We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, and I want to introduce you to Sandy Frederick Ray, close friend of Martin Luther King Sr. Martin’s son, King Jr., viewed Ray as a father figure and called him “Uncle Sandy.”
Ray served Baptist churches in Georgia, Illinois, and Ohio, where he became an acclaimed Sunday radio preacher and the first black representative elected to the Ohio State Legislature. In 1944, Ray felt called to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, where he pastored until his death. In 10 years, under Ray’s leadership, Cornerstone grew from 2,500 to 5,500 members, added multiple buildings, a daycare, and established a credit union.
People travelled to Brooklyn to hear Ray’s dynamic preaching, but he also used his voice and platform to advance civil rights. In July 1957, Ray invited Billy Graham to preach on the steps outside his church. More than 3,000 people attended to hear Graham preach against racist segregationist laws, calling for changes to legislation at the national level.
Ray remained close to the King family. He fundraised for and assisted King Jr. during his arrests, supported the Montgomery bus boycotts, publicly rebuked southern white supremacists, and condemned segregation before the House Committee. King Jr. said that Ray was one of the strongest orators in the African American church. He should be celebrated for his faithfulness in ministry and involvement in civil rights.