CHICAGO (CBS) — Bishop Arthur Brazier, a prominent pastor and civil rights leader for decades in Chicago, has died.
Bishop Brazier, who was pastor emeritus of the Apostolic Church of God, was 89 years old. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago.
Bishop Brazier’s son, Dr. Byron Brazier, the current church pastor, issued a statement on the church’s website:
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce to you the passing of my father and our Pastor Emeritus, the honorable Bishop Arthur M. Brazier.
“We bow in humble submission to the will of God, as the Lord has seen fit to call His servant home. Bishop’s passing represents a great loss to my family, our church, and our community. We will indeed miss him. Yet, we will mourn his passing and celebrate his life with the dignity and grace for which he was known.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement Friday calling Brazier “one of our nation’s leading moral lights” and “a committed patriot.”
Brazier, an Army veteran, studied at Moody Bible Institute and became pastor of the Universal Church of Christ in 1952. In 1960, Brazier merged his congregation with the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 South Dorchester, in the Woodlawn community.
“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,” Obama said. “However, his spirit will live on through the parishioners, leaders and friends that he touched each day.”
Bishop Brazier also was a founder of The Woodlawn Organization, which was prominent in Chicago’s civil rights movement in the 1960s. He spent time in the mid 1960s fighting school segregation and played a role in Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Chicago in 1966 to protest both education and housing discrimination in Chicago.
His church claims an active membership of more than 20,000.
Bishop Brazier, who has born on July 22, 1921, is survived by his wife, Isabelle Brazier and four children Lola, Byron, Janice, and Rosalyn. Funeral services are set for next Friday.
Byron Brazier says his father had a vision for the Woodlawn community decades ago, where he led his Pentecostal congregation at this church for 48 years. In 1976, while many were leaving the blighted area, Brazier said God told him to expand his church on a vacant lot on 63rd Street, under the L tracks.
The Bishop wanted to revitalize the neighborhood of his youth. Since that time, Brazier has been credited with the creation of Columbia Pointe, the townhome community that lines 63rd Street.
“Without him, I don’t believe those houses would be here. This community is thriving because of him,” Derek Boone, a Woodlawn resident, says.
His work in community development also allowed him to do a great deal of outreach with young people in Woodlawn. There’s the Bishop Arthur and Isabelle Brazier Youth and Family Center. Most recently, there’s been the creation of the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community, which is dedicated to getting public school students ready for college by the age of 18.
Brazier was not without his critics. He received constant threats during the civil rights movement during his fight for social justice. Decades later, he’d be criticized for redeveloping the community he loved. Protestors claimed poor families wouldn’t be able to stay.
“He was able to withstand the criticism out of purpose and mission and say, ‘This was the right thing for me to do,’” his son said.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot contributed to this report.