The Rev. Zebadee Bridges Sr., a force in local pulpits and politics for more than 40 years, died Monday (June 17) at his New Orleans home. He was 87.
The pastor of The Asia Baptist Church from 1961 until he retired in 2006, Dr. Bridges was a former president of the First District Missionary Baptist Association and theInterdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and he was a former member of the Mayor’s Human Relations Committee.
“He was the most powerful preacher I’ve ever been around,” said Norwood Boullt, a longtime Asia Baptist Church worshipper and a member of the fourth generation of his family to attend services there.
“He baptized amd virtually raised me like he was my grandfather,” Boullt said. “He told me always to focus and do the right thing.”
Dr. Bridges also could be counted on to speak out at meetings and news conferences involving New Orleans’ African-American community.
A native of Summit, Miss., who moved to New Orleans in his youth, Dr. Bridges earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary.
When he came to The Asia Baptist Church in 1961, the congregation had 45 members and was in financial trouble, according to a Times-Picayune story.
During Dr. Bridges’ 45 years there, membership grew to 750, and he spearheaded the construction of a new church. He bought low-income housing so poor families could move out of the St. Bernard housing complex near the church.
He also organized the church’s day-care center.
“I want people to remember me as a servant,” Dr. Bridges said in a 2006 interview.
“He had a strong passion for helping people, and he was a champion for those who were poor and underprivileged,” said the Rev. Thomas Brown Jr., pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church. “He was a man of principles.”
Dr. Bridges was instrumental in acquiring and renovating the Medard H. Nelson Elementary School for the Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary. He was a former chairman of the seminary’s board of directors.
He also helped rebuild the Rocky Point Missionary Baptist Church in McComb, Miss., after arsonists destroyed it in 1993.
Dr. Bridges was a former member of the boards of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc. and the United Way.
Survivors include his wife, Lorraine Bridges; a son, Zebadee Bridges Jr. of Marrero; two daughters, Juliette Nichols of Los Angeles and Andra Bridges of Summit; a brother, J.P. Leonard of New Orleans; a sister, Mamie Williams of Los Angeles; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at The Asia Baptist Church, 1400 Sere St. The visitation will start at 2 p.m.
A dismissal service will be held there Tuesday at 8 a.m., followed by a caravan to Summit, where Dr. Bridges’ body will be buried.
Estelle J. Wilson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.