Filmore W. Hart, who was active in the affairs of Mount Ararat Baptist Church and was a community activist, died July 5 in his sleep at his Columbia home. He was 90.
“He had a big heart. That’s a good way to describe him,” said the Rev. Myeskia Coger Watson, the pastor of Mount Ararat Baptist Church and a Reisterstown resident. “He learned the promise of God and that God never fails. He built every aspect of his life on that, and we were his witnesses to that.”
Filmore William Hart, the son of Gretchen Eula Hart Morton, a registered nurse, and her husband, Morris Morton, a deacon, who raised him, was born and raised in Washington.
While a student at what is now Morgan State University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1953, Mr. Hart met and fell in love with a fellow student, Marion Kahn White, whom he married that year, and settled in the city’s Ashburton neighborhood, where they raised their four children.
Mr. Hart had served in the Army and remained an active reservist until 1988, when he retired with the rank of master sergeant.
He worked as a supervisory disability determination services financial specialist for the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn for 35 years until retiring in 1991. During his SSA career, he received many awards, including the Commissioner’s Citation, the agency’s highest award.
Mr. Hart’s spiritual journey began at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington as a youngster and continued at Enon Baptist Church in Baltimore, which he joined during his student days at Morgan.
He and his wife joined Mount Ararat Baptist Church on Gwynns Falls Parkway in 1953. After his leadership and administration skills were recognized by its then-pastor, the Rev. Samuel B. Redd, Mr. Hart was ordained a deacon.
"He loved the Lord, loved his church, and served his pastors faithfully as chairman of the Deacon Board,” a son, Gerard R. Hart Sr. of Westminster, wrote in a biographical profile of his father.
Ms. Watson said: “Filmore was such a great man and during the church’s 123-year history, he had served three of its pastors. He was a pillar of our church. “He was such a man of faith, and he set an example of how to live life to its fullest.”
“On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” was Mr. Hart’s favorite hymn and one on which he built his life, Ms. Watson said.
During his 66 years of active membership at his church, Mr. Hart was a member of its male chorus, drove the church van, taught Sunday school, served as chair of the pastoral search committee and established Boy Scout Troop 554, serving as its scoutmaster. He was also a member of the Triple L Senior Ministry and the Samuel B. Redd Scholarship Committee.
“He was always smiling and was a peacemaker and a proud layman, and when I think of him I think 1st Samuel, chapter 20, verse 18: ‘You will be missed, because your seat will be empty,’ " Ms. Watson said. “But we will continue to honor his life.”
He attended local, state, and national institutes, seminars and conferences to expand his knowledge of Christianity and assist him leading men of faith.
Mr. Hart served four years as president of the Troy V. Lewis Laymen’s League, an auxiliary to the United Baptist Convention of Maryland Inc., and remained active in the organization until his death.
He was also regional coordinator for the National Baptist Association’s Deacon’s Ministry, providing training to various deacon boards throughout the state as well as Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Hart brought the same fervor to his community work as he did to the church.
He held leadership roles with the Maryland State Caucus of Black Aging and was commissioner of the Boys Scouts Arrowhead District. Over more than 25 years, he was a coach, treasurer, vice president and president of the Forest Park Baseball Little League.
Other activities included serving on Shippensburg University’s Parent Advisory Board and parliamentarian for the Panway Neighborhood Association.
“On Feb. 13, 2019, Filmore’s commitment to his community was recognized on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District,” his son wrote. “An overview of Filmore’s life and his contributions to others became a permanent entry in the U.S. Congressional Record.”
His wife, a city public schools teacher, died in 1999, and in 2017, he married Elaine Harris, a retired Housing Authority for Baltimore City worker, and moved to Columbia.
“Filmore found deep love again late in life. He was lucky, he had it twice in his life,” Ms. Watson said.
He enjoyed traveling and driving, and took most trips by car. He liked attending the annual Phillip White family reunion as often as he could and would be the "first family member to pay the assessment," his son said.
“Nothing kept him down. He saw the world and kept moving,” Ms. Watson said.
“His real passion was his work with the Baptist Church,” his son said. “That was his life.”
Funeral services were held Wednesday at his church.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Hart is survived by another son, Philmore J. Hart of Grayson, Ga.; two daughters, Sandra L. Hart Harris of Orangeburg, S.C., and the Rev. Jocelyn K. Hart Lovelace of Simsbury, Conn.; a stepson, Michael B. Harris of Columbia; two stepdaughters, Cathy Harris Blackwell of Owings Mills and Allyson Harris Owens of Ellicott City; 16 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Another stepson, Larry L. Harris Sr., died in 2018.