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R.C. Wells
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Renowned evangelist, civil rights crusader R.C. Wells dies at 84

He was a preacher all his life, his sister says, "and he was a mighty one at that."

Roosevelt “R.C.” Wells, known as a barnstorming, globe-trekking preacher among Churches of Christ, has died at age 84, a family member told The Christian Chronicle.

The minister emeritus for the Harlem Church of Christ also was a crusader for racial equality within the fellowship.

“I am heartbroken but not devastated,” his sister, Ruth Wyrick, posted to social media. “My brother lived a good life doing what he wanted to until he could do it no more. Other than throwing a newspaper as a boy, he’s been a preacher. And he was a mighty one at that.”

Baptized at age 9, Wells began preaching a year later for his home congregation, the Eighth Street Church of Christ in Waco, Texas. He grew up in the segregated Waco Public School system and left to study in Tennessee at Nashville Christian Institute, a preparatory school for African-American youths associated with Churches of Christ.

Related: Marshall Keeble’s ‘boy preachers’ still baptizing and saving souls

Wells studied under renowned evangelist Marshall Keeble and became one of Keeble’s “boy preachers.” Illness in his family forced Wells to return to Texas, where he graduated from high school before earning a degree from Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, the only historically black college associated with Churches of Christ. Wells also earned degrees from Midwestern Theological Seminary and Temple Theological Seminary.

Later in his preaching career he received multiple honorary doctorates.

Wells was the founder, president and CEO of the Christian Bible Institute in New York City, created to help Christians of all professions and education levels become effective evangelists and Bible teachers for their congregations. The Harlem church’s website describes the school’s goal as making believers “strong in the Lord, sharing, living and growing in God’s grace.”

During the civil rights era, Wells worked to foster racial reconciliation among churches. He was one of 40 ministers — black and white — who gathered in Atlanta in the turbulent summer of 1968 to discuss ways to improve race relations in Churches of Christ.

Wells also served as director of the National Lectureship, the premier annual event among African-American Churches of Christ.

In addition to his tenure with the Harlem church, Wells preached across the nation and internationally. In the West African capital of Monrovia, Liberia, Wells-Hairston High School bears his name, honoring Wells and fellow evangelist Andrew Hairston, longtime minister for the Simpson Street Church of Christ in Atlanta and host of the 1968 meeting.

Check back for updates and memorial service information.

Filed under: 1968 civil rights Harlem National New York Obituaries Partners R.C. Wells Racial reconciliation and the church racial unity Top Stories

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