Bishop Arthur Brazier, Rest in Peace

Chicago’s Bishop Arthur Brazier died today. A true gentleman, he is missed.

Bishop Arthur Brazier, the recently-retired pastor of Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, died today. He was 89.

Bishop Brazier led that 20,000-member Woodlawn congregation for 48 years. His church is located three blocks south of the University of Chicago campus. It is a world away in terms of the wealth and opportunities available to many people in its local community. Bishop Brazier built the Apostolic Church into one of the most influential and activist churches in America. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of lives he personally touched. I do know that the number is quite large. Every politician in this city knew that, too. Among these politicians was one Barack Obama, who gave a blunt Father’s Day sermon from Bishop Brazier’s pulpit.

He fought the powers that be in this city when he believed he had to. He is famous for marching with Dr. King to protest Chicago’s extreme segregation in education and housing. A founder of the Woodlawn Organization fifty years ago, he often tangled with my university. He was also a valued and respected partner, who worked with us on many issues to expand opportunities and improve life in both the Woodlawn and Hyde Park communities.

I didn’t know him well. I was honored to have spent some time with him. He was remarkably gracious and generous to me and to my colleagues. He added a touch of class to Chicago’s rather sordid political game. He is missed.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.