Black Christian Leaders and Influencers Who Died in 2019

Rev. Cameron M. Alexander

The Rev. Cameron Madison Alexander, longtime senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church North, has died.

The Rev. Cameron Madison Alexander, who spent more than four decades in the pulpit of Atlanta’s Antioch Baptist Church North, has died. He was 86. His daughter, Maria Hunter, confirmed his death after a brief illness. “He was the most loving, caring  and dedicated,” she said. “He loved the Lord and spent his entire life making sure that others knew Him and salvation.” “He was more than a pastor to me,” said Atlanta poet Hank Stewart, who has been a member of Antioch for more than three decades. “He was like a father to me and so many other people.  Part of the reason I do poetry is because it was a gift from God, but secondly, because my pastor encouraged me to get out there and give it my best. Instead of aborting my dream, he fertilized it.” According to the historic African-American church’s website, Alexander became pastor in 1969.

Lamin Sanneh

Lamin Sanneh, the Gambian scholar who shaped contemporary discourse around World Christianity and missions in Africa, died Sunday at age 76. As Sanneh wrote in his autobiography, he was “summoned from the margins,” a convert from Islam to Christianity raised in the tiny West African nation. Over his 30-year career at Yale Divinity School as well as stints at the University of London and two Pontifical Commissions, he brought World Christianity to the forefront, drawing a global network of scholars and friends around his scholarship in the fields of African history, abolitionism, and Christian-Muslim relations.

Bishop Emeritus Joseph Lawson Howze

Retired Bishop Joseph L. Howze, the first bishop of Biloxi, Miss., and the first African-American bishop in the 20th century to head a diocese in the United States, died Jan 9 at age 95. He is pictured in a 2014 photo. (CNS photo/Juliana Skelton, Gulf Pine Catholic) See OBIT-HOWZE Jan. 9, 2019.

Bishop Emeritus Joseph Lawson Howze, the first black bishop to lead a diocese in the United States in the 20th Century, and founding bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, died Wednesday at the age of 95. Howze became known as the top-ranking American black clergyman. He had led and integrated an all-white parish in Raleigh, N.C., in the 1960s, was appointed president of the National Black Catholic Clergy in 1974, and introduced Pope John Paul II in a historic church gathering in New Orleans in 1987. And he emphasized unity in God regardless of color. Howze had worshiped in Baptist and Methodist churches when he was younger, and wanted to study medicine. But the call to the priesthood led him on a path to lead and grow the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi for 24 years. He oversaw parishes in 17 South Mississippi counties after the diocese was founded in 1977 with 42 parishes, 28 schools and 48,000 Catholics. Howze had been ill and died at Ocean Springs Hospital, diocese spokesman Terrance Dickson said.

Father Jerome LeDoux

Father Jerome LeDoux, S.V.D., was a Roman Catholic priest who spent most of his career as a parish priest in New Orleans, Louisiana, especially at the St. Augustine Church. He was noted for his Afrocentric Catholic Masses, his ebullient style and for his writing. He died Jan. 7 in Lafayette, Louisiana, after surgery for a double heart bypass. He had for several years been living in active retirement at Holy Ghost Parish in the Cajun town of Opelousas.

Senior Bishop McKinley Young

The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church acknowledging and surrendering to the will of God announces that the Right Reverend McKinley Young, the Senior Bishop and the 109th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, made his transition to the church triumphant on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. Elected in 1992, Senior Bishop Young served the AME Church in Episcopal Districts in Southern Africa (15th), Texas (10th), Florida and the Bahamas (11th) and as its Ecumenical Officer. At the time of his death, he was the Presiding Prelate of the 3rd Episcopal District (Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia). He became the Senior Bishop of the church in 2012. (For more information on Bishop Young visit the AME Church Website. The Council of Bishops asks that you join with us in prayer for Supervisor Dr. Dorothy Young, children, grandchildren, siblings and family that God will comfort them in their loss, and give them His peace. We also ask you to lift in prayer the 3rd Episcopal District as they have lost their Episcopal Leader.

T. Vaughn Walker

T. Vaughn Walker, the first African American elected as a full-time professor at a Southern Baptist Convention seminary, passed away at age 68. Walker, who served as a professor at the Louisville, Kentucky-based Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 30 years, died late Saturday evening.

