Rev. Barry K. Hargrove, Beloved Baltimore Preacher and Social Justice Warrior, Suffers Fatal Heart Attack, Dies at 51; Family, Friends, and Church Members Mourn “a True Man of God”

The Rev. Barry K. Hargrove, the pastor of Prince of Peace Baptist Church in East Baltimore for more than a decade, who brought messages of social justice and environmental awareness, died Oct. 6 from a heart attack at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Northwest Baltimore resident was 51.

“Pastor Hargrove was hardworking, not only for our church but for our community. He wanted to make a difference,” said Rita Smith of Mount Washington, a trustee and a founding member of the church, which opened in 1983.

“He always said there was more that we could do for the community that was positive. He wanted to leave a footprint,” she said. “He wanted our church to be a light in the community, and until his last breath, he was making plans for the church and community.”

“Pastor Hargrove was not just a pastor, he was a friend,” said Wanda D. Wilkerson, who lives in McElderry Park and has been a church deacon since 2015.

“I was looking for a new church, and when I came to Prince of Peace, I gave my testimony. I’m a recovering addict, have been now for 22 years, but when I finished, Pastor Hargove said, ‘God told me there was something special about you.’ He made me stay focused on God. He told me that Christ was my home,” she said.

“As a pastor, he was so steadfast, and his favorite saying was, ‘We’re going to move mountains.’ He was just an awesome pastor,” Ms. Wilkerson said. “He worked so hard and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Arbre F. Fitzgerald, an East Baltimore resident, has been a church member for seven years.

“He was very dedicated and a true man of God. He worked not only for us as our pastor, but he worked hard for social justice.”

The son of Bernard Hargrove, a Ford Motor Co. inspector, and Trumilla Hargrove, a General Signal Corp. inventory clerk, Barry Kennard Hargrove was born in Belleville, N.J., and raised in East Orange, N.J., where he graduated in 1984 from East Orange High School.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in government in 1988 from Georgetown University, where he held leadership positions with the university’s NAACP chapter and Black Student Association, sang with the gospel choir and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

After graduating from Georgetown, Mr. Hargrove worked in outreach for the National Black Child Development Institute.

From 2001 until 2002, he was legislative liaison in the Washington office of the NAACP and then was a national field organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union from 2003 to 2007. He was director of religious outreach for the organization from 2007 to 2008.

Mr. Hargrove pursued graduate studies at the University of the District of Columbia and was in his early 20s when he entered Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, from which he earned a degree in theology.

He was ordained into the Baptist Church by the Rev. Charles Wallace Smith at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington.

In 2006, Mr. Hargrove became pastor of Prince of Peace in East Baltimore’s McElderry Park neighborhood.

In addition to leading the church, he championed social justice, better relations with police, environment initiatives, affordable health care, healthy food options and healthy lifestyles.

He installed a rain garden on church property, and as president of the Progressive Baptist Convention of Maryland, gave a keynote speech in 2016 at the Green Church Summit before 100 African-American church leaders regarding the environment.

“He said he is encouraging his congregation to consider taking small steps, such as recycling, using LED lights and planting trees in the neighborhood, to better care for the Earth,” reported The Baltimore Sun at the time.

“We don’t have to necessarily put conservation as a top-five priority issue within our ministry,” Mr. Hargrove said. “But we can begin to do things in our everyday lives to indicate that we are mindful of the issue.”

He also was a Baltimore Police Department chaplain and worked with other faith leaders to restore a spirit of safety and security in the city.

“Actually, crime was reduced in our neighborhood because of the good relationship he had with the police. He was adamant about that,” Ms. Smith said. “He started many outreach programs for the community.”

Mr. Hargrove was a member of the executive committee of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Maryland and represented Maryland on the national steering committee of the African American Ministers Leadership Council.

His work brought him many awards, including from the ACLU of Mississippi, which recognized Mr. Hargrove in 2004 as a Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Trailblazer.

Mr. Hargrove was a two-time kidney transplant recipient and was active in the transplant community in Maryland and Washington. He raised funds through the Rappel for Kidney Health program and served as a spokesman and religious affairs adviser for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him to the Maryland State Kidney Disease Commission, and his work in the transplant community earned him local and national news coverage.

Raymond A. Harris, a kidney transplant recipient, met Mr. Hargrove three years ago, as they both served as volunteers for kidney organizations.

“He gave a lot of support to everybody. He was open, honest, a kind and gentle soul who was very loving,” said Mr. Harris of Owings Mills, a retired state Department of Natural Resources police officer.

“He was inspirational and motivational. Our paths crossed for a reason through kidney disease,” he said. “I really looked up to him. He was a friend, pastor … and a mentor.”

“He was more than a pastor to me, he was like a dad,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “I’m just heartbroken, devastated and in shock.”

A service celebrating Mr. Hargrove’s life will be held at noon Saturday at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, 2812 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to his parents, Mr. Hargrove is survived by a sister, Bernika Simmons of Newark, N.J.; a nephew and a niece; and a longtime friend, Aleta Williams of Washington.

SOURCE: The Baltimore Sun – Frederick N. Rasmussen