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Tributes to dedicated soldier of the Cross

Mentor to many: the Reverend Goodwin Douglas, seen here with Vera Commissiong, was a great statesman and churchman who will be sadly missed (File photograph)

Glowing tributes and testimonials were paid to the late Reverend Goodwin Douglas at his celebration of life service in the United States last month.

Dr Douglas left Bermuda in the 1950s, having been inspired by Arthur Samuel Jones, the pastor of Allen Temple AME, to lay down his tools as an apprentice plumber and pick up the Cross. The decision changed the course of his life.

“Goodie”, as he was known to family and close friends, was thrust into the lion’s den upon his arrival at Kittrell College, a North Carolina institution associated with the AME church for more than 90 years.

While there, Dr Douglas encountered the brutal realities of the Jim Crow racism that pervaded the political, economic and social strata of the Deep South, and determined he would do something to change it.

Upon graduating from Kittrell College, he attended Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. While pursuing his graduate studies, he challenged the treacherous actions of the Ku Klux Klan in labour disputes and demonstrations held by the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee, one of the most important organisations of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

While pastor of Beulah Temple AME Church, Dr Douglas worked with civil rights activists, orchestrating sit-ins at lunch counters and other segregated public spaces.

He was also an instrumental member of both the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Through those connections he and a contingent of his church members participated in the historic March on Washington at which the Reverend Martin Luther King delivered his I Have a Dream speech.

Dr Douglas served the African Methodist Episcopal Church 2nd District for 20 years as the presiding elder of the Capitol District of the Washington Annual Conference.

In that role, he led more than 40 congregations and more than 40,000 members of the AME Church in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

Under his astute leadership, the Capitol District grew spiritually, financially, and numerically. As a result of his community outreach throughout the US and in Africa, the imprint of his leadership was far and wide.

Dr Douglas retired in 2014, having served 55 years in the ministry. He passed away on August 20. His memorial service was held on August 26 at Reid Temple AME Church in Maryland.

He was eulogised as an agent of change and a mentor to many. Direct and deliberate in his management style, he was also comforting and politely persuasive. He was known to get the job done. In honour of his lifelong service to his church and community, the senator of the state of Maryland applauded him as a great statesman and churchman.

Dr Douglas will be sadly missed by his wife, two children, grandchildren and family in Bermuda.

Update: this article has been amended to correct that the woman in the photograph with the Reverend Goodwin Douglas is Vera Commissiong and not Betty Furbert-Woolridge

A clarification to my article last week: the Reverend Winston Rawlins was affirmed as an ordained minister and elevated to the position of elder. The present minister of Emmanuel Baptist Church is Georgette Prime-Godwin and has been since October 2015.