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Passing of the Giants of the Human Spirit: Mr. C. Gerald Fraser, Mr. James Simpson, and The Honorable Apostle Edward E. Williams

January 29, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Part One

It has been awhile since I’ve recorded the Passing of Giants of the Human Spirit. It’s not that there have been no transitions, but it has been due to my workload and the importance of the persons in my life. However, I will resume with this article.

Once again, I return to the poem, “What is the worst of woes that wait on age? What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow? To view each loved one blotted from life’s page, And be alone on earth, as I am now.”

Within the last month, three persons made their transitions. Each played a special part in my life. Mr. C. Gerald Fraser had a long and distinguished career as a journalist. He was born Charles Gerald Fraser in Boston on July 30, 1925. He passed on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. He had reached the grand old age of 90. Writing seemed to have been in his genes. His great-great grandfather was the founder of the Jamaican Advocate. He worked briefly as a copy boy at the Boston Globe while still in high school. From 1952-1956, he worked for the Amsterdam News. Finally, he was hired by the New York Times. He was a quiet and thoughtful man. He had an unassuming way of conveying the impression that he was observing the minutest detail of everything.

My first meeting with him was in the late 1960s. He was brought in as a consultant for the Methodist Church who had formed an alliance with a group of Black churches. They wanted to give grants to the various churches. I was suspicious that there were strings attached. Dr. J. Edward Carothers was the director of the program. He had written a book, “Keepers of the Poor,” in which he put forward what was then a novel idea that the conditions of the poor were due to systems which had been created by whites. He was one of the early white churchmen who did not blame the victims for what was happening to them.

I remember Mr. Fraser saying, as we went around and around on what the grants meant: “While the grants are beneficial in some respects, but it is a refining of the larger system.” We did get the money, but they were not grants. They were loans. For us, it took years to pay them back.

My second and more important interaction with Mr. Fraser was when he did the first article on me of a major newspaper. It was while he was at the New York Times that he wrote an article on August 1978 entitled, “The Feisty Preacher in Vanguard of Rights in Brooklyn.” He wrote, “Sunday service at The House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn is in its last half an hour, and the Rev. Herbert D. Daughtry is roaring into the finish of his 45-minute sermon on ‘Power, Politics, and Religion.’

“‘The only thing I am guilty of is battling for my people,’ he says. He wheels to his left, and says he is guilty for wanting an education for his people. He spins to the right, and says he’s guilty of wanting to see ‘our men’ working…

“Mr. Daughtry has become a kind of an Ecclesiastical point man. His name appears frequently on newspapers, and his face on television newscasts as he challenges Brooklyn’s businessmen, politicos, and police organizations to end what he perceives as racial injustice.

“Last Christmas, he organized and led a picket line and a boycott against some Brooklyn department stores, contending that Abraham & Strauss, Martin’s Mays receive major downtown patronage from Black residents. Mr. Daughtry asked the stores to support his demand for a Federal investigation into the alleged violation of the civil rights of Randolph Evans, a Black youth who was killed last Thanksgiving by a white police officer. (The officer, Robert H. Torsney, was acquitted after claiming temporary insanity.)

“Mr. Daughtry also wanted the stores to allocate 3,000 jobs for Blacks; contracts for Black companies in the construction of downtown Brooklyn; allocate 40% of their advertising budgets to Black media outlets; and, set up a Randolph Evans Scholarship Fund and a community-crisis fund – ‘sort of a Black United Way,’ as he puts it.”

He continued to write, “When asked, ‘What are the major issues facing Brooklyn’s Black residents?’, Mr. Daughtry replied, ‘Jobs. Jobs is what I think is the surface issue. I think the major issue is the imbalance of power. Jobs go to the powerful. We are powerless, for instance, against the police. We don’t have any impact.’

“‘Even deeper than powerlessness is ‘personlessness’ – lack of identity. There is no feeling of self-worth,’ he said among Black people. ‘High self-esteem moves one to power. But, you can’t make a man powerful. Something has to happen to the mind.'”

After Mr. Fraser’s article, I received even more press coverage. A few months later, the Daily News followed with a Sunday edition. My picture was on the front page with a headline, “Blacks Find New Leader.” There was an article written by the distinguished journalist Mr. Earl Caldwell entitled, “Rev. Daughtry Is Fit To Be A King.”

After the articles were published, Gerald and I became even closer. I depended on him for his wisdom, insights, and experience on many issues, especially the media.

… to be continued.