Gardner Taylor

  • Born: June 18, 1918
  • Died: April 5, 2015
  • Location: Raleigh, North Carolina


Rev. Gardner Taylor is seen in his home in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Preacher and civil rights figure dies

By RACHEL ZOLL, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, who played a key role in the civil rights movement, has died. He was 96.

Taylor died on Easter Sunday, according to the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a denomination he helped form and once led. Taylor was the longtime pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, but had retired to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Taylor was an ally and confidant of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Around 1960, at a time when some black pastors considered King too politically liberal and rejected his approach to civil rights advocacy, Taylor sided with King. The two men were among a group who formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention, which became a platform for King's civil rights work. Taylor at one point served as president of the denomination.

The Rev. Tyrone S. Pitts, a former leader of the convention, said Taylor "was one of the people who helped frame the civil rights movement." In a 2007 interview with The Associated Press, Taylor described the Bible as a "document for the outcast" that "only an oppressed people can more easily grasp."

The grandson of slaves, Taylor grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and overcame the South's segregation in his childhood to earn a bachelor's degree at Oberlin College. He led Concord Baptist Church of Christ for more than four decades, building the congregation into one of the largest churches in New York.

His powerful voice and preaching influenced generations of preachers from all backgrounds. NBC radio broadcast his sermons starting in the 1950s. In 1996, he was named one of the 12 best preachers in the English-speaking world based on a survey of seminary professors and editors of religious journals.

Taylor retired as a pastor in 1990. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Taylor the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Condolence & Memory Journal

H. Robinson, I met Dr. Taylor in Chicago, IL at a Prayer Breakfast about 10 years ago. He was still going strong and speaking even stronger. I admired and loved this man of God. What a blessing to the World!!

Posted by Helen Robinson - Oak Park, IL - Admirer   September 10, 2015

Wonderful Man of God and a true blessing to his congregation. Always greeted you with a smile and a kind word. Heaven is getting a Jewel...

Posted by Donna T. Mebane - efland, NC - Former member   April 09, 2015

Dr. Gardner Taylor was a true role model not only was he my former Pastor, but he was a true mentor and I will never forget all the confidence and support he showed me while I was a member of his church back in Brooklyn.

Posted by McNeil - Durham, NC - former member   April 09, 2015

Family Album

In a Nov. 29, 2007 file photo, Rev. Gardner Taylor is seen in his home in Raleigh, N.C. The Progressive National Baptist Convention says the Rev. Gardner Taylor died Sunday, April 5, 2014. He was 96. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
Rev. Gardner Taylor is seen in his home in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller shakes hands with the Rev. Gardner Taylor, pastor of the Concord Baptist Church in New York, during a meeting with civil rights leaders at his Manhattan office on Aug. 6, 1963. In center is the Rev. Milton A. Galamison, pastor of the Siloam Presbyterian Church. The two pastors are among a group of civil rights leaders who called on the governor to discuss means of combatting racial discrimination. (AP Photo)