Gardner Calvin TaylorApril 19, 2016
Gardner Calvin Taylor (1918-2015)
Gardner Calvin Taylor was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Taylor was born in Baton Rouge, La., to the Rev. Washington M. and Selina Taylor. His father, born in 1870 to emancipated slaves, was a Baptist pastor and died when the boy was 13. He was raised by his mother, who was a teacher, and an aunt. He attended segregated schools and grew up in a city so intent on keeping races apart that it sprayed pesticides to kill mosquitoes only in white neighborhoods, stopping at the edge of black areas. He wanted to be a civil rights lawyer, although no black person had ever been admitted to the Louisiana bar. He took over a Baptist pulpit in Brooklyn in 1948, when overt racism defined much of American life, and became an influential voice for civil rights and one of the nation’s most eloquent churchmen. For 42 years, until his retirement in 1990, Mr. Taylor was the senior pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. But his impact as a speaker, writer and political force in the city and in a nation of long-segregated schools, churches and other institutions reached far beyond his 10,000-member congregation. The author of many books and 2,000 sermons and the recipient of 15 honorary doctorates, Mr. Taylor was a rumbling, rhythmic orator who marshaled Scripture, mystical allusions and the art of plain talk into sermons of emotional power. In 1980, Time magazine called him the dean of black preachers in America. In 1996, Baylor University said he was one of the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. He delivered lectures and sermons in South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Denmark, England, Scotland, Australia, China and Japan, and at universities and churches across the United States. In 1993, he gave the pre-inauguration sermon for President-elect Bill Clinton at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, and in 2000 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from Mr. Clinton.