Rev. Claude Black was for S.A. what MLK was for na­tion.

Min­is­ter was pre-eminent ad­vi­cate for civil rights

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Front Page - FROM EXPRE SS-NEWS A longer ver­sion of this re­port by Carmina Danini and Ed­mund Ti­je­rina ran March 14, 2009.

The Rev. Claude Wil­liam Black Jr. was one of the most in­flu­en­tial lead­ers to come out of San An­to­nio’s African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity and a pre-eminent civil rights ad­vo­cate.

“He was al­ways a man who never showed his anger or his tem­per,” the late Bill Sinkin re­called at the time of Black’s death in 2009. The long­time San An­to­nio busi­ness­man and civic leader had worked with Black on var­i­ous pro­jects. “He showed his strength.”

Though Black served on the San An­to­nio City Coun­cil from 1973 to 1977 and was its first black mayor pro tem, he never aban­doned the pul­pit for pol­i­tics. He was pas­tor of Mount Zion First Bap­tist Church, the largest African-Amer­i­can church in the city.

Black, a com­pelling speaker and gifted or­a­tor, used the pul­pit as a means of ex­press­ing his com­mu­nity’s strug­gle for jus­tice and equal­ity.

Min­is­ters, Black noted, were the only ones in the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity who weren’t de­pen­dent on the An­glo econ­omy The task a min­is­ter has is to make life bet­ter for peo­ple whether they are black, white or His­panic,” he said. “Most of my ef­forts were de­signed to ad­dress the is­sues of need that con­cerned the in­di­vid­ual.”

That meant Mount Zion was at the fore­front of the fight for equal pay for black teach­ers, of blacks be­ing treated at tax-sup­ported hos­pi­tals, of pro­vid­ing hous­ing for se­nior cit­i­zens and of build­ing a day care cen­ter in 1957 for chil­dren whose moth­ers worked at Kelly and Lack­land AFBs.

The church also opened a credit union so its mem­bers wouldn’t have to pay ex­or­bi­tant in­ter­est to loan sharks.

Along with the late Rabbi David Ja­cob­son, Catholic Arch­bishop Rob- ert Luceyand Epis­co­pal Bishop Everett Jones,

Black fought against seg­re­ga­tion.

Black and the Rev. S.H. James Jr., pas­tor of Sec­ond Bap­tist Church and the man who would be­come the city’s first AfricanAmer­i­can elected to the City Coun­cil, helped in­te­grate many of San An­to­nio’s best-known places — such as the lunch counter at Joske’s de­part­ment store, parks and swim­ming pools — by set­ting up picket lines.

“The news­pa­pers called me mil­i­tant,” Black re­called in a 2001 in­ter­view with San An­to­nio Ex­pressNews colum­nist Cary Clack. “You’re talk­ing about con­sti­tu­tional rights. I was no more mil­i­tant than the peo­ple who wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

Black re­called a time when San An­to­nio was no dif­fer­ent than any other South­ern city.

“You had sep­a­rate fa­cil­i­ties for blacks and whites,” he said. “If you were black, you had to en­ter the Ma­jes­tic The­ater from a back en­trance and you had to sit in the bal­cony. You rode in the back of the bus, and the schools were seg­re­gated.”

Black was born in San An­to­nio on Nov. 28, 1916, the son of a Pull­man porter and a housewife.

Af­ter he grad­u­ated from then-Dou­glass High School in 1933, he en­rolled at St. Philip’s Col­lege. He earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 1937 from Morehouse Col­lege, an elite black col­lege for men in At­lanta.

He earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in di­vin­ity from the An­dover New­ton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, near Bos­ton, in 1943 and re­turned to

San An­to­nio, be­com­ing pas­tor at Mount Zion in 1949.

Over the years, Black be­came an as­so­ciate of Martin Luther King Jr., A. Phillip Ran­dolph, Thur­good Mar­shall and Adam Clay­ton Pow­ell Jr.

He gained na­tional at­ten­tion in his fight for racial equal­ity and marches he led for civil rights.

“His was the voice of hu­man­ity,” Mayor Phil Hard­berger re­called.

Black at­tended the White House Con­fer­ence on Civil Rights in 1966 with then-Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son and the White House Con­fer­ence on Ag­ing in 1995 with Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Af­ter he re­tired in 1998, Black con­tin­ued to preach, to write and to speak out on so­cial is­sues such as ed­u­ca­tion for blacks, racism and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in in­ner-city neigh­bor­hoods.

“His was the voice of hu­man­ity,” Mayor Phil Hard­berger re­called.

“Rev. Black was to San An­to­nio what Martin Luther King was for the na­tion,” Hard­berger said. “You can’t over­state his im­por­tance.”

Kin Man Hui / Staff file photo

The Rev. Claude Black stands be­fore a mu­ral in­side his church, Mount Zion Bap­tist, in this 1998 photo.

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