Last fall, we published “Eight Over 80,” a four-part series profiling Baltimore seniors who are still vital in their everyday lives and making a difference. We learned a few days ago that one of the subjects of the series, Dr. Marion Curtis Bascom, died last Thursday. In honor of Dr. Bascom we re-publish below the section on him as a tribute to the giant of civil rights. – The Eds.
Marion Curtis Bascom
D.O.B.: March 14, 1925, Pensacola, Florida
Education: Washington High School,’42, Florida Memorial College ’46,
Howard University, B.D. ’48
Career, Present and Past:
The legendary civil rights leader Reverend Marion Bascom continues, in an interpersonal way, his lifelong work for peace, equality and human rights. “I am counsel to a lot of people, a personal counselor, dealing with problems of people living together and with each other…I’m broadly humanitarian. I have no problems with lifestyles. One of my professors said often, ‘Only God knows what comes in one’s birthday basket.’ I’ve taken that for all of these years. I’m very much on the path with John Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church. I’m not a typical Christian. I don’t make demands on how, when and under what circumstances people believe, God included. That’s one I’m free of.”
For 46 years as pastor of the historic Douglas Memorial Community Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bascom, now 86, says, “I was concerned more with causes than huge places.” Under his leadership Douglas established the first church credit union in Maryland (Douglas Memorial Federal Credit Union), turned a block of decaying Victorian houses into Douglas Village with 48 affordable apartment units and founded Camp Farthest Out, a Carroll County camp for inner city children — all revolutionary efforts at the time. Also revolutionary was the fact that Bascom in the 1960’s was appointed the first African-American on the Board of Fire Commissioners of Baltimore City.
From the garden-surrounded Reservoir Hill home, where he has lived almost half a century, Bascom continues to shepherd people of all races and orientation. He still works with the organization he once lead, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, an interfaith group of all races. A proponent of social activism, this group helped found the Maryland Food Committee and spawned today’s powerful BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development).
“Occasionally, I get involved still in things that are civic,” says Bascom. At 82, for example, he joined friends author Taylor Branch, Reverend Andrew Foster Connors and thousands of others at the 2007 Christian Peace Witness in Washington. On a windy, bone-chilling day he was one of 200 arrested. “I got the worst cold,” he remembers. He hasn’t marched lately but continues, as always, focused on people.
Key to Longevity of Engagement: In his living room Bascom pauses by signs that say: “Colored Served in Rear,” “Colored Only,” “Colored Waiting Room.” With characteristic dignity he reflects: “The key is that all of my life I have known that there is something of the ‘thatness’ of God in me very similar to the ‘thatness’ of all of His other creatures.”
Current Challenge: Personally: “I am caregiver to my wife; she is my caregiver.” His ongoing challenge: “To improve the surrounding community of which I’m a part.”