Preached 90-plus years
Growing up in Mississippi, 6-year-old James Bass would play at conducting church services for his friends.
“He would funeralize the cow, anything that died,” said his son, Vincent.
When he was a few years older, ministers would turn over their pulpits to him.
“The preacher would say, ‘Young man, what do you have to say?’ ” said Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church. “The spirit would be upon him, and he would lead people to Christ.”
The Rev. Bass helped found Chicago’s Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church at 1532 S. Pulaski, a wellspring for other clergy and churches.
“There’s more than 15 churches that were birthed out of Mount Olive,” said his son.
The Rev. Bass, 98, died of prostate cancer Nov. 27 at his West Pullman home.
He was an early champion of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“When Dr. King came to Chicago in 1966, Rev. Bass was one of the first ministers to join our rallies and our marches,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH.
“He dedicated his life to serving people, and he served us, his children, as well,” said his daughter, Vikkeda Bass. “What he was out in the street, he was the same at home.”
His son said he was born in Florence, Mississippi, and baptized in the Sunflower River. He grew up throwing horseshoes and playing marbles on the Dockery Farms plantation. He and his parents, Hattie and Frank Bass, would take a mule-drawn wagon to church, according to his biography.
His son said he served three years in the Army in India and New Guinea during World War II, ministering to other soldiers. In 1948, he enrolled at Mississippi’s Tougaloo College.
After a 1955 religious revival in Detroit, he helped found his first church on Pulaski Road. He also preached on WVON radio.
In 1967, he married his wife, Helyn Maxcine Julius.
The Rev. Bass kept up with technology, using Google to help craft sermons, though he’d joke it might have diluted Bible memorization. “In my day, you had to know where to look up the Scriptures and passages,” he’d say.
In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by his grandson James. Viewing will be 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Gatling’s Chapel, 10133 S. Halsted, and 9 to 10:30 a.m. Monday at the House of Hope, 752 E. 114th, with the funeral at 10:30 a.m.
The Rev. James Bass at the pulpit. He preached more than 90 years.