Cecil L. Murray, who made the First African Methodist Episcopal Church essentially the most prestigious black pulpit in Los Angeles, has died


The Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, who made the First African Methodist Episcopal Church essentially the most prestigious Black pulpit in Los Angeles, attracting presidents, governors and mayors to listen to his dynamic sermons, has died.

Murray died of pure causes Friday night at his residence within the View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles County, his son Drew Murray stated.

“He was a person who gave God his all,” he stated. “He was a faithful husband, and a loving and caring father.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a press release honoring Murray’s legacy.

“Immediately we misplaced an enormous. Reverend Dr. Cecil Murray devoted his life to service, group, and placing God first in all issues,” Bass stated. “I had absolutely the honor of working with him, worshiping with him, and looking for his counsel. My coronary heart is with the First AME congregation and group right this moment as we mirror on a legacy that modified this metropolis perpetually.”

Throughout his exceptional 27-year tenure as senior minister, Murray constructed the First AME congregation from a number of hundred members to greater than 18,000 worshipers whose assist was usually courted by elected officers and political candidates.

Presidents George W. Bush and Invoice Clinton visited whereas Murray was in cost. California governors Pete Wilson, Grey Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke from the pulpit. Los Angeles Mayors James Ok. Hahn and Richard Riordan stopped by frequently, and Mayor Tom Bradley was already a member of town’s oldest Black congregation when Murray arrived.

Compassionate and charismatic, Murray emphasised taking Christian beliefs past the fashionable church constructing that housed his congregation, a construction that was designed by pioneering Black architect Paul R. Williams on a hill close to Western Avenue and Adams Boulevard searching on the L.A. skyline.

“On his watch, First AME grew to become a church that went past the stained-glassed home windows and the partitions,” the late John Mack, head of the Los Angeles City League, stated on the time of the pastor’s retirement in 2004. “It grew to become a vital non secular establishment assembly urgent human wants.”

?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fc0%2Fc5%2F2d15f4b84c54afbc146a8f48e4ad%2Fla me rev chip murray - Cecil L. Murray, who made the First African Methodist Episcopal Church essentially the most prestigious black pulpit in Los Angeles, has died

The Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray celebrates mass on the First AME Church in Los Angeles. After 27 years, Rev. Murray retired in 2004 as head of considered one of Los Angeles’ most seen church buildings.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Instances)

Murray, Mack stated, led the church in serving to feed the hungry, discover jobs for the jobless and assist those that “didn’t have cash, had been out of labor, out of hope.”

Mack was amongst many distinguished metropolis leaders who labored with Murray on police brutality points, public training, bridge-building with different communities and mayoral commissions addressing points involving Black Individuals.

Enthusiastic about training, Murray helped the congregation begin a personal college, which is now named after him, and noticed that hundreds of scholars acquired faculty scholarships.

Equally decided about financial improvement, the pastor pushed the church to companion with authorities or company sponsors, particularly after First AME grew to become an epicenter of L.A.’s Black group — and he grew to become internationally recognized — throughout and instantly after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

“I noticed my father on tv. I heard him on the radio. So many newspapers known as the home, from Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., one girl even known as from Australia,” his son, Drew David Murray, recalled on the time of his father’s retirement.

Murray did the “Immediately” present. He did “Nightline.” He talked to Time and Newsweek, to Nationwide Public Radio and to reporters from all around the world.

“The publicity, in fact, introduced some constructive [images] about this Black church, some affirmation that the Black church within the Black group is the middle of assist in time of disaster and the middle of change when change is required,” Murray stated in a 2004 interview with The Instances. He networked with company CEOs and rich celebrities who provided assist.

Amongst different issues, Disney put aside $1 million for enterprise loans, and former Arco chairman Lodwrick Cook dinner kicked in half one million. Singer Barbra Streisand contributed $50,000 for meals for many who had been affected by the riots. Arsenio Corridor helped procure a constructing for housing youth actions.

“So we started to have inroads and assets, a few of which have continued even to these days,” Murray stated in 2004.

The management at First AME additionally developed long-term initiatives to extend the financial vibrancy of the neighborhood across the church and supply entry to capital for entrepreneurs who had been beginning or increasing companies that offered jobs.

