ELKTON — The late Bishop L. Huey Harris Sr. preached from the pulpit for more than 60 years, but his actions spoke louder than the words he uttered during his church services.
“He walked the talk, no doubt about it,” said Earl Piner Sr., an Elkton town commissioner who attended Harris’ church in Elkton during his youth and still visits occasionally.
He continued, “People in the community use to go to him for help and support all the time. If their electricity got cut off, he would help. Whatever it was, he would find a way to help. He was very connected to this community.”
In 1963, Harris founded the First Pentecostal Tabernacle Church, which stood on Clinton Street in downtown Elkton. The church relocated to its present spot on nearby Booth Street in 1979 and was renamed Abundant Life Worship Center.
Harris, who died on Jan. 12, 2016, at age 87, would have turned 90 on July 7. In his memory, Elkton Mayor Rob Alt and the town commissioners declared that Sunday “Bishop Huey Harris Sr. Day.”
As part of the celebration, a street sign memorializing the late Harris was dedicated during an unveiling ceremony that took place after Sunday morning worship service that day.
The blue sign with white letters reads, “Bishop Huey L. Harris Sr. Lane,” and it stands in front of the church near the parking lot entrance.
Later that afternoon, there was another celebratory event in which town leaders formally issued the Bishop Huey Harris Sr. Day proclamation.
Born in Arkansas in 1929, Harris received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, which he had joined in 1951, according to the proclamation.
The document also indicates that Harris was a “faithful and dedicated husband for 65 years and patriarch to his 13 children and a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and countless spiritual children.”
Among those in attendance during the July 7 events was the late minister’s widow, Lou Ann Harris. Also present were town and county officials, including Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr., Piner and fellow Commissioner Charles Givens.
The proclamation describes Harris as a “trailblazer, pioneer and general in the Christian faith” during his 52 years of pastoral leadership and more than 60 years of preaching.
“Bishop Harris never wavered from his calling: a tireless, outspoken advocate for social justice and reform throughout Harford and Cecil Counties.”
Toward the end of the proclamation, it reads, “Bishop Harris’ legacy of love for the Gospel and community service continues to inspire to this day.”
The Rev. Solomon Harris, the couple’s eighth child, told the Cecil Whig that he has drawn great inspiration from his late father in his private life and as an ordained pastor.
In June 2016, Solomon, now 56, became senior pastor of the church founded by his late father, after serving for years as an elder, an administrator and a Sunday School teacher.
“Before he passed, he gave me a directive to build the ministry,” Solomon said, emphasizing that “winning souls to Christ” is the most important of the many facets of ministry building.
With his father’s torch passed to him, Solomon uses a three-prong approach that emphasizes “teaching and preaching God’s word, discipleship and community outreach,” he said.
Since his father died, the Abundant Life Worship Center has hosted two Community Day festivals that were open to the public — a third one is scheduled — and back-to-school events in which school supplies were given away, he said.
The church also has distributed Thanksgiving meals to needy families, he added.
“This (July 7) event was a celebration of my father’s life and legacy. He touched many lives during his life,” Solomon said.
He continued, “He was really concerned about people, especially young people. He had a heart for the youth. He would guide and mentor young people in our community — Earl Piner was one of them. He would introduce them to Christ and teach and encourage them to walk in the way of Christ. He did a lot of community outreach, but mentoring young people was a big part of it.”
The guest speaker for both legacy services was “The Miracle Man,” Bishop Clayton Johnson of Atlanta, Ga. Johnson, who was mentored by Harris at a young age, is currently an international bishop and assistant pastor for Bishop Paul Morton’s Full Gospel Baptist Church, Atlanta.