Monday, September 06, 1999

Bishop's activism to live on

Blanchard Society to perpetuate goals of race riots peacemaker

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Cincinnati blacks rioted after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Episcopal Bishop Roger W. Blanchard moved into City Hall and worked the streets and phones as a peacemaker.

        Within weeks, the riot, arson and aftermath prompted the bishop, Wise Temple's Rabbi Albert A. Goldman and others to create the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati to perpetuate interfaith social action.

        And when race-conscious communal projects could benefit from the generosity of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, Bishop Blanchard made sure the money flowed.

        That commitment continued into retirement and almost to his death last year.

        Now a new Bishop Blanchard Society is raising a $2 million endowment to continue his ministries in southern Ohio.

        The fund will support the Episcopal Community Services Foundation. The director, Pamela Byrne Riley, said money will be allocated starting next year and emphasize rehabilitation and education of at-risk youth; social justice and ministering to prisoners and their families.

        Bishop Blanchard's racial zeal was triggered by the Cincinnati race riots in 1967 and 1968, activist Charles “Chuck” Judd of Hyde Park recalled.

        “He threw himself into it,” said now-retired Rabbi Goldman.

        John Harris, another activist and longtime Lincoln Heights resident, agreed. “He already had a sense that racism was wrong and the church had to step up and do something about it.”

        The bishop's move into City Hall publicly put his church on the side of the angels, Mr. Harris said, as did Bishop Blanchard's push for a continuing assault on institutional racism in the diocese.

        Bishop Blanchard was more overtly political than his regal predecessor, and his wide-eyed, boyish enthusiasm undermined a lot of resistance, Mr. Judd said. “He was a lovable guy.”

        Mr. Harris agreed. “Even his enemies had to love him. At the end of the day, you couldn't stay mad at him.”

        That might have been true of clergy and laity who worked closely with Bishop Blanchard, but there were lots of Episcopalians who resisted where he was taking their church.

        Bishop Blanchard retired in 1974 and returned to Maine. He was a volunteer chaplain in a maximum-security prison, where his enthusiasm captivated guards and inmates and won him the freedom to wander around the prison unescorted.

        Last year's diocesan convention created the Blanchard Society to provide consistent support of congregational projects brought to the Episcopal Community Services foundation, Mrs. Riley said.

        In the past nine years, the foundation has lacked an endowment and lived on individual gifts and grants, she said.

        Mrs. Riley said the drive would continue through 2000. It will require $3 million in pledges to yield the $2 million being sought, she predicted. The society has $400,000 in pledges.

        Even when the goal is met, the foundation will continue to accept gifts for other projects, Mrs. Riley said.


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