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W.Va. bishop recalled fondly

September 14, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Eugene Ernest Baltimore is being remembered as a "man of all seasons" who tirelessly looked for the less fortunate and was a leader in the NAACP, among other civic accomplishments.

Baltimore, who died Friday at Winchester Medical Center, was pastor of the King Apostle Holiness Church of God in Ranson, W.Va., for more than 50 years and was senior bishop of the church, which placed him over about 18 congregations from Pennsylvania to Florida.

Besides his dedication to the church, Baltimore was active in the community, pushing for quality education for African Americans for decades, said Jim Tolbert, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

But he did it peacefully, said close friend Gladys Davenport of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Baltimore could not understand why people, white or black, would let anger enter into the efforts for equal rights, Davenport said Monday.


"I always remember this soft-spoken, real peaceful (man). All the kids would come around him like this great father figure that had arrived on the scene," said Davenport, who grew up with Baltimore in Johnsontown, a small community off Wiltshire Road in Bardane, W.Va.

Friends said Baltimore had a keen sense of the needs of the less fortunate, and he often could be found driving through the community on Sunday mornings looking for children with idle time on their hands.

He would pick them up and take them to his church on West Third Avenue for a morning of Sunday school and services.

"No child was too bad for him. His doors were open to anyone," said Bertha Jones, a long-time member of the church.

"He has just been an inspiration to me and the whole community," said George Rutherford, a neighbor of Baltimore's and the current president of the Jefferson County Chapter of the NAACP.

Under Baltimore's leadership, the church developed three annual conferences, including two that dealt with youth and women's issues, Jones said. The youth conference, which was held at different locations, also provided activities for kids, Jones said.

"Anything to keep them off the streets and focused in the right way," Jones said.

Baltimore, 87, re-chartered the Jefferson County branch of the NAACP in 1963 and became the first president of the local branch.

Baltimore had preached up until last year, when health problems started keeping him from the pulpit, although he still made appearances, Jones said.

Baltimore also served several terms on the Ranson City Council.

He stayed in close contact with elected officials in Charles Town and Ranson, as well as with state lawmakers, to discuss local issues with them, Tolbert said.

"I don't know that we will get anyone of his magnitude that will replace him," Tolbert said. "He was very close to our family, and always there in periods of sadness."

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