Rev. I. L. Kearse, civil rights chief, dies at age 69

Services for the Rev. I. Logan Kearse, founder of the Cornerstone Church of Christ and a leader of the civil rights movement in Baltimore in the 1960s, will be held at noon Tuesday at the church, 4239 Park Heights Ave.

Dr. Kearse, who was 69 and lived on Chancery Road, died Monday at Union Memorial Hospital after a series of strokes.


Since 1980, he had also been national president of the Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ, with which his congregation had been affiliated since 1969.

He started the church in 1958 as a Baptist church, and for many years it was located at Bolton and Wilson streets. The affiliation was changed after the first church was destroyed in a fire in 1969, and the congregation moved to Park Heights Avenue. In the early 1960s, Dr. Kearse became one of the leaders of the college students who fanned out often from his Bolton Hill church and from others to demonstrate for civil rights.


He was arrested seven times in Maryland and once in Albany, Ga., with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he also accompanied to the Nobel Peace Prize presentation in Oslo, Norway, in 1964.

At his first arrest, he was wearing an Italian silk suit, which he gave away after sitting in a cell with his feet up to avoid the urine and the cockroaches on the floor.

In a 1982 interview he said of the gains of the civil rights movement, "In my judgment, in the '60s we made three steps forward and since then we've made two steps backward. So the net gain is one step. And unless we're very careful we might lose that one step."

Born in South Boston, Va., the son of a Methodist minister, he preached his first sermon at the age of 7 at a church in Lincolnton, N.C. His father was the pastor.

At the age of 14, he was an assistant at a church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He later served as pastor of another church there and of a church in Stamford, Conn., before coming to Baltimore in the early 1950s and serving for a time as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

A graduate of Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and a member of its board, he earned a doctorate at Boston University. He also held 36 honorary doctorates.

In 1962, he ran for the Democratic nomination for Maryland's 4th Congressional District seat.

His survivors include his wife, the former Dr. Wanda Maynor; a son, I. Logan Kearse II of Atlanta; a daughter, Deborah Ross of Baltimore; two brothers, the Rev. James Kearse of Baltimore and Samuel Kearse of Winston-Salem, N.C.; two sisters, Dr. Emma Kearse of Union Mills, N.C., and Rose Kearse of Baltimore; and six grandchildren.