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My Two Cents: Resident reflects on the Rev. Dr. Walter E. Fauntroy: A legend in our community

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Posted on: May 12, 2021

By Joanna Turner

 

I’m excited to report that a legend has moved into our area, the Rev. Dr. Walter E. Fauntroy. 

 

I grew up attending Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, pastor Bishop Smallwood E. Williams. My pastor walked alongside Fauntroy during the 1950s through the 1980s fighting for justice in our country. Williams would have Fauntroy come to visit our church many many times, telling us “what thus saith the Lord!” 

 

I’ve only had personal experiences with Fauntroy recently, when I was assigned by my job to take care of one of his church’s oldest members. She is very close to the Fauntroy family. Through her, I was able to minister to them by praying for them and bringing them cases of water every now and then (I have a water ministry.).

 

Although his health is now failing, Fauntroy is still full of energy, preaching to and praying for his family and friends while residing here in University Park.

 

“I didn’t grow up on a farm, so I don’t know anything about chickens, … but I grew up in Washington, D.C., where I learned about the government,” said the reverend in a [2009] interview. 

 

Fauntroy preaches that all humans must have five things to live: income, education, healthcare, housing and justice (to keep others from taking the other four away). 

 

In his youth, Fauntroy attended New Bethel Baptist church. His church family realized that his parents, Ethel and William Fauntroy, who parented seven children on a U.S. patent office clerk’s salary, would not be able to afford college for Walter. So, for one year, they sold chitterling and chicken dinners to raise the funds to send him to school. He went to Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1951.

 

In his first year there, he was introduced to a young, promising preacher from Ebenezer church in Atlanta, Georgia who wanted to study there as well. That was the now well-known Martin Luther King Jr. They talked all night.

 

[Later, after] finishing at Yale [Divinity School], Fauntroy was asked to be pastor at his beloved New Bethel Baptist church. When asked by his nephew in a previous interview, what made him commit to God and want to become a preacher, Fauntroy said he was chasing his brother out in the streets as a youngster, and his brother was hit by a car. Fauntroy prayed while his brother was being taken to the hospital … and a few hours later, his brother walked in the door. “That’s when I knew God was real!”

 

Walter got the opportunity in 1971 to be the first delegate representative of Washington, D.C., in Congress. He served in that position for two decades and also served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

 

He worked alongside people like former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey was a role model and mentor in the post King assasination years. Humphrey told Fauntroy that the role of government is to take care of: 1) those in the dawn of life, children; 2) those in the shadows of life, the poor and handicapped; and 3) those in the twilight of life, the elderly. Both Fauntroy and Humphrey believed their devotion was to the “least of these.” They believed in “living for the sake of others and loving for self-defence.” 

 

Fauntroy said that Humphrey and our Founding Fathers knew that the government should be “of the people.” If you don’t make it, you take it, he said. I want my neighbor to have his own. Because when you don’t have, you get angry and tear up things! Everyone should have general welfare to have domestic tranquility. Love your neighbor, is what they preached.

 

Finally, Fauntroy quoted a great theologian who once said, “All nations go through the same phases: dependence, bondage, faith, courage, liberty, abundance, selfishness, greed, dependence and then back to bondage.” Fauntroy warns this nation that we’re going down the same path.

 

My experiences with the reverend have been memorable. When he talks, he’s full of the Word of God and joy. That’s the way I’ll always remember him. Full of joy!

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