Civil rights activist who met MLK and Nelson Mandela retires after 48 years as pastor of Stamford


STAMFORD – Almost 50 years after becoming a pastor of Union Baptist Church, Reverend Robert Perry has said he is ready for a new adventure: retirement.

During Perry’s decades in office, the church moved from Adams Avenue to Newfield Avenue, undertook and completed a multi-million dollar construction project, and later burned down his mortgage.

“After 48 years, I feel like it’s about time,” said Perry, who is 90.

The Union Baptist congregation has grown, Perry said, and he expects that to continue. The church was established in 1888 by a group that included former slaves.

“It’s a very active congregation,” he says. “And there are new members coming in with what seems like great possibilities and desires to do great things.”

Perry grew up in Virginia, and while his uncle wanted him to be a doctor like him, Perry eventually followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became a pastor. The Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Virginia, was his congregation before he moved to Stamford in the early 1970s.

Perry was active in the civil rights movement, which led him to Meet Martin luther king jr. Perry remembers driving King’s father, Martin Luther King, Sr., from Philadelphia to Stamford, where “Daddy King” was scheduled to speak in a church.

“We’ve had a number of interesting conversations on the way here,” said Perry.

Years later, in the 1990s, Perry met Nelson Mandela on a trip to South Africa, where the Union Baptist funded the construction of a church in Whittlesea.

“It was exciting and very informative to meet them,” said Perry, referring to both Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. “They were concerned with what I was doing and with myself doing learn… what they were doing. “

Perry has received countless accolades for his service, leadership, and equal rights advocacy over the years, including being named one of Connecticut’s most influential black people by the state NAACP. He has also served on several municipal boards and commissions, including the Police Commission, the Fire Commission and the Ethics Council.

One of Perry’s daughters, Crystal Holden, noted that her father is also a proud veteran, having served in the Korean War. She said she expects her father to spend some of his retirement time on fishing trips and writing a book.

“I’ll also have more time to at least reflect on Stamford as I saw him when I first got here right now,” Perry said. “And based on my experiences, I have the opportunity to see a lot of areas that I think Stamford could improve on.”

State Senator Patricia Billie Miller, Associate Minister at Union Baptist, was baptized and married by Perry. She took a trip to Africa with him in 2006 – which she said was a “life-changing” experience.

“I came back and quit my job about eight months later because I wanted to be more involved in the community,” Miller said. “So I owe him, I owe him for being the person I am today.”

She said Perry is a calm, humble and highly respected man with a passion for social justice who has taught the faithful “how important it is to work not only inside the church but also in the church. exterior of the church “.

He has been a source of advice for her throughout her life, she said.

“Every time I took a step, I was going to ask her for advice,” Miller said. “I never made a move to change my life without telling him about it first because he is such a wise man.”

She will miss Perry very much, she added.

“I have to redefine myself now without him being there in the church, but I know I have access to him,” she said.

Mayor David Martin said in a statement that Perry had made “immeasurable contributions” to the city.

“His progressive and dynamic ministry has made him a beloved and irreplaceable blessing to all of us at Stamford, and I wish him the best in his retirement,” said Martin.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Who has known Perry for years, described him as “a real public servant.”

“I am proud to know Rev. Perry as a deeply respected religious community leader, a courageous civil rights leader and a valued friend,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “For decades, I have learned from him and appreciated his wisdom.”

“Even if he is retired – reigning – he will still be a role model,” added Blumenthal.


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