Hundreds of his followers, some fanning themselves with a funeral program bearing Paulk's color photo, walked behind a horse-drawn hearse for 30 minutes as its tuxedo-and-top-hat-clad driver circled the grounds at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in DeKalb County to deposit Paulk's body back at the chapel.
The 81-year-old Pentecostal minister, who died March 29, had been one of the white clergymen who stood with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.
Paulk and his brother, the Rev. Donnie Paulk, built a church of more than 10,000 members, a congregation of blacks, whites and Asians.
Politicians from Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to Atlanta Mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young recognized him for his achievements and political prowess.
On Saturday, mementos reflected the recognition he had achieved, including a leadership award from Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and a certificate of achievement from former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).
But sex scandals besmirched Paulk's name since the 1990s, as a number of women claimed he had affairs with them.
One woman said Paulk molested her as a teenager and as a child, and she filed a lawsuit that was settled out of court.
Another woman, who said Paulk coerced her into a 14-year affair, has a pending suit against Paulk and the church. Church membership dwindled to about 1,000.
Long told the crowded sanctuary that Paulk's flaws as a man did not undermine his greatness as a religious leader.
"We did not, in case you didn't know, fall down out of heaven," Long said, first drawing laughter, then, "amens." "We were taken from among men so we could minister to men. ... We must remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets."
Paulk, who denied the women's allegations under oath, later pleaded guilty to perjury and was placed on 10 years' probation after a 2007 DNA test showed he had fathered a son with his brother's wife.
That son, the Rev. D.E. Paulk, now leads the church. He gave the eulogy Saturday and sought to put the past behind.
"A saint is just a sinner who fell down and got back up again," he said. "As I walked around the hallway of the cathedral yesterday, I began to get a sense that we were about to get back up again."
He noted that on the stage at the funeral --- in the spirit of the bishop --- sat Christians, Jews and Muslims. As he neared the end of the eulogy, he said that the man whom he first knew as his uncle always referred to him as "Donnie Earl," instead of "D.E."
"Maybe now on his death, I'll want to be called Donnie Earl a little more," he said. "I'm never ashamed of my father."
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution
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