Rev. Robert C. Hunt, 53, helped Park Heights congregation flourish

March 30, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Robert Cornelius Hunt, a Baptist pastor who built his Good Shepherd Church into a flourishing Park Heights congregation, died Monday of cancer at the Northwest Hospital Center. He was 53 and lived in Ashburton.

In 1984, he was installed as pastor of the Park Circle area church, which then had a membership of several hundred. Mr. Hunt's leadership is credited with enlarging the congregation to 1,600 and expanding the physical plant with a $3.4 million addition.

Colleagues recalled his powers as a preacher whose voice possessed a comforting tone and an ability to energize the congregation.

"In my judgment, Reverend Hunt is one of the finest persons I have ever met to be shaped by Christian faith," said the Rev. Harold A. Carter, pastor of New Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore. "He was uncanny. He took the rawness of his ability and was able to go to great heights as a Christian leader."

Born in Baltimore, he grew up in a small West West Street rowhouse on what is now the site of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

A graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and the Cortez Peters Business School, he also attended the University of Baltimore and the Community College of Baltimore.

He received his religious training at Virginia's Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. He also had an honorary degree from Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.

He began preaching in 1975 and had been associated with two Baltimore congregations -- Shiloh Christian Community Church and New Shiloh Baptist Church, then located at Fremont Avenue and Lanvale Street.

From 1978 to 1983, he was pastor of a congregation on Virginia's Eastern Shore -- the Metompkin Baptist Church in Parksley. From there, he was called to the pulpit of Good Shepherd.

"He took a church that was in decline and shaped it," said Marco K. Merrick, a family friend. "He was young -- he brought vitality to the community. He was a shepherd who embraced every component of the city."

While he enlarged his congregation, he also renovated and enlarged his church. He built an urban outreach center to address the needs of his lower Park Heights neighborhood.

Mr. Hunt was known for dressing in dark suits and crisp, starched white shirts with French cuffs.

"He was a classy clergyman," said the Rev. Marvis May, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church at Fremont and Lafayette avenues. "He taught us about life and living. He was a good shepherd."

"He was deeply concerned about the community," said the Rev. Robert T. Hurte, president of the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland. "He made an astounding difference."

During his career, he taught in Africa, Korea and Jamaica and visited the Holy Land three times.

He married Saundra Victoria Lides 32 years ago. She survives him.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at his church, 3459 Park Heights Ave.

He also is survived by a son, Damon M. Hunt of Baltimore; two daughters, Erica Hunt of Atlanta and Tiffany Hunt of Baltimore; his parents, Ella and John Wheatley of Baltimore; a stepmother, Alice Davis of Baltimore; three brothers, Tyrone Wheatley, Wendell Wheatley and John Wheatley, all of Baltimore; five sisters, Antoinette Garrett, Jacqueline Wheatley, Paulette Fitzgerald, Vivian Wheatley, all of Baltimore and Gary Sherman of Overland Park, Kan.

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