“One of many issues that Rev. Murray goes to be most famous for — not simply the baptisms, the funerals he preached and the nice sermons — however the lasting establishments, all of the totally different housing, flats and residential loans,” Bernard Kinsey, a church trustee, stated whereas planning the minister’s seventy fifth birthday celebration. First AME is “an actual diversified enterprise of $60 million, and that simply didn’t occur in a single day.”

For instance, underneath the minister’s management, First AME initiatives reworked crack homes and tacky condo buildings into 2,000 inexpensive housing items for low-income households, seniors, disabled individuals and folks with AIDS. The church additionally assisted hundreds with out houses, fed 5,000 households yearly and helped lots of of households get residence loans and even buy houses.

Jobs and coaching; employment help for ex-prisoners, welfare recipients and others down on their luck; free authorized recommendation; AIDS applications; transportation providers; adoption support; assist for foster kids; emergency clothes — all this and extra had been out there by means of First AME.

Its most bold enterprise, the FAME Renaissance Middle, opened in 2001 to deal with the church’s financial improvement arm, which was supposed to create jobs and supply hope in a neighborhood that had been depressed by civil unrest. First AME leaders — utilizing thousands and thousands from metropolis, state and federal sources, plus company contributions from Disney, State Farm Insurance coverage and Wells Fargo Financial institution — reworked a 90-year-old constructing that had been a phone switching station into a contemporary edifice containing 54,000 sq. ft of workplace and assembly area situated across the nook from the church.

Bush spoke there in 2002 on the tenth anniversary of the riots, praising the church’s faith-based applications as a method of serving to the group in “rebuilding herself with nice hope and nice promise.”

Wanting again 1 / 4 of a century after the riots, Murray stated the scars of the turbulence had by no means absolutely light.

“Even right this moment the stress is actual,” he advised The Instances in 2017. “The police are our protectors and our defenders. However the query comes, who will shield us from our protectors? Who will defend us from our defenders?”

A fifth-generation African Methodist Episcopal, Murray usually speculated that his household was associated to Jane Murray, one of many worshipers who walked out of a white church in Philadelphia in 1787 throughout an argument over the place Black Individuals can be allowed to wish. The way back protest led to the founding of the primary Black denomination in america, which Murray described as “the mom church of Black America.”

Murray’s roots had been in South Carolina, the place his mom’s grandparents had been slaves. His father was born in 1900, simply 35 years after the Civil Battle ended, but he graduated from faculty at a time when most Southern Blacks nonetheless didn’t have the chance to even full grade college.

A place as a highschool principal led his father to Lakeland, Fla., the place Murray was born on Sept. 26, 1929, and nicknamed “Chip,” as in “chip off the outdated block.”

The household moved to West Palm Seashore when his father grew to become a highschool principal. There, Murray obtained his first trace that he had been born to be a minister. When a kerosene range caught on hearth in his childhood residence, his brother ran to the yard to fetch buckets of sand to smother the flames, whereas he remained behind praying.

“I feel I used to be within the third grade then. Praying, and to at the present time, I hear my brother say, ‘That is no time for praying. This can be a time for placing out the hearth.’ Oh, he was a prophet, however that sensitivity to God, that sensitivity to the results of prayer, I feel that was born in me,” Murray remembered.

He served as junior pastor of his childhood church, Payne Chapel AME, main providers and giving sermons from seventh grade by means of his highschool commencement. His yearbook predicted that someday he can be a Methodist minister in California, a prophecy that may be fulfilled years after he took a detour.

At Florida A&M College, a historic Black faculty in Tallahassee, he majored in historical past, pledged Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest Black fraternity, and labored for the varsity paper.

After commencement, he joined the Air Drive. He educated in jet fighters and served for a decade as a radar intercept officer after which as a navigator.

In 1961, when relationships between Southern whites and Blacks had been usually hostile, Murray was rescued throughout a fiery airplane crash by the airplane’s pilot, a white man from South Carolina. Murray would later say that his survival and the love of that pilot, who died because of the accident, proved to be a turning level. Believing that his life had been spared for a bigger goal, he may now not resist the urge to minister.

With the blessing of his spouse, Bernardine — the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of AME ministers — Murray determined to attend Claremont Faculty of Theology in Southern California, the place he had an uncle and a sister.

