Columnist - Religion still important

February 27, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, pinch hitting for ailing civil rights activist James Farmer who was scheduled to speak, delivered a rousing sermon on the importance of religion in society.

Milloy spoke to about 135 people at a Black History Month program at Shepherd College on Thursday night.

Farmer, founder and former national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, was scheduled to speak, but had to cancel because he is about to undergo surgery, said the Rev. Ernest Lyles of Shepherdstown.

Farmers was a leader in the civil rights movement during the 1960s.

Milloy, 45, said he got his start in journalism at his high school newspaper in Louisiana where his father taught the class. He said he took the class only because a girl in whom he was interested was in it.


He's been with the Washington Post since 1975, first as a police and courts reporter in Prince George's County, Md., where he helped expose police brutality.

Milloy said he takes pride in working in the nation's capital for the Washington Post.

He said there are moments when he looks at the glistening marble of the monuments and "it can make a really cynical reporter like myself feel proud to be an American."

But he said he only has to look in the other direction to see the overcrowded housing projects where drug gangs have caused the streets to run with blood.

Even in the worst neighborhoods, however, he said he's found hope. After a heroin caused 16 deaths, he went to a housing project where he found an 8-year-old girl working at a desk made of a plank board on cinder blocks, doing her homework. Her 17-year-old brother was cleaning the bathroom and her mother was in the kitchen cooking.

On the mantle was a pair of clasped hands with the saying: "A family who prays together, stays together," he said.

"Knowledge of God's word is medicine that gives an eternal life," Milloy said.

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