Bishop Douglas I. Miles (Courtesy Photo)

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.
Special to the AFRO

Ten days ago or so, a man died who so many thought of as larger than life.  He was a preacher, a teacher, an advocate and a friend to many.  His name was Bishop Douglas Irving Miles and he will be long remembered in Baltimore.  

On the morning of August 12, crowds came to Shriver Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University, Bishop Miles’ alma mater (class of 1970) to celebrate his life and to bid farewell. With his widow, Rose Miles, his sister, Adelsia Brown and two sons (Harvey and Rev. Dante Miles) in attendance, the hall was packed and up to 16,400 persons viewed his remains or his service online.  Doug was a very popular figure in Baltimore City despite his unbending advocacy for the poor, for children and for fairness itself in our town. Strong advocates choose justice over friendships and fans. He attained both without abandoning his principles.

The slideshow on continuous loop before the 10:30 AM service featured many Baltimore notables including: Arnie Graf, once co-director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the parent organization for BUILD; Ron Daniels, JHU president, Dr. Chester Wickwire, longtime chaplain at JHU, Gary Rodwell, a former lead organizer for BUILD, the Rev. Selwyn Ray, a longtime community activist and Clarence (Tiger) former state delