Preached 90-plus years

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MAU­REEN O’DON­NELL, STAFF RE­PORTER mod­on­[email protected]­ | @sun­time­so­bits

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.

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