The Rev. Sidney Daniels, 78, leader in city civil rights movement of '60s

August 29, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Sidney Daniels, a Baltimore civil rights leader of the turbulent 1960s and former president of the city's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, died of a heart attack Friday while preparing to officiate at a funeral.

Mr. Daniels collapsed at Emmanuel Christian Community Church in West Baltimore, where he was pastor emeritus. He was 78 and a resident of the Ashburton section of Northwest Baltimore.

He was among the civil rights leaders arrested at demonstrations outside segregated Gwynn Oak amusement park in Baltimore County in July 1963, and among the black clergy who walked out in protest when Gov. Spiro T. Agnew publicly rebuked black leaders for failing to quell the rioting that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Born in Trumbull County, Ohio, he received a bachelor's degree at what is now Youngstown University. He did graduate work at Oberlin Theological Seminary and Gammon Theological Seminary before earning a bachelor's degree from the Howard University School of Religion in 1953.

He also earned a master's degree in education and counseling from the Johns Hopkins University in 1976.

Early in his career, he served at churches in Atlanta and the District of Columbia.

Called to the pulpit of Emmanuel Church, at Carrollton Avenue and Lanvale Street, in 1958, Mr. Daniels became a vocal and articulate advocate for the Lafayette Square and Harlem Park communities, where he held the presidency of the neighborhood council for many years.

"He was a member of that generation of leaders whom I knew as strong social and civic activists," said Carl Stokes, a former Baltimore city councilman. "He was always speaking out on issues of injustice, and it happened that these incidents of injustice most often affected African-Americans."

Mr. Stokes recalled yesterday that Mr. Daniels was a member of what was called the "goon squad," a term that he said was not derogatory. "These were men who took no prisoners, who didn't mind walking into [then-city police commissioner] Donald Pomerleau's office and demanding to be heard. For them, the term `goon squad' was endearing."

"He was a lover of freedom," said the Rev. Marion C. Bascom, director of the Morgan State University Christian Center and pastor emeritus of Douglas Memorial Community Church. "And he was forever addressing issues in The Sun, writing letters on behalf of a cause. He had a strong voice."

His dozens of letters to The Sun and Evening Sun addressed issues as diverse as gun control, rat eradication, lower city car insurance rates, help for the poor in buying heating oil and the need for more vocational education.

Mr. Daniels was a founder of the largely church-based BUILD - Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development - and played a role in the planning of renewal efforts in the Sandtown Winchester section of West Baltimore.

In the 1980s, he contended that discrimination against blacks in city police promotions was adversely affecting the battle against crime in the black community. He said many white police officers were uncomfortable in black neighborhoods and therefore ineffective in dealing with residents.

He also worked to end discrimination in hiring practices in the banking business.

In addition to his former service as president and secretary of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, an influential group of 175 mostly black church pastors, he had been a city Fire Department chaplain and a member of the organization Blacks and Jews, the Ecumenical Council of Central Maryland, Maryland Churches United and the NAACP.

He is survived by his wife of nearly half a century, the former Emma Lee Bryant, and a son, William Daniels of Youngstown, Ohio.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at New Shiloh Baptist Church, 2100 N. Monroe St.

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