Westminster minister helped raise awareness of civil rights in 1940s

In 1945, institutional racism in Maryland was a hot topic. In part, the discussion was driven by pragmatism in that, according to research by historian Kenneth D. Durr, more than 20 percent of the population in Baltimore was said to be black. But because of housing segregation laws, the city's black population was squeezed into 2 percent of the city's land mass.

Overcrowding was reaching crisis proportions, especially as more southern and rural blacks were flocking to the city to take advantage of the ever-expanding industrial employment opportunities.


It was in this time period, that black American industrial employment in Maryland grew from 7 percent of the workforce to 17 percent.

Durr further observed, "Maryland's civil rights movement took root during the war years, the seed had been planted in the 1930s when Maryland's staunchest opponents of segregation emerged. They included Lillie Carroll Jackson, an inspiring speaker and industrious organizer who made the Maryland NAACP the largest in the nation; Thurgood Marshall the young Baltimore lawyer who, in 1934, convinced the Maryland Court of Appeals to integrate the University of Maryland law school; and the Murphy family, owners of the Afro-American, one of nation's premier black newspapers. …"

Back in Carroll County, the Rev. Dr. Lowell Ensor may have been well aware of the changing racial dynamics of the community by way of the fact that he, according to historian Dr. James E. Lightner, was a native of Baltimore.

Ensor, who was born in 1907, came "to Westminster to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1940," according to Lightner.

As pastor there, he accomplished the unification of the two local Methodist churches (Centenary M.E. and Immanuel M.P.) after the Methodist unification in 1939.

But a Westminster newspaper article also reported that Ensor, "pastor of the Methodist Church at Westminster - Urges Repeal of Jim Crow Law."

The March 23, 1945, article credited The Baltimore Sun as the source for the article, which reported that "Ensor 'declared a state that will send citizens to the fighting fronts of the world and at the same time deny to any group of those citizens equal rights, is un-American and un-Christian'…

"Reference to this law was made in his sermon, in which he also urged opposition to a Senate bill now in the Legislature that would permit sale of alcoholic beverages in Carroll county hotels, and a House bill that would allow pari-mutuel betting on horse racing at Baltimore county and Carroll county fairgrounds. …"

Decades of work were to follow in search for civil rights in Carroll County and Maryland.

In part, one of the drivers in Carroll happened when the Baltimore Colts began summer practice at Western Maryland College in the 1950s.

Ensor would later assume the office of president of the college, now McDaniel College, on July 1, 1947, according to Lightner's history of the college, "Fearless and Bold." He served until June 30, 1972, and died in 1975.