Pastor and Civil Rights Activist St. George I.B. Crosse III, Who Served as an Adviser to President Reagan and Special Ambassador to Grenada, Dies at 79

The Rev. St. George I.B. Crosse III, an outspoken conservative pastor and civil rights activist who was the first African American to run for Baltimore sheriff and who served as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as special ambassador to his home country of Grenada, died Aug. 7 of complications from dementia at Woodholme Gardens in Pikesville.

The longtime Randallstown resident and Methodist preacher was 79.

An imposing 6-foot-1 presence behind the pulpit who delivered impassioned — and often controversial — sermons with a booming voice in the sanctuary, on television and over the radio for years, Mr. Crosse considered himself “a servant of God first, and then of the people.”

“That’s what my life is all about,” he told The Sun in a 1984 profile. “I’m able to serve them in the church as well as in the political arena.”

While his trailblazing political campaigns to become Baltimore’s first black sheriff, the city’s first black Republican comptroller and the first black 7th Congressional District representative were unsuccessful, Mr. Crosse paved the way for the African Americans who would eventually occupy those offices, said his wife, Delois Crosse of Randallstown.

“I’m proud of that,” Mrs. Crosse said. “You never know what trail you are sodding for someone else to walk down and eventually become successful.”

St. George Idris Byron Crosse III was born Sept. 16, 1939, in Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, for which he was named, to Stevenson Winston Churchill Crosse, a third-generation Methodist pastor, and Iris Ernest Thomas Crosse, a nurse. As his father moved from church to church, Mr. Crosse attended public schools in Guyana and Barbados.

With six children, and a seventh on the way, the Crosse family emigrated to the U.S. in 1957 for better education. They moved to Crisfield on the Eastern Shore, where Mr. Crosse’s father became pastor of a local Methodist church. Then 17, Mr. Crosse got a job picking strawberries for $3 a day, two bologna sandwiches and, according to his family, “all the Kool-Aid he could drink.”

He participated in sit-ins with the Congress of Racial Equality and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement on the Eastern Shore in the early 1960s and was jailed for his activism and claimed at one point to have had a $100 Ku Klux Klan bounty placed on his head. (“It made me feel bad that that’s all they thought I was worth,” he said.)

After three years of active duty and an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, Mr. Crosse attended the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, worked four nights a week mopping and buffing floors, and still graduated magna cum laude and valedictorian of his class with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1964.

He was hitchhiking in May 1964 from Baltimore to Princess Anne County, with plans to burn down a Methodist church from which he and other black protesters had been removed, when a Pennsylvania man named William H. Worrilow Jr. introduced him to faith, and the pair “kneeled on the side of Route 50 and asked the Lord Jesus Christ to come into my head,” Mr. Crosse said.

Mr. Crosse married the former Delois Bowman, whom he had met through his sister, Tessa Crosse, at a basketball game between their rival colleges, on Aug. 20, 1966, at Salem United Methodist Church in New York. The Crosses had two daughters in a marriage that lasted nearly 53 years.

After attending medical school for a year, Mr. Crosse switched career paths and enrolled at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He ran for sheriff of Baltimore City in 1966, during his second year of law school. When the Board of Elections rejected Mr. Crosse’s bid because he had just become a U.S. citizen, he took his case to the Court of Appeals, arguing his own case and winning the right to run — although he lost the election.

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Source: Baltimore Sun