HELLO GE­OR­GIA A spark of the divine

The Covington News - - OPINION -

On Novem­ber 15, 1933, Ge­orge Baker, a short, sturdy look­ing black man, ap­peared be­fore the Supreme Court Jus­tice Lewis J. Smith in Mi­ne­ola, Long Is­land. He was charged with be­ing a pub­lic nui­sance.

The Judge of­fered no mercy to this rugged, mo­tion­less and daunt­less dark­skinned pris­oner, who stood with his eyes fixed on the ac­cuser like laser beams.

De­spite an ap­peal for le­niency, the judge sur­veyed the reams of tes­ti­mony of the long, bois­ter­ous trial, and sen­tenced Baker to a $500 fine and one year in jail.

Baker had no prob­lem pay­ing the fine, since he had $7,000 with him at the trial. Fac­ing twelve months be­hind bars was some­thing he was not ready to en­dure; nor did he have to en­dure it.

One of his as­so­ciates, who had lived with him and a host of oth­ers in a com­mu­nal lifestyle at 72 Ma­con Street in a two-story frame house in the all-white com­mu­nity of Sayville, Long Is­land, New York, spoke in an un­der­tone a few cut­ting words:

“That judge can’t live long now. He’s of­fended Almighty God.”

Soon came shock­ing news in the com­mu­nity: Ex­actly three days af­ter the weird prophecy was made, the judge, only 50 years old, with no ap­par­ent health prob­lems, died sud­denly of heart fail­ure

From his jail cell, Baker was heard to say, “I hated to do it!”

What’s more, his con­vic­tion was over­turned by a higher court, and Ge­orge Baker, alias Ma­jor J. Devine, was set free.

News of the judge’s death and Baker’s re­lease from jail, sparked a swelling, thun­der­ous move­ment which pro­claimed this mil­i­tant re­former as “God In­car­nate,” and pop­u­larly known as Fa­ther Divine

Who was this strange, wiry man who was called “God?.”

He was a black re­li­gious leader of mil­lions, who, in the later 1920s and 1930s helped feed and clothe thou­sands of poverty-stricken, un­der­priv­i­leged blacks, whites, Asians and oth­ers in Har­lem and else­where in New York and Penn­syl­va­nia.

Ge­orge Baker was born around 1880, on a rice plan­ta­tion on Hutchin­son Is­land, on the Savannah River in Ge­or­gia. His par­ents were share­crop­pers. He was given the name of Ge­orge Baker, and worked with his many brothers and sis­ters in the cot­ton fields.

When Ge­orge turned 19, he left Ge­or­gia for Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. There he met a black preacher, the Rev. St. John the Divine Hickerson, pas­tor of a Bap­tist church. Baker be­came faith­ful in at­ten­dance.

Dur­ing a “re­vival meet­ing” at the church, an­other preacher, a mu­latto mys­tic, named Samuel Mor­ris, who taught that ev­ery be­liever, be­ing the “tem­ple of God”, was, in fact, God.

This the­o­log­i­cal con­cept gave Baker the ab­so­lute con­vic­tion that he was God, and he too be­came an evan­ge­list on a three-man team along with Hickerson and Mor­ris, who were proud to in­tro­duce Baker as “God in the Sonship De­gree.”

Clifford Brew­ton


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