chinatown. It had Hyde Park where President Obama lives. And
it has Bridgeport on the other side of the Dan Ryan Expressway. They are four different, distinct neighborhoods. The only place I couldn’t go by myself was
Bridgeport where Mayor Dailey and them were from. As an African American officer, my supervisor told me that I couldn’t go over there by myself. But I could go to
the projects by myself. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it.”
After serving in various capacities in Chicagoland for almost 10 years, Badger decided to look for a job that would pay him a breadwinner’s wage.
“I ended up getting married,” Badger said. “I ended up having children. And I needed more money. I looked into federal probation. I wanted to get a federal
probation job in Chicago. But the door didn’t open there. I went to Gary, Indiana. The door opened there, but the judge required all new hires to live in Indiana. I had
just bought a house in Chicago. I wasn’t feeling moving to Gary, Indiana. The chief in Gary told the chief here in Madison about me. And he asked, ‘Would you like
to live in Madison, Wisconsin?’ All I knew about Madison was it was the state capitol and the university was there. I didn’t know anything about the lakes or
anything. I knew it was colder than Chicago. They were looking for an officer. In fact, I was blessed to be the first African American officer in Western Wisconsin.
That was what brought me to Madison in April 1989.”
When Badger came to Madison in 1989, the crack cocaine epidemic and the resulting criminal activity were in full bloom in some of Madison’s vulnerable
communities. As a federal probation officer, Badger was privy to what was going on.
“I first learned all of the job in terms of doing pre-sentence reports, bail reports and supervision,” Badger said. “But I like to do supervision when people come out
of federal prison. For all of my 20 years, I supervised offenders coming out of federal prison. The drug stuff was going on then. I was supervising a little bit of
everything, some white collar, but also gang stuff. Madison was denying that it had a gang issue and I was seeing the same graffiti in Madison that I saw in
Chicago. With the Gangster Disciples, the Vice Lords and Latin Kings, the money trail led up the Interstate.”
Badger found himself sitting in on some of the regional taskforces.
“I sat in on the meetings in Madison,” Badger recalled. “I didn’t think it was necessary at first. I went to the first meeting and they talked about someone I
supervised dealing in dope. I told my chief, ‘I think I need to go to these meetings.’ Noble Wray was part of that. I didn’t work with him directly, but I knew who he
was. They had officers applying the Blue Blanket and I worked with those officers. We had not only Madison PD, we also had Dane County sheriffs, federal folks
and others on the taskforce. It got everyone on the same page.”
It was the service piece that attracted Badger to the profession.
“What I most found fulfilling as a probation officer was helping people change their lives around, from being law breakers to being law-abiding,” Badger confided.
“That’s why I wanted to do supervision. I wanted to work with offenders and their families.”
With his social work background, Badger was primed for saving people or at least helping them save themselves.
Next issue: New Beginnings Alliance Church
By Jonathan Gramling
Ever since he came to town in 1989, Rev. William “Rick” Badger has been a quiet
force in Madison’s African American community and beyond. Badger served as an
associate minister under Rev. James C. Wright in the 1990s before moving over to
New Beginnings Alliance Church on Madison’s east side. There was a reason Badger
remained low-profile for most of his stay in Madison. He was a federal probation agent
where anonymity has its rewards.
Badger retired as a probation officer in 2009 and on Sunday, December 31, 2017, he
presided over his last service at New Beginnings, passing the baton off to Interim
Pastor Carlton Porter.
Now at first, it may seem that being the pastor of a church and a federal probation
agent were disparate lines of work. But in reality, they allowed Badger to help save
people and souls no matter what field of endeavor he was pursuing.
But first, Badger, a native of Philadelphia had to spiritually save himself. His journey
took him to Ohio.
“I ended up going to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio,” Badger said. “They called it the
Party School of Ohio. That’s where I had my spiritual encounter. I remember going
there and couldn’t find a church. Keep in mind that I grew up in Philadelphia and was
used to going to Black churches in the inner city. My first year, I didn’t even go to
church. But I was looking for a church my second year and we finally found a church,
a little Black church. The only people there were the pastor, his wife and the deacon
and his wife. I was thinking, ‘You can’t have a church without a choir. Where’s the
choir?’ So seven of us started a gospel choir from campus called the Gospel Voices
of Faith. It ended up being a college organization. We had a sponsor, Dr. Francine
Childs. It lasted for 40 some years. We toured in Texas. Our advisor took us to
different places. It kept on going. We started a bible study out of there. But that’s when
God got a hold of me. The church was called Mt. Zion, believe it or not.”
While Badger was church-going, it didn’t necessarily mean that he was a passionate
believer. And then one day, he picked up a pamphlet.