James Donald Tallie, 85, Pentecostal pastor

January 10, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. James Donald Tallie, who established and led the West Baltimore congregation of Holy Faith Church of God in Christ for nearly 50 years, died of cancer Jan. 2 at Chesapeake Hospice House in Linthicum. He was 85 and lived in Glen Burnie.

Born in Oakville, N.C., where he spent his early years, Mr. Tallie's interest in becoming a clergyman began as a child.

"I had a love for the Lord and the church at an early age. I loved to go to the Locust Grove Baptist Church with my parents, and I loved playing church with my youngest sister," he wrote in a family memoir. "It was during this time when I experienced my call to the ministry. At age four, while playing church, the Lord put me in a trance and revealed his calling on my life."

Mr. Tallie moved with his family to the city's Fairfield section in the early 1930s, and was 16 when he joined the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal church on Chesapeake Avenue.

He accepted the call to the ministry in 1935, the same year he graduated from Douglass High School. For the next 20 years, he held a variety of positions at Church of God in Christ. He was ordained an elder in 1945 and assistant to the church's pastor in 1950. In 1955, he was ordained a Pentecostal pastor.

Mr. Tallie was a graduate of the Charles Harrison Mason Bible Institute of Detroit, and received his doctorate of divinity from Trinity Hall College and Seminary in Denver in 1991.

In 1955, he founded Holy Faith Church of God in Christ, and through the years, helped define its mission and its services: visiting the sick, caring for the needy and counseling of the elderly.

"The Lord sent me out to pastor and establish Holy Faith," he wrote in his memoir. "Our first church was located at Paca and Warner streets, and my wife said, `Since we are going out on faith, let's name it Faith.' The Lord revealed the name `Holy' to me, and so together we named the church Holy Faith."

He also wrote the church's motto: "Where the presence of God abides, no stranger feels strange."

Due to an expanding congregation, Mr. Tallie moved the church in 1973 to its present home at Gilmor and Franklin streets in Harlem Park.

Armed with faith, unbounded energy, tools and buckets of paint, Mr. Tallie worked alongside workers he had hired from the surrounding neighborhood to help build the church.

"He purchased the land and built the church from the ground up," said a daughter, Lydia M. Tallie of Glen Burnie.

Throughout 69 years of service to the Pentecostal movement, he had missed only one Sunday school session and one morning service, family members said.

It was at his church that Mr. Tallie continued to preach until the end of his life. Despite being ill, he was able to participate by telephone in the New Year's Eve service.

"He was charismatic," said Charles C. Whittaker of Severn, a trustee. "He knew how to touch people through his words and deeds. In other words, he walked the walk, and talked the talk."

"He was still preaching. He was a bold soldier right to the end," said his daughter.

Annie J. Smith of Cherry Hill, a church member for more than 40 years, said Mr. Tallie was one of the reasons that she remained dedicated to the church for so long.

"He lived what he preached," she said. "If he hadn't, I wouldn't have been around here for all these years. When he spoke, his words were always so powerful that you couldn't sit still. The power of God was in him. He stood for holiness, righteousness and truth."

Mr. Tallie combined two careers. In 1952, he went to work for the Baltimore Transit Co. as a streetcar motorman, and later worked as a bus driver for the MTA until retiring in 1978.

While working for the BTC early in the civil rights era, he once removed a sign that hung over a restroom for African-American workers that read, "Colored."

"I took the sign down and put it in the trash and it was never put up again," he wrote in his memoir.

Mr. Tallie was married in 1937 to Edna L. Westbrook, who died in 1985.

Services will be held at 6:30 p.m. today at Maryland Church of God in Christ, 5100 Denmore Ave., Baltimore.

Mr. Tallie is survived by another daughter, Deborah J. Tallie of Glen Burnie; five grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his two sons, James D. Tallie and Matthew D. Tallie.

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