SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A leader in the civil rights movement in north Louisiana, who put his life on the line in the fight for racial equality, has died after possibly being exposed to the coronavirus.
Dr. Harry Blake, pastor emeritus at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church in Shreveport, died Wednesday. He was 85.
Blake’s daughter, Monica Blake Mickle, wrote on Facebook that her father was ill after being exposed to the virus but had been getting better, the Times reported. She said tests results on whether he actually had COVID-19 have not been confirmed.
Gov. John Bel Edwards offered condolences on Thursday to Blake’s family during his daily press conference regarding the impact of the virus on the state.
“He was an iconic leader of the civil rights movement,” Edwards said of Blake. “He endured many hardships during his life but never wavered in his faith nor in his work toward equality and justice for all people The state of Louisiana is forever grateful to Dr. Blake.”
Blake joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960. While a student at Bishop College in Texas, he was inspired by a speech he heard by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In October of that year, as he drove home from the SCLC’s annual convention in Shreveport, a gunman tried to kill him, firing bullets into Blake’s car window, Blake recalled during an oral history project for the Library of Congress.
He also recalled being beaten by several police officers during a memorial service at Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport to honor the four girls killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in early September 1963. Blake required stitches for cuts to his scalp as a result.
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins called Blake “a man of God who lived with great purpose.″
“Harry Blake was beaten and jailed, but he never wavered in his commitment to God or his fellow man,″ Perkins wrote in a post on Twitter.
Blake held high-ranking positions in both the Louisiana Baptist State Convention where he was president and the National Baptist Convention where he was general secretary.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.