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Three-service celebration unfolds for Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr.

The life of Bishop J. O. Patterson Jr. – a dedicated man who carried both spiritual and public service mantles – was highly praised in the first of three commemorative services on Wednesday (June 29) evening. by Dorothy Bracy Alston
Special to the Tri-State Defender

 Bishop J. O. Patterson Jr.

The life of Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson Jr. – a dedicated man who carried both spiritual and public service mantles – was highly praised in the first of three commemorative services on Wednesday (June 29) evening.

“Saints” from the Church of God in Christ, community people, politicians, business leaders, friends and family gathered at a Local Memorial Service Celebration for Bishop Patterson at Pentecostal Temple Institutional Church of God in Christ, located at 229 S. Danny Thomas, where he labored and served as senior pastor.

Mr. Patterson – former state lawmaker, Memphis City Councilman and the first African American to serve as Mayor of Memphis – died Saturday at age 76.

A Jurisdictional Celebration for Bishop Patterson will be held on Thursday (June 30), at 7 p.m.  at Pentecostal Temple, with a National Celebration set for 11 a.m. Friday (July 1) at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ World Headquarters located at 938 Mason Street.

Mrs. Judith K. Patterson, the widow of the late Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr., reflects during Wednesday evening’s Local Memorial Service at Pentecostal Temple Institutional Church of God in Christ at 229 South Danny Thomas Blvd. Bishop Patterson died on Saturday (June 25) at age 76. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

Mother Ora Alexander expresses in song that, “I’ve learned how to live holy.”

Council Chairman Myron Lowery and former Councilman Shep Wilburn salute Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr.

Elder Dickerson Wells pays his respect to Bishop Patterson.

During Wednesday evening’s celebratory tribute, Bishop Patterson was lauded as a statesman, spokesman, opinion leader, power broker, mentor, strategic thinker, entrepreneur, policymaker and policy shaper, educational advocate and – beyond all else – a formidable servant leader, both public and spiritual.

Elder Donnel Ward of COGIC’s Young People Willing Workers, said Bishop Patterson – son of the late COGIC Presiding Bishop J.O. Patterson Sr. and Deborah M. Patterson, and the grandson of the COGIC founder Bishop Charles Harrison Mason – was a man who loved family.

“If you want to stir him up, bother his children and the young folk,” said Ward. “Also, Bishop was a wise man. You can tell he was a wise man by his children and the choice of his wife. He found a good thing.”

Bishop Patterson’s widow is First Lady Judith K. Patterson. He was father to seven children: Dr. James O. Patterson III, Minister Aaron Lamont Patterson, Jennifer Rose Patterson Hill, Elder Charles Harrison Mason Patterson Sr., Phillip T.R. Dotson, Tiffany M. Dotson, and Brian R. Dotson.

Matching the décor of the massive cathedral style sanctuary where it was held, the Local Memorial Service was filled with a combination of loving words and beautiful music from local, jurisdictional, religious and civic leaders.

Mother Ora Alexander’s tribute was a song that gave her testimony and moved the crowd. She sang, “I’ve learned how to live holy, I’ve learned how to live right, I’ve learned how to suffer, and if I suffer I will gain eternal life.”

Former City Councilman Shep Wilburn and current Councilman Harold Collins paid tribute. And Council Chairman Myron Lowery presented a proclamation from the City Council.

“He was a role model during the 1968 strike,” said Lowery of Bishop Patterson. “I watched him and admired him and wanted to be like him since ’68 when I was a student at LeMoyne-Owen College. He reminded me of my father.”

Whether jurisdictional clergymen or clergy of other faiths, the message was recurring – servant.

“I grew up Baptist, but I grew up listening to Bishop’s radio broadcast. God called him and set him to be a watchman over the people,” said Pastor Bartholomew Orr of Brown Missionary Baptist Church.

“Watchmen make noise and leave his mark. Bishop left his mark at Pentecostal Temple, at City Hall, and in the religious community. But most importantly, after he left his mark, when his words come to pass, then later they shall know and understand that a prophet was among you. He will be missed.”

Pastor James Collins of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church thanked God for “a great man. He served with dignity in whatever position God placed him in. He proved that you can serve without corruption, but serve with dignity and honor – that’s what he did.”

In an interview with the New Tri-State Defender, earlier in the day, COGIC Elder Dickerson Wells, who served as administrative assistant to Bishop Patterson and is the coordinator of the celebratory services, said when Mr. Patterson spoke people listened because he used words that were well thought out and well examined to make his point.

As the leader of his jurisdiction, Bishop Patterson did all he could to help and assist pastors, said Well.

And when Mr. Patterson’s sister, Janet Patterson died, Bishop Patterson took custody of his nephews, James and John Wheeler, and raised them as his own, said Wells. James Wheeler later was killed in a car accident, and his brother now attends seminary in Minnesota.

As to who will succeed Bishop Patterson, Wells said according to the COGIC constitution and jurisdictional guidelines, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake is responsible for both the local congregation and the jurisdiction, which is Tennessee Headquarters Jurisdiction, until permanent leadership is given.

Under Bishop Blake’s administration, it’s not a long process, said Wells.

“I can’t say exactly how long, but it’s not drawn out,” said Wells.

“The church has a number of ordained elders within the local church,” said Wells, including Bishop Patterson’s son, Elder C. H. Mason Patterson, who has been ministering on a regular basis since his father’s brief illness.

In lieu of flowers, Bishop Patterson’s family requests that donations be made in his memory to the National Kidney Foundation, 857, Mt. Moriah Rd. Ste 201, Memphis, Tn. 38115; Attn: Bonnie Matthews.

Memorials can also be submitted by calling 901-683-6185 or via the Internet at www.nkfwtn.org.

(Dorothy Bracy Alston is a communications consultant, freelance writer and president of CISBA Associates. Visit her  blog at http://www.CisbaAssociates.blogspot.com; Join her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dorothybracyalston, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 901-570-3923.)

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