Rev. Charles M. Franklin Jr

Rev. Charles M. Franklin Jr., the pastor of Ray of Hope Baptist Church, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack. (Handout)

The Rev. Charles M. Franklin Jr., pastor of Ray of Hope Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 47. He officiated at Ray of Hope Church the day he died. “He had preached his sermon and finished serving communion and had gone into his office. He had a seizure about 1 p.m. The church nurse went in and they were soon calling an ambulance,” said Darrell B. Giles, a deacon at Ray of Hope. “Members of the congregation followed to the hospital. We just about filled up the waiting room,” he said. “After about an hour we were taken to a conference room and it was officially announced that he had passed.” Born in Stamford, Conn., and raised in Baltimore, he was the son the Rev. Charles M. Franklin Sr. and his wife, Daisy. His father founded the Ray of Hope congregation in 1978.

Dr. Charles Booth

A well-known Columbus pastor passed away on Saturday after a battle with cancer. Reverend Dr. Charles E. Booth, who was the senior pastor at Mount Olivet Baptist Church, 428 E Main St., died on Saturday while in hospice care, said Tamara Hartley, a former executive assistant and office manager at the church. Booth was a family man who loved preaching. He mentored many around the world and held the widely-attended Charles E. Booth Preaching Conference annually.

Brodes Perry

The executive pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church has died suddenly Friday, according to a statement from the church. The church said Brodes Perry was serving as executive pastor. They asked for continued prayers for Perry’s wife.

Rev. Kwame John R. Porter

Dr. Kwame Porter | Provided photo

When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held a “Get Out the Vote” event in Chicago in 1964, Rev. Kwame John R. Porter not only introduced him to the crowd at Ogden Park — he also brought 10,000 people with him. “I can remember walking to the park with them. It was so packed and my husband introduced Dr. King and stood by him the whole time as he spoke,” said June Porter, the pastor’s wife, who also attended the demonstration. Rev. Porter, 87, who died April 9 at his Hyde Park home, was at the forefront of the expansion of the civil rights movement north for several decades. The Ogden Park event brought attention to the disenfranchisement of black voters and was the result of Porter responding to King’s open request to speak in local Chicago communities, said June Porter. Her late husband and King were friends.

E.W. McCall Sr.

E. W. McCall, Sr., an African-American ministry specialist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, died April 19 at the age of 79. McCall was instrumental in the formation of the African-American Fellowship of SBTC, having served the state convention for the past nine years. Noting that McCall “graduated to heaven on Good Friday,” SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards described him as “a giant among us” who was “faithful to the end.” McCall pastored St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, Cal., for 37 years. During that time the congregation grew from 35 members meeting in a house to thriving church of more than 4,000 members. Under his leadership, the church developed ministries to the community for children and youth, addressed the needs of the homeless population and senior adults. Active in the local Baptist association and state convention, McCall also served on the board of trustees at California Baptist University, eventually holding the offices of secretary and chairman. He was elected a trustee at Golden Gate Theological Seminary and became the first African-American to serve as the board chairman. As a member of the Executive Committee of the SBC, he served as second vice president and chairman.

Ralph White

The city of Memphis is mourning after the pastor of a South Memphis church passed away. Authorities say Pastor Ralph White died on Saturday. White was the pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church. Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement on Twitter concerning his death. “Sadden to learn of the passing of Pastor Ralph White, a good man who leaves a strong legacy for Memphis. I’ve know him for 25 years and always enjoyed visiting with, and getting advise from, him. My condolences to his family and everyone at Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church.”

John D. Fuller

Longtime Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church pastor, the Rev. John D. Fuller, is shown in the church’s sanctuary on December, 7, 2015, a few weeks before his retirement. [File photo/The Fayetteville Observer]
Fayetteville and Cumberland County area residents are mourning the death of a longtime pastor who dedicated decades of his life to loving the area. Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church officials announced the death of the Rev. John D. Fuller on Sunday. Fuller was pastor of the church for 42 years, until his retirement in late 2015.

Bernard Thomas / “Bishop Bullwinkle”

It’s a sad day for fans of viral Tampa Bay talent. Family members have confirmed that Plant City Pastor — and the man behind “Hell 2 Da Naw Naw” — has died at age 70.

“It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our father Bishop Bullwinkle,” a statement on social media reads. “He has booked a show in Heaven to perform for our Heavenly Father and for once, he couldn’t be late. We love you sir and please book us the VIP room for us when we meet again.”

The Tampa-born Bullwinkle — whose real name was Bernard Thomas — has appeared in a handful of hit videos, but “Hell To Da Naw Naw” was by far his most popular; it’s garnered 37 million views on his own YouTube channel alone.

