Civil rights icon Rev. Harry Blake dies

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Rev. Harry Blake, pastor emeritus of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, has died.

Blake who served as pastor of Mount Caanan for 52 years before retiring in September 2018, was a friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., joining his Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960.

Inspired by a speech King gave at Bishop College in Texas, where Blake was a student, he became the SCLC’s first field secretary, which brought him to Shreveport.

Mt. Canaan Baptist Church released a statement Wednesday night, confirming that Blake died after a brief illness.

Dr. Harry Blake, 85, Pastor Emeritus of the historic Mt. Canaan Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana and Interim Pastor of St. Rest Baptist Church, also in Shreveport, passed tonight after a brief illness. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Reverend Harry Blake served the Mt. Canaan Baptist Church for more 52 years.  Pastor Blake was a recognized icon in the Civil Rights movement that led to justice and equality for many.

The family is appreciative of the outpouring of support that has come for the local community and from across the nation.  During this critical time, The Blake family requests private time as they, together, mourn the passing of their father, brother, grandfather, and uncle.

No media interviews will be granted. No telephone calls or electronic inquiries to the family will be accepted at this time. The family will issue statements on future arrangements.

In September 1963, three little girls were killed in a bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The following week, a memorial service was held at Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport. While people peacefully marched outside the church, police came on horseback, disbursing the crown with cattle prods.

Blake, then president of the Shreveport chapter NAACP, was inside at the pulpit when police officers rode their horses into the sanctuary on horses and brutally beat him nearly to death.

But he survived, healed and came back more determined to make a difference.

In 1966, Blake became pastor of Mount Caanan, and continued his work in the peaceful, non-violent Civil Rights movement, which he did throughout his life.

Blake also served as president of the Louisiana Baptist State Convention and General Secretary of the National Baptist Convention USA.

Oral histories given by Blake are in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.

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