ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Gardner Taylor
National Visionary


Born on June 18, 1918 in Baton Rouge, LA

Pastor








BIOGRAPHY
Reverend Gardner C. Taylor, known as the “poet laureate of American Protestantism,” has been called one of the greatest preachers in America.  His use of metaphor, dramatic timing and biblical truths to weave a seamless narrative in his sermons exhibit his mastery of the technical aspects of preaching that have inspired both laymen and clergy alike.  Many have been entranced and transformed by Taylor’s oratorical gift.

Taylor was the only child born to Reverend Washington and Selina Taylor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Although his father died when he was 13, “Wash” Taylor influenced his son’s preaching style.  The father enjoyed a reputation among Baton Rouge blacks for being a brilliant preacher.  Despite his Baptist upbringing, Taylor was an agnostic.  He had hopes of becoming a lawyer and attended Leland College in Louisiana.  One of his aunts who helped raise him held the ministry in contempt and he felt religion was a foolish indulgence.  It wasn’t until he survived a serious car accident that killed two people that Taylor experienced his call to ministry.  It was in that event he realized God’s claim on his life.  He abandoned plans to attend the University of Michigan Law School and went to the Oberlin School of Theology in 1937.  There he met his wife, Laurabelle Scott.  They married in 1940 and had one daughter. 

While in school, he preached at Bethany Baptist Church in Oberlin from 1938 to 1941.  In 1948, he became pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in New York City at age 30.  At that time, the church had 5,000 members.  By 1990, the end of his tenure, church membership exceeded 14,000.  Under his leadership, the church built a home for the aged, organized a fully-accredited grade school and developed the Christ Fund, a million-dollar endowment for investing in the Brooklyn community.


Taylor receiving the Presidential
Medal of Freedom from
President Bill Clinton
In 1961, he sought the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, the group to which most black Baptists belong.  Then president J.H. Jackson was a conservative whose social and political views put him at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and other ministers sympathetic to the Civil Rights Movement.  A fracas ensued at their annual convention between supporters of both sides.  After losing, Taylor, King and other colleagues formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

During his career, Taylor has taught at prominent divinity schools including Yale and Harvard.  He has a unique ability to teach other preachers, a talent that makes him a popular theological educator.   He is the author of How Shall They Preach, The Scarlet Thread, We Have This Ministry and numerous other publications.  In 1993, Ebony magazine named him the greatest black preacher.  In 2002, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton.

VIDEO CLIPS


EXTERNAL LINKS
Gardner Taylor's Wikipedia Page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/taylorgardner


ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z