The Rev. Theodore Clifton Jackson Jr., retired pastor of the Gillis Memorial Church who taught at the old Eastern High School, died of cancer Feb. 17 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 84 and had lived on Benhurst Road in Cheswolde.
“He was a strong, stalwart, stellar pastor and educator who gave everyone an opportunity to discover and develop their God-given gifts and abilities,” said the Rev. Donte L. Hickman, pastor of Southern Baptist Church. “He loved people and he saw the potential in every person he met.”
Born in Baltimore and raised on North Carey Street, Mr. Jackson was the son Rev. Theodore C. Jackson Sr., who was also pastor at Gillis, and his wife, Lucy M. Jackson.
He was a 1951 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and obtained degrees at the Virginia Theological Seminary, Howard University and what is now Coppin State University. He served in the Army.
He joined the Baltimore City Department of Education and taught social studies for many years at the old Eastern High School. He ended his teaching career at Frederick Douglass High School.
As a young man he was a chaplain in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Conference at Anna Mae Hunter House for the Blind.
He was also a pastor of St. Matthew’s Church in Washington and at Herbert’s Chapel in Fairfield in the southern section of Baltimore.
Family members said that he left the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Conference and transferred to the United Council of Christian Community Churches of Maryland. He began working with his father at Gillis Memorial and became the congregation’s pastor in 1970.
He retired from its pulpit in 2014.
“He was a legend in religious circles,” said the Rev. Edward McClurkin, pastor of First Mount Carmel Christian Community Church. “When he preached, it was like he was teaching, presiding in a classroom.”
In 1971 Mr. Jackson received an honorary doctorate of divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary.
Family members said that under his leadership, Gillis Memorial grew to a membership of 2,000 congregants. It also had 28 associate ministers, seven choirs and numerous Bible classes.
Mr. Jackson worked with the church’s long time secretary, Pauline Wells, who directed one of its choirs and had a radio program on WSID-AM. Gillis Memorial was known as “the singing church.”
“My father believed that teaching the word of God was paramount,” said his daughter, Carla Rae Jackson of Randallstown.
His church distributed food to the needy, operated a clothing center and provided funds to assist congregants with utility bills, rent and medical costs. Mr. Jackson also led a church expansion and installed a parking lot. He supervised a $2 million Christian education center addition and administrative wing. He added a church elevator, a baptismal pool, a chapel, a library, a pastor’s study, a board room and classrooms.
His daughter said Mr. Jackson liked church art and led a beautification project that brought new stained glass windows in the church sanctuary and a facelift for the church exterior.
Colleagues said Mr. Jackson encouraged young members of his congregation.
“Without his support, I would not be where I am today,” said Mr. Hickman of Southern Baptist.
Mr. Jackson enjoyed reading publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Afro-American and The Baltimore Sun.
“My father loved to travel the world and he was always bringing back art, furniture, paintings and statues from the places he and my mother visited. He was a shopper,” said his daughter.
“He also loved to eat and he liked the cafeterias at Sinai Hospital and Coppin State, as well as the Old Court Road Giant food store,” she said, noting that on his lunches out, he was frequently greeted by friends and congregants.
He was a past president of the United Council of Christian Community Churches.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at his church, 4016 Park Heights Avenue.
Survivors include his wife of more than 60 years, Marlene Elizabeth Jackson, a retired Baltimore City school teacher; his daughter; two granddaughters; an adopted grandson; and five great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Patricia Ann Jackson, died in 1999.