Longtime Chicago minister Brazier dies at 89

October 22, 2010 (CHICAGO) The pastor, civil rights leader and community activist, widely described as a Chicago giant, led his Pentecostal congregation for 48 years before retiring in 2008.

The congregation that thrived under the guidance of Bishop Arthur Brazier mourned his death Friday.

Brazier mentored many at the church, including his son, Dr. Byron Brazier.

"Bishop Brazier was a powerful and inspiring preacher, a profound Bible scholar and a caring pastor," said Byron Brazier. "Under his leadership, this church has grown to a membership of over 20,000."

Byron Brazier will carry on his father's mission at the church.

"There is one word that we can all agree to: that word is dignity," said Brazier. "Bishop lived a dignified life."

Congressman Bobby Rush said he sought Bishop Brazier's counsel many times over the years, and that Brazier was there when Congressman Rush graduated from the seminary.

"This city has lost a giant; we've lost a giant and a friend," said Rush.

President Barack Obama issued a statement, saying in part: "There is no way that we can replace the gentle heart and boundless determination that Bishop Brazier brought to some of the most pressing challenges facing Chicago and our nation. However, his spirit will live on through the parishioners, leaders and friends that he touched each day."

Obama and Brazier last spoke by phone on Wednesday.

Bishop Brazier was a strong voice during the civil rights movement, and he was committed to the rebirth of the Woodlawn community.

Parishioners remembered Brazier on Friday as a pillar of their community.

"He was like, just part of our lives," said parishioner Carrie Bell. "Head of our family."

"We all love Bishop, and his presence is here," said parishioner Patricia McGill. "Absent in the body, but present with the Lord."

Church leaders variously remembered him for his influence and leadership in both the clergy and in the battle for social equality.

"Bishop Brazier, I think more than any other single member of the clergy, outside of perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in my judgment epitomizes how a member of the cloth can in fact pastor a congregation and at the same time can be actively involved in bringing about social change," said Dr. Leon Finney, Jr., of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church.

"He showed us how to set a high moral compass. He is among the tallest trees in the forest," said Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Brazier was also committed to education and to the children of Woodlawn.

"There is just nobody else out there who had his capacity to take contentious groups and put them all at the same table and make them work for a higher good," said Woodlawn Children's Promise Community Acting Executive Director Charles Payne.

Young people in the Woodlawn neighborhood Friday remembered what they learned from Brazier.

"He wanted us to do something with our life," said Anyia Heard, 11. "He was just a powerful man."

"He supported me. He was a very good, strong black man," said Taylor Lewis.

Late Friday afternoon, Mayor Daley said in a statement that "[Brazier's] love of Chicago transcended race, religion, gender or economic status... Chicago was his home, and we are a better city and a better society because of it. I feel honored to have known him as a mentor and friend."

Bishop Brazier battled prostate cancer for five years. ABC 7 is told he died peacefully in his sleep.

Brazier was a husband of more than 62 years. He is survived by his wife, son, three daughters, seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

The family will hold a private service. A public service is scheduled for next Friday, October 29th. Church leaders say Michelle Obama is expected to attend, as well as Valerie Jarrett.

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