Rev. T.H. Peoples Jr.

Rev. T. H. Peoples talked to the children of Pleasant Green Baptist Church during Sunday worship in March 2000. He spoke against violence by youngsters. DAVID PERRY LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

The Rev. Thomas Howard Peoples Jr., who championed civil rights and spent 41 years as pastor of one of the oldest African-American churches in this part of the country, died June 7 at 79 years old. Peoples, who went by the initials T.H., was pastor of Historic Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, which has occupied its current property at 540 West Maxwell St. in Lexington since 1820. He would have celebrated his 80th birthday June 17. Peoples was married for 56 years to Delma L. Peoples. They have five children, several of whom followed in their father’s footsteps and became pastors. Over the years, “he baptized thousands of people,” said Rev. Herbert T. Owens Jr., Peoples’ longtime friend and his assistant at Pleasant Green.

Wright Lassiter Jr.

Wright Lassiter Jr. was a quiet, towering leader whose dedication to serving others brought stability and reassurance during critical times in the Dallas community. Lassiter came to the city in 1983 to take on the presidency of Bishop College as it was spiraling into financial ruin because of previous administrators. He took the reins of the Dallas County Community College District in 2007 as the system faced booming enrollment but dramatic cuts in state funding. And he brought spiritual guidance to the congregation of his southern Dallas church after the passing of its founding pastor in 2003. Lassiter, 85, died Monday from complications related to chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rev. E.V. Hill II

The Rev. Edward V. Hill II, who pastored both Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church and Spirit of Zion, passed away on August 12, 2019 at his home. He was 52. Hill, the son of famed preacher/evangelist E.V. Hill — once honored by Time Magazine as one of the seven most outstanding preachers in the United States and by Ebony Magazine as one of the 15 greatest black preachers — had forged success in his own right and was a frequent speaker at churches around the country. “E. V. Hill II, was a true follower of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., presiding bishop of Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and senior pastor of West Angeles COGIC.  “I am proud to say that he was a dear and beloved friend of mine and of each member of my family. My world has diminished since he is no longer in it. I am comforted by the fact that Heaven is richer by his presence there. Well done, friend. Enjoy eternity!”

Rev. St. George I.B. Crosse III

The Rev. St. George I.B. Crosse III, an outspoken conservative pastor and civil rights activist who was the first African American to run for Baltimore sheriff and who served as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as special ambassador to his home country of Grenada, died Aug. 7 of complications from dementia at Woodholme Gardens in Pikesville. The longtime Randallstown resident and Methodist preacher was 79. An imposing 6-foot-1 presence behind the pulpit who delivered impassioned — and often controversial — sermons with a booming voice in the sanctuary, on television and over the radio for years, Mr. Crosse considered himself “a servant of God first, and then of the people.” “That’s what my life is all about,” he told The Sun in a 1984 profile. “I’m able to serve them in the church as well as in the political arena.”

Douglas Moore

Rev. Moore and his wife Dr. Hughes, Howard University professor.

Douglas E. Moore, a Methodist minister who in 1957 led one of the first sit-ins to protest racial segregation in the South and later served a tumultuous stint on the D.C. Council in the 1970s, died Aug. 22 at a hospital in Clinton, Md. He was 91. The cause was Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia, said his wife, Doris Hughes-Moore. Rev. Moore settled in Washington in 1966 and gained prominence in the city as an acolyte and self-described “personal pastor” of black-power leader Stokely Carmichael. In 1974, he won a D.C. Council seat, but his reputation as a volatile provocateur, along with an incident in which he bit a tow-truck driver, led to his loss of a committee chairmanship and a stay in jail. He never again held elective office, although he continued seeking it, most recently with a mayoral run in 2002.

Rev. Michael Haynes

The Rev. Michael E. Haynes held a photo of himself and Martin Luther King Jr. during a celebration of King’s life in Weston in 2014. (JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF/FILE)

The Rev. Michael E. Haynes, who rose from Depression-era Roxbury to become a towering figure in Boston’s black community and beyond as the longtime pastor of the historic Twelfth Baptist Church, died on Thursday. He was 92. The Rev. Haynes was perhaps best known for his friendship with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the early 1950s, when the Rev. Haynes was a youth pastor at Twelfth Baptist and King preached there while pursuing his doctorate at Boston University. Over the years, he would drive King around Boston when he would return to the city, and he helped arrange for King to speak to a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature in 1965. But it was through his own work, as a youth counselor, preacher, state representative, and Parole Board member, that the Rev. Haynes made his deepest imprint, shaping and guiding generations of young people struggling to overcome poverty and racial discrimination. Those he mentored, many through a high school club known as “The Exquisites,” went on to become prominent figures in the church, and in higher education, politics, journalism, and medicine.

