The Rev. Leonard E. Hicks, organizer, founder and minister of the Greater New Hope Baptist Church, died Tuesday of cancer at the Loch Raven Veterans Hospital, where he had been a patient for two weeks. He was 81.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at the church in the 2700 block of West North Avenue.
Born in Ebony, Va., Dr. Hicks moved to Baltimore with his family in 1925. Two years later, he graduated from Dunbar High School before going to work, first for Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point and then at the Glenn L. Martin Co.
In 1934, he married Dora Taylor of Gulfport, Miss.
In 1931, Dr. Hicks joined the Maryland National Guard. In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, rising in rank to recruit commander. During World War II he served in the South Pacific.
In 1945, Dr. Hicks returned to Baltimore, where he and his wife operated a dry cleaning business for 29 years.
From 1957 to 1961, Dr. Hicks attended Morris College in Sumter, S.C., and in 1967, he received a doctor of divinity degree from the Baltimore College of the Bible.
In 1958, Dr. Hicks was ordained a Baptist minister. Three years later, he and eight others organized the Greater New Hope Mission in a storefront in the 2000 block of N. Monroe St. Soon recognized as a church, Greater New Hope moved in 1964 to new quarters on Riggs Avenue and then in 1974 to its present home on West North Avenue.
Dr. Hicks was the only minister the church ever had, and he nurtured its growth as it expanded from a handful of members to about 700 today.
In the mid-1980s, with a $3.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Hicks and church members built the Greater New Hope Towers, an 84-unit apartment complex for senior citizens in the 2700 block of Walbrook Ave.
In 1987, Dr. Hicks opened and became president of the New Hope Bible Crusade College, a state-accredited school of theology within the church's complex.
Dr. Hicks was a lifelong member of Hiram Grand Lodge of the Masons.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Hicks is survived by numerous nieces and nephews.