From the Tacoma News Tribune:
Bishop Thomas L. Westbrook — pastor of the Tacoma church he founded in 1957, father of 11 children and a spiritual father figure for many more — died Thursday night at age 89.
He died in a hospital in St. Louis after falling ill on a flight from Sea-Tac Airport. Westbrook, who took part in the D-Day invasion, was to catch an honor flight in St. Louis for veterans and visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., for the first time.
Westbrook started New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, located on the Hilltop. He became a bishop in 1977 and oversaw the denomination’s Washington State Jurisdiction.
“Bishop Westbrook just loved people,” said the Rev. Leo Brown, a Tacoma pastor and an assistant to Westbrook. “He did all he could to help as many people as he could.”
His church, at 1623 S. 11th St., sponsors apartments for low-income residents and a feeding and clothing program.
Westbrook is the second African-American church patriarch to die in the last two weeks. The Rev. Joseph A. Boles died Sept. 23 at age 90.
People from New Jerusalem and beyond came to Westbrook for advice.
“He was a great counselor,” said the Rev. Dennis McCain, assistant pastor at New Jerusalem. “He would help people see a better way of doing things.”
Westbrook gained national prominence in the Church of God in Christ in 1992. For 14 years, he was chief justice of the Judiciary Board, the panel that interprets the bylaws and constitution for the Pentecostal denomination.
“He was a giant of a man spiritually,” said McCain, noting that Westbrook was a spiritual father to more than 75 preachers.
“He felt that everyone was equal, that you should accomplish the best you can be despite the odds,” McCain said. “He had proven that in his own life.”
Born in Rison, Ark., Westbrook attended segregated schools growing up in Arkansas and Louisiana and dropped out of school in the eighth grade to work. At 18, he was drafted and served in an all-black Army truck company that serviced tanks at Normandy, France. He took part in the invasion of Normandy, McCain said.
Westbrook founded New Jerusalem in September 1957 after moving to Tacoma, where a cousin lived.
When the civil rights movement was at its peak in the 1960s, Westbrook supported other black pastors in Tacoma, including Boles and the late Rev. Earnest S. Brazill, who led protests to end discrimination against blacks in housing and employment.
By fall 2005, Westbrook had started to hand over preaching duties to his son Eric and look toward retirement. But soon after, the younger Westbrook suffered a heart attack. He has lived in a Tacoma nursing home since then.
In an interview with The News Tribune in early 2006, Thomas Westbrook didn’t hesitate when asked what kept him going during tough times.
“It’s God,” Westbrook said. “I learned early to develop a genuine relationship with God.”
Westbrook submitted his resignation as bishop in June due to declining health, McCain said.
Westbrook continued to attend New Jerusalem, which has Sunday attendance of about 150. But he stopped preaching after his wife, Lois, died in 2012, McCain said. They had been married 68 years.
Son Kelvin remembered his father as a great dad and man. He was selfless, compassionate and put his care and concern for people first, said Kelvin Westbrook, who lives in St. Louis.
“Tacoma was blessed to have him,” he said.
In addition to his 11 children, Westbrook is survived by 31 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.
McCain said there will be a memorial service at New Jerusalem and a larger funeral service with national denominational leaders in Tacoma. Those plans were pending.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The voice was the same: Rich and melodic, but with a hint of something many couldn’t quite place. Some 20 years since Ron Sailor Sr.’s voice boomed across radio and television airwaves, people still perked up when they heard him speak.
“We’d be at a restaurant or somewhere, and somebody would always say, ‘I recognize your voice,’” said Sailor’s wife, the Rev. Marion Sailor. “It never got old.”
In the ’80s and ’90s, Ron Sailor’s voice was a mainstay in broadcast journalism. Known for his edginess, Sailor took on people and subjects that many others wouldn’t.
“Ron was ahead of his time,” said Sidmel Estes, a former television executive producer. “He was a very strong voice, and for a black man to be on both radio and TV, and to take the strong positions that he took, that was very unusual.”
Sailor retired from broadcast journalism in 2000, and he turned his full-time attention to pastoring Christ the King Baptist Church in Dacula.
Walter Ron Sailor Sr., known as Ron by all, of Buford died Sunday from complications of cardiac arrest while on his way to church. He was 61.
A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ the King, the church he pastored for nearly 20 years. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home, Historic West End Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.
Sailor had recently stepped back from many of the day-to-day leadership duties at the church, said his wife, who has been pastoring the church since February.
A native Atlantan, Sailor was a formidable opponent in the broadcast world, said Maynard Eaton, one of a handful of black reporters who competed against Sailor in the ’80s.
“As a competitor, I acknowledge he was the quintessential pioneer black journalist,” Eaton said. “I’ll say he was the first true multi-platform journalist.”
While at Frederick Douglass High School, Sailor started a radio station, he told a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008. He went to Emory University, where his mother cooked for a sorority house, but dropped out after he got a job at the AM station WAOK, he said.
In the 1980s, during the “missing and murdered children” cases, Sailor co-hosted on WSB-TV a kind of must-watch local “Nightline.” It was his big break, and he was not yet 30.
Sailor’s rise seemed meteoric, until his testimony in the 1990 extortion and income-tax trial of former Fulton County Sheriff Richard B. Langford. Sailor’s trial testimony, about a $2,000 loan, contradicted earlier statements he’d made to a grand jury. A week later, he was no longer employed by the television station.
Sailor got a job as a host for the former WIGO-AM (1340) and reappeared on TV, as a general assignment reporter for Channel 11 WXIA, a year later. His radio career included owning WIGO and working as a news director at WALR-FM/Kiss 104.1.
In the mid-’90s, Sailor relocated to Gwinnett County and became the pastor of the former Apalachee Baptist Church, now Christ the King. He’d seen his life go from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the barrel, but it was all a learning experience, his wife said.
“One of his favorite quotes was, ‘Only when it is dark enough, can you really see the stars,’” she said.
In addition to his wife of 13 years and two sons, Sailor is also survived by sons Antony Sailor, Ron Sailor, Jr., Christian Sailor and Chanz Wallace; daughter, Khaleah Wallace; mother, Rosetta Crowder; sister, Brenda Sailor; and one grandson.