Thurmond Coleman Sr.

A civil rights leader and retired Jeffersontown pastor died Sept. 8, Rodgers-Awkard & Lyons Funeral Home said Sunday. The Rev. Thurmond Coleman Sr., 92, was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Jefferstontown for 45 years before his 2000 retirement, during which time he oversaw construction of a new edifice, educational building, family life center and church expansion, according to the funeral home. A Courier Journal article from his last service said Coleman oversaw the church’s growth from a few hundred members to the first large African American church in eastern Jefferson County. He was more than a pastor. He was an activist and deeply involved in his community. He marched for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s and served on a county commission that implemented welfare reform in the late 1990s, according to The Courier Journal archives. Coleman was a Kentucky Colonel, receiving an honorary doctorate degree of divinity from Simmons Bible College, according to the funeral home.

Carlton Eversley

Winston-Salem activists and Presbyterian leaders are mourning the loss of a local Presbyterian pastor. The Reverend Carlton Eversley, pastor of the Dellabrook Presbyterian Church, died on Monday at the age of 62. Eversley, who served the church for more than 35 years, was known locally as a civil rights and education activist, an active leader in the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity and the Winston-Salem NAACP. The Brooklyn native was specifically interested in the education of black children in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. He argued against its neighborhood school-choice plan, saying it would re-segregate the community schools. “Carl Eversley was a good friend who dedicated his life to showing God’s love to those who have been ostracized, marginalized, and wrongly accused,” said the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “He not only fought for better education in the black community, but was a strong advocate for equal rights, especially for those that he believed were not treated fairly by the criminal justice system.”

Bishop W. W. Hamilton

Bishop W.W. Hamilton (Greater Victory Temple Church)

Bishop Wilbur Wyatt Hamilton of the Greater Victory Temple Church of God In Christ in Seaside, died  Monday at 88, culminating a life of spiritual leadership and public service. “The impact that he had on younger preachers and pastors, that he poured into their lives, will be the most important legacy Bishop Hamilton leaves behind,” said Ronald Britt, current pastor of the Greater Victory Temple Church in Seaside. “The biggest lesson learned from him is to love the people of God and to serve them with dignity.” Bishop W. W. Hamilton was born in San Antonio Texas on Jan. 28, 1931, to Bishop Eugene Edward Hamilton and Bessie Lee Hamilton. The family moved to San Francisco when he was about 8, where the elder Hamilton would be the founding Bishop of the California Northwest Jurisdiction of the Church of God In Christ.

Cain Hope Felder

Image: Source image: HUS Divinity

Cain Hope Felder, a groundbreaking Bible scholar who called attention to the presence of black people in the Old and New Testaments, has died at the age of 76. Part of the first wave of black Bible professors in the US, Felder’s research challenged generations of scholarship that ignored or downplayed race in Scripture. By showcasing the numerous people with dark skin mentioned in the Bible, the longtime Howard University School of Divinity professor argued that white interpreters had erased black people from the text. That erasure, he said, enabled modern, racist readings of the Scripture. “Black people are not only frequently mentioned,” he wrote, “but are also mentioned in ways that are favorable in terms of acknowledging their actual and potential role in the salvation history of Israel.”

Dimitri Bradley

Thousands of members from City Church in Richmond, Virginia, are now in mourning after Dimitri Bradley, their lead pastor and founder, was killed in a crash on Interstate 195 Wednesday. Virginia State Police said the 51-year-old pastor died after he crashed his 2016 Cadillac Escalade near Arthur Ashe Boulevard at about 9:30 p.m., WTVR reported. “Last night we lost our father, our brother, our friend, and our pastor. The heart of City Church and the Bradley family is heavy and hurting right now, but through it all we trust God. We thank you for your prayers and concerns for us at this very difficult time. We ask that you give the Bradley family privacy and prayer; and we will have more information forthcoming. We love you all,” the church announced on their Facebook page Thursday.