He earned a doctorate in divinity and, utilizing his sister’s dresser because the pulpit, pastored first at Primm AME church, which had solely seven members and held providers in a tiny constructing in Pomona. After a stint at Trinity AME in Kansas Metropolis, Kan., he moved on to First AME in Seattle.

In 1977, Murray took over the historic First AME church, the primary Black congregation in Los Angeles. Unapologetically Black, he took down an Italian artwork piece portraying a white Jesus, Mary and Joseph and changed it with a mural that confirmed Jesus with kinky hair and brown pores and skin. He elevated the gospel choir from second-class standing and, blessed with good pitch and a soothing baritone, he usually joined within the singing.

With church applications, avenue marches and group initiatives, he reached out to Black males, who had been outnumbered inside a church full of ladies and at an obstacle in a world full of obstacles. Males, from reformed gang-bangers to multimillionaires, joined as church membership elevated by hundreds.

Through the years, Murray’s success would invoke envy from ministers who believed he obtained all of the information media consideration and all the company and civic funding. Extra severely, Murray was the main target of loss of life threats.

A 12 months after the Los Angeles riots, in 1993, a racist group plotted to assassinate him and bomb the church. Nevertheless, an informant infiltrated the group and its plan was thwarted by the FBI. A number of members of the group had been convicted in reference to the plot.

On the sentencing, Murray agreed to speak with two of the boys. At a gathering held on the Simon Wiesenthal Middle, one defined his racism by telling a narrative of an incident that occurred to him as a toddler. Murray advised a narrative of his personal, about how he had returned to Florida within the early Nineteen Sixties after his Air Drive service, anticipating to be handled as a hero and, as an alternative, white individuals spat on him. Then Murray and the convict wept collectively.

“The hardened attitudes softened,” Murray stated. “I consider we understood one another.”

On the church, Murray was referred to as a courtly workaholic, in earlier than daybreak most days and infrequently in his book-filled research till late at night time. Of medium top and common construct, he by no means weighed greater than 10 kilos over his Air Drive days. Formal in method and gown — swimsuit, tie, polished footwear — he demanded punctuality, preparation, consideration to element and quick, to-the-point shows from those that labored with him or wished one thing from him. Some missteps would trigger him to lose his mood and curse.

“The members would say my mouth must be baptized at instances,” he joked.

Extra ceaselessly, he confirmed a softer facet — for instance, when serving to a suicidal homeless lady get again on monitor, or comforting an aged instructor who had misplaced his spouse earlier that day, or praying with and for others. All the time praying.

“He’d work 18 hours and anticipate you to work 19,” Joseph D. Simmons, a member of Murray’s first congregation in Pomona, stated shortly earlier than his minister’s seventy fifth birthday, the age at which AME pastors are required to retire.

In his final years within the pulpit, Murray refused to decelerate.

Cautious to by no means repeat a sermon, he continued to pack the church. In June 2004, he preached the funeral of singer Ray Charles.

And, lastly, on Nov. 7, 2004, his final Sunday as senior pastor of First AME, he stated goodbye to his congregation. Not with tears. Not with the phrase farewell, however with one other reminder that to whom a lot is given, a lot is anticipated.

“When God has blessed you by waking you up this morning, how are you going to have a pity celebration?” he requested. Exhorting the hundreds who packed the church to wish “with their ft,” he repeated a favourite problem to transcend the partitions of the church.

But he watched in astonishment as a few of his laborious work crumbled underneath the management of his successor, the Rev. John J. Hunter, and amid allegations of economic mismanagement. Hunter was faraway from the pulpit in 2012 because the church took steps to re-embrace Murray’s imaginative and prescient.

In retirement, Murray taught at USC’s Middle of Faith and Civic Tradition and led a middle for group engagement named in his honor. He additionally appeared within the award-winning 2016 miniseries “O.J.: Made in America.”

Murray is survived by his son, Drew. His spouse, Bernardine, who was Murray’s highschool promenade date and the daughter of his childhood pastor, died in 2013.

Pollard-Terry is a former Instances employees author. Employees author Roger Vincent contributed to this story.

?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times brightspot.s3.amazonaws - Cecil L. Murray, who made the First African Methodist Episcopal Church essentially the most prestigious black pulpit in Los Angeles, has died

Rev. Dr. Cecil Chip Murray, left, and Rev. Mark Whitlock at First AME Church in 2017.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Instances)


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