On Easter Sunday, President Barack Obama paused to pay tribute to civil rights leader and noted pastor, Dr. Gardner Calvin Taylor, who died earlier that day at age 96.
“Anybody who had the privilege of hearing him speak knows what power he had,” said Obama. “He was a civil rights hero. He was a friend of Dr. King, who used his spellbinding sermons to spread the gospel and open people’s hearts and minds. He taught and mentored countless young ministers. So as we mourn his absence today, we also take solace knowing that he leaves a living legacy and that he is in a better place.”
Taylor was born in 1918 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the grandson of former slaves. He became a Baptist minister in Brooklyn in 1948.
Taylor was retired from the senior pastorate of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, where he preached for 42 years.
He is recognized as having a national impact. The celebrated author and sermon writer was known for the power of his written words, and was described by Time magazine in 1980 as the dean of African-American pastors. In 1996, Baylor University declared him as one of the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.
Taylor preached the pre-inauguration sermon in January 1993 for then President-elect Bill Clinton at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington D.C. He later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton on August 9, 2000.
Following his retirement 25 years ago, Taylor moved to Raleigh, N.C., He resided at the Hillcrest Convalescent Center in Durham since 2011.
He died at the Duke University Medical Center of an apparent heart attack, following Easter services at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Durham and a luncheon with his wife, Phillis Taylor.