John Mbiti

John Samuel Mbiti at Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2016. Video screengrab via Dion Forster

John Mbiti, a prominent Christian theologian from Kenya who helped debunk entrenched ideas that traditional African religions were primitive, giving them equal weight with major world faiths, died on Oct. 5 at a nursing home in Burgdorf, Switzerland. He was 87.

Bishop Edward Lynn Brown

Bishop E. Lynn Brown, retired presiding prelate of the CME Church, delivers a passionate speech during the Clayborn Reborn Blessing Ceremony at Clayborn Temple on Tuesday. The historic site is currently being revitalized in Downtown Memphis. The church, located at 294 Hernando St., was built in 1892 and belonged to Second Presbyterian Church until they sold it to the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1949. It was abandoned and boarded up for good in 1999. Neighborhood Preservation Inc. Clayborn Temple LLC purchased the church last October from the AME church for $65,000, according to the Shelby County assessor of property. (Photo: Yalonda M. James/The Commercial Appeal)

Bishop Edward Lynn Brown, the 46th Bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, died Friday, according to the church. Brown was known throughout the Memphis community for his support of the church and civil rights activism. Bishop Brown was elected bishop in 1986 in Birmingham and retired in 2010 in Mobile, Alabama. Brown was a pastor in Memphis at Temple of Love CME Church and Mt. Pisgah CME Church, according to his biography. “(Brown) understood the evils of racism and segregation and fought hard to eliminate those twin evils,” said Bishop Henry M. Williamson. Williamson is the presiding prelate of the first district of the CME. He described Brown as an “outstanding” preacher who would always stand for what was right, marching early on with Martin Luther King, Jr. “(Brown) was a bridge-builder,” Williamson said.

Rev. George Clements

FILE – In a Jan. 22, 1990 file photo, Dick Gregory, left, looks at a sign held by Father George Clements of Chicago during a press conference in New York, to introduce their campaign to combat drug use in Times Square. The Rev. George Clements, the Chicago priest whose civil rights and social justice activism prompted the making of a movie about his life died Monday, Nov. 25, 2019 in a Hammond, Indiana hospital according to the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was 87. (AP Photo/Frankie Ziths, File)

The Rev. George Clements, the Chicago priest whose civil rights and social justice activism led to a television movie about his career, died Monday at the age of 87. The Archdiocese of Chicago said Clements died at an Indiana hospital but did not give a cause of death. The Rev Michael Pfleger, though, said Clements had been in declining health in recent weeks, having suffered a stroke and heart attack. “He was one of the first forerunners in the Catholic Church to be vocal in civil rights and fighting racism,” Pfleger said of Clements, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi. “He helped build a strong, black Catholic community.” In 1945, Clements became the first African American to graduate from the Chicago archdiocese’s Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary. He was ordained in 1957.

Rev. Clay Evans

The Rev. Clay Evans, legendary gospel singer, choirmaster and celebrated Baptist minister who became a fast ally to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his effort to expose the slum conditions black Chicago residents endured, has died. Evans linked King to other ministers interested in his Operation Breadbasket program, which sought to improve conditions for blacks and open jobs at all-white supermarket chains and bottling companies. “I try to embody the principles of Christianity, and for me that means being dedicated to freedom and equality,” Evans told a Tribune reporter in 1974. Evans died Wednesday at his home on the city’s South Side, a spokeswoman for the retired pastor said. He was 94. But the Tennessee-born cleric gained national notoriety for his rousing sermons, energetic storytelling style performed on television with his choirs, and for helping to introduce black gospel music to the mainstream. Gifted with a recognizable husky baritone that could have just as easily fronted a big jazz band, he performed as a soloist on songs such as “I’m Going Through.” He also performed with his Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church choir, known as The Ship, and later with the African American Religious Connection Mass Choir.

Bishop William H. Graves Sr.

Retired Bishop William H. Graves, Sr. died on Nov. 30. Graves, 83, was the 42nd bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Graves presided over the First Episcopal District from 1982 to 2010. He was also a Board of Trustees member at his alma mater, Lane College. (Photo: Ken Bentley)

Bishop William H. Graves Sr., a national religious leader who served for 18 years in Memphis, died Saturday at 83. Graves was the 42nd bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. He presided over the First Episcopal District in Memphis from 1982 to 2010. Graves also served as a national board member of the NAACP. In 2006, he became the first African-American board member of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was nominated for the TVA board by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee. He was also a past president of the National Congress of Black Churches’ board of directors and served as a board of trustees member at his alma mater, Lane College, in Jackson, Tennessee.