Residents, family members, and elected officials gathered on Monday to say their final goodbyes to a prominent preacher and civil rights leader who died last week.
Hundreds of mourners flooded Concord Baptist Church of Christ for the funeral service of Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, who died last week at 96 years old.
Taylor served as senior pastor at the Marcy Avenue church for 42 years until his retirement in 1990. The community co-named a stretch of the avenue “Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard” following his departure in recognition of his contributions to the neighborhood.
“Whenever Dr. Taylor walked in a room, people knew they were with someone special,” said Rev. Gary V. Simpson, Concord’s current senior pastor and Taylor’s successor. “He was incredibly gracious, humble, and chivalrous. He was a gentleman and always had time for everyone.
“When you sat down with him you were the most important person in the world at the moment, and that was part of his greatness,” he continued.
Taylor helped put Bedford-Stuyvesant on the map through his preaching and community initiatives, locals said. Clergy members referred to him as the “Dean of American preachers,” and he was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
During his tenure on Marcy Avenue, he helped create the Concord Federal Credit Union, an elementary school, home services for the elderly, senior residences, and foster care services, among many other neighborhood resources.
“Most people know him for his preaching but if you look around that block you will see so many institutional responses — the things that salted the very lives of people in that neighborhood,” Simpson said.
“He saw what may have begun as a pastoral need and systemically addressed the forces, circumstances, trials and troubles, unleashing it in Bedford-Stuyvesant to make the name ‘Concord’ life-giving.”
Attendees at Monday’s memorial described Taylor as a “trailblazer” and an engaging, “mesmerizing” speaker.