By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
5:44 PM EDT, September 22, 2012
The Rev. Tommie L. Jenkins Sr., a pastor who established a congregation and led it in three East Baltimore churches, died of multiple organ failure Sept. 15 at his Gardenville home. He was 83.
Born in Shorter, Ala., he attended public schools there. He moved to Baltimore in 1950. Two years later he met his future wife, Romaine Mitchell, while attending a church service.
"My father was a very ambitious young man who would do anything in his power to provide a good life for his young family," said his daughter, Dr. Eva Thornton of Baltimore. "He was also a wonderful singer who performed in a quartet, the Union Gospel Singers. He sang in a style similar to Sam Cooke."
Family members said he worked several jobs to support his family and became manager of the Hillen Tire and Rubber Co. in Oldtown, from which he retired in 1984.
Dr. Thornton said her father believed in standards. "There was no washing or ironing clothes nor attending the movies on Sunday because it was the Lord's Day," she said. "We had to keep it holy."
Dr. Jenkins became a member of St. Paul Christian Community Church in 1953. He served as president of Senior Choir No. 2 and became the superintendent of the Sunday School.
"My father often said, 'If I can help somebody, my living will not be in vain,'" his daughter said.
Family members said that in 1954 he answered a calling and began preaching. He studied with his pastor, the Rev. Edward M. Revels. He later graduated from the Baltimore School of the Bible. On July 30, 1982, He received a doctor of divinity degree from Virginia Seminary.
In 1964, he opened his own church, which he named St. John Christian Community Church. With seven members, he held services and preached at 2001 Greenmount Ave.
He soon moved to a larger building on Hope Street at Lanvale, near Green Mount Cemetery. He told his congregation, "The Lord will make a way somehow."
On Aug. 26, 1979, he presided at the dedicatory service for his congregation's third building, at Lanvale and Aisquith streets. He and the congregation paid off the mortgage and burned it five years later.
His family said that Dr. Jenkins enjoyed his calling.
"If there were just two members in attendance, the church doors were open and service continued as if there were 10,000 people in attendance," his daughter said. "He fed the hungry from a food pantry."
He was elected president of the United Council of Maryland and served in this position for four years.
Family members said Dr. Jenkins always wore conservative suits and believed that a member of the clergy should be "dignified and carry himself as a man of God." He did not wear sport clothes, other than hunting attire.
Dr. Jenkins enjoyed hunting rabbits and squirrels on the Eastern Shore and at a friend's farm in Severn.
He also relished his role as a grandfather and was often his grandchildren's day care provider, transporter and counselor, his family said. He often took a grandson to visit the sick and shut in as well as on daily trips to the Sinclair Lane Kmart and the Belair Road Bi-Rite supermarket.
Dr. Jenkins retired in 2009.
Services will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at his church, 1206 E. Lanvale St. A wake hour will precede the funeral.
In addition to his daughter and his wife of 59 years, survivors include his son, the Rev. Tommie Jenkins Jr., who is pastor of the church; five other daughters, Juanita Forte-Riley of Charleston, S.C., and Gloria Jackson, the Rev. Wendy Zollicoffer, Gale Moore and Surrita Clark, all of Baltimore; 11 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
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