The Rev. Dr. Bowyer Gates Freeman, the pastor of a Forest Park congregation and a past Howard County NAACP president, died of a blood clot Monday at Howard County General Hospital. The Columbia resident was 61.
The Rev. Freeman was senior pastor of the New Saint Mark Baptist Church and chief financial officer for Community Partnerships for Public Health International. He was a Housing Authority of Baltimore City commissioner.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Glendale, Ohio, he was the son of Acie Walker Freeman and his wife, Katherine Hanora Turner. The Rev. Freeman was a graduate of Princeton High School and played on the school’s football team. He earned a political science degree at the University of Dayton, where he also played football.
While at the university, he met his future wife, Terri Lee, who was a member of the school’s flag team that performed on the sidelines at football games.
“He told me I ignored him for a year,” said his wife, executive director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. “I replied that my priority was studying and getting a degree.”
The couple married in 1986 and settled in Columbia.
The Rev. Freeman later earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate at Howard University.
In 1998, after serving at the First Baptist Church of Guilford in Howard County, he became pastor of the New Saint Mark Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore on Springdale Avenue.
“My husband was a charismatic preacher,” his wife said. “His training taught him there could be teaching without preaching but there was no preaching without teaching. He believed in looking at the social issues that impacted his congregation.”
The Rev. Kobi Little, president of the Baltimore NAACP, said in a statement: “He was a gift to humanity. We give thanks for the blessing that he was to Christendom. We are grateful for his years long service to the NAACP. We celebrate Dr. Freeman’s life and will honor his legacy by continuing the work to which he set his hand – advancing equity, justice and health in pursuit of the beloved community.”
The Rev. Little also said in an interview: “Bowyer stood 6-foot-1 or 6-2 and he was all strength and limitless, boundless love. He had the ability to make time for all his friends – and he had thousands of friends. He never diminished other people. He was a connector and an encourager of people.”
The Rev. Freeman was a past director of pastoral care at Howard University Hospital and adjunct faculty at the Howard University School of Divinity. He was also vice president and chief financial officer for the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland and the Maryland Baptist Aged Home.
He was also a former chairman of the board at Associated Black Charities.
Most recently he was one of the key architects of the resurgence of the Baltimore NAACP and served as treasurer and executive committee member for the past three years.
The Rev. Freeman led efforts to distribute masks and fresh produce boxes throughout Baltimore during the pandemic, chaired the Maryland Department of Health’s Black Communities Subgroup, and co-founded the Maryland Health Equity Alliance.
He earned a certificate in Community Building Strategies from the University of Baltimore.
His friend the Rev. Little said that the Rev. Freeman preached in the prophetic tradition.
“He urged believers to adhere to the principles of the faith but made that faith real, individually and collectively. He wanted policies that addressed the least of us. He preached personal and societal reconciliation and transformation,” said the Rev. Little.
The Rev. Freeman liked sports and was a Cincinnati Bengals fan. He also was a jazz aficionado and liked to smoke a good cigar.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 16 at Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, 8728 Liberty Road in Randallstown. Proof of vaccination must be shown and masks must be worn to attend.
Survivors include his wife of 36 years; three daughters, Corryn Freeman of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Camille Freeman of Atlanta and Carmen Freeman of London; and three grandchildren.
He is also survived by three brothers, Acie Freeman Jr., Alonzo Freeman and Michael Freeman Young; and six sisters, Inez Buddin, Veronica Nesbitt, Elizabeth Wilson, Sylvia Williams, M. Yvonne Saturday and Brenda Daniels, who reside outside Baltimore.