Bishop Arthur Brazier was a leader. He led in more ways than one and he led what he believed in. We lost a giant of a man on October 22, when he passed away. Chicago lost a father figure. He was so much to so many. He was gentle, kind, firm and steadfast. He was an old-fashioned man. A gentleman of dignity and elegance at all times, in all situations. Never one to raise his voice, he nevertheless spoke firmly, and you knew he meant what he said.
His ministry was the way and life of Jesus Christ. No compromise. He knew right from wrong and he exercised it. He knew how to be forthright. He had a way of bringing folk together to work together in the name of reconciliation and unity for the good of the cause. It didn't matter to him what others thought.
He was a builder. He built a church from small and made it mega. The Apostolic Church of God, one of the largest in the city, has a membership of 22,000. It is the treasure of Woodlawn and in every aspect one of the best churches in the city.
Bishop Brazier was one of few ministers to welcome Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Chicago when other ministers were discouraged from doing so. He helped organize one of Chicago's largest civil rights rally in Soldiers Field, of 75,000.
He never backed down from a good fight. He fought Ben Willis and the Willis Wagons, when segregated education in Chicago was evident. He marched and protested in the streets against the late Mayor Daley with the threat of political consequence.
He fought the gangs as they terrorized the Woodlawn community in the days of Blackstone Rangers and Jeff Fort. He was determined to make Woodlawn a safe haven. And he did. He fought the University of Chicago when they threatened in the name of urban development to cross the midway to overtake or take over Woodlawn. He stopped them and made them stand down.
He wanted the El Stop at 63rd Street torn down so he could further develop his church. He succeeded. He built his church complete with an exquisite banquet room and a youth center.
Brazier was one of the most respected men in the city, by all accounts in all quarters. He was welcomed on all boards. Everyone knew he was fair. His manner was special. He listened before he spoke. And when he spoke it was powerful. He had a special way. He had 22,000 congregants and another 22,000 external members. He made everyone feel unique and special and that he was there for you and you alone. He was a problem solver. He sought solutions. He made boys into men, and girls into women. He made you better.
Monica DeLeon did the first cover story we wrote on Bishop Brazier. She was a young reporter and wanted very much to learn about Bishop Brazier; someone she had heard about all of her life. She asked if she could interview him. Monica spoke French and didn't know Brazier did as well. She conducted her interview in French and came back to the office so excited. They continued to meet so that they could sharpen their French.
He was a wonderful leader. His son, Dr. Byron Brazier, follows his father's footsteps. He groomed his son for his position at the time of his retirement. So many don't recognize their mortality and don't prepare for their absence. Brazier prepared his congregation to be without his daily presence.
He impacted this city and the Woodlawn Community. He was a community organizer and took it to the highest level. He saw one of his own become President of the United States. He was a great man and he will be terribly missed by all of us who loved him so dearly.
We will praise his life and celebrate his living for years to come.