An overflow crowd at the funeral Friday of the Rev. Harold A. Carter Sr., a well-known Baltimore pastor, heard him described as a man with a "mandate on his life to shine."
The outpouring of fellow clergy and laity filled New Shiloh Baptist Church in the Mondawmin section of Northwest Baltimore, where Dr. Carter preached for more than four decades. He died of cancer last month at age 76.
Between passages of gospel-style anthems and hymns, Dr. Carter was recalled as a man who did not settle for second-best and believed in pressing on, challenging himself to do better.
The Rev. Charles E. Booth, who now has a Columbus, Ohio, church, said that Dr. Carter befriended him as a young Howard University student at a time he was beginning study for the ministry.
"I recall the night his four-door black 1965 Chrysler pulled up in front of my home," Dr. Booth said. "He drove me to the Cornerstone Baptist Church at Bolton and Wilson streets. He was introducing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that evening. I sat in his presence and met him face to face. I was in awe of both men."
Dr. Booth was one of many speakers who praised Dr. Carter's "overwhelming" belief in "the power of prayer."
He recalled a time that he and Dr. Carter were stranded in Philadelphia in Amtrak's 30th Street Station. They needed to return to Baltimore immediately to preach a service.
"We went to the ticket window and an agent tapped on a keyboard and told us no seats were available," Dr. Booth said. "We asked a second time and she told us, 'You don't understand. No seats are available.' "
He said that Dr. Carter called a timeout. Both men then retired to a quiet part of the station.
"He said to me, 'We have to pray on this,' " said Dr. Booth. "They we went back to the ticket window and asked again. The agent tapped again at her keyboard. She said, 'Two tickets have just become available.' ... That was Harold Carter. He believed in the power of prayer."
Church ushers estimated that 1,500 people filled the church, balcony and other areas. The extended Carter family, including his son, the Rev. Harold A. Carter Jr., a daughter, Weptanomah Carter Davis, and a sister, Blanche Carter Thrash, were present along with other family members.
Speakers at the four-hour funeral service recalled the pastor's indomitable personality. Many shared what they called "Carter stories."
Donald E. Lee, a lay congregational leader, spoke of driving back from an Eastern Shore fishing expedition with the pastor. He said that day, there were times they had to throw fish back that did not meet size requirements.
"But in the 47 years he was the pastor in this congregation, he caught a lot of [human] fish and to my knowledge, he never had to throw one back," Mr. Lee said. "He was a preaching legend."
They also recalled his hunting trips followed by time spent in the kitchen.
"He could put rabbits and muskrats and squirrels and all that stuff in crockpot and slow-cook it all day long," said his longtime friend, the Rev. Alfred C.D. Vaughn, who officiated at the service. "He would serve it to you and you would have no idea what you were eating."
The main eulogy was delivered by his son, who now heads the New Shiloh congregation.
"He understood the gift of life and the gift of ministry," his son said. "He believed you were meant to abound and that you were meant to overflow."
He said he once asked his father the secret of an effective ministry.
"My father told me, 'I think I'm a hard worker and I think I've always tried to challenge myself. I've always tried to pastor myself.' "
He also recalled his father's style: "If anyone has enjoyed life it was Harold Carter. He was eating Haagen-Dazs ice cream when the rest of us were eating Sealtest. He walked on other people's carpets in alligator-skin shoes. He drove a pea-green Jaguar when people in Baltimore didn't know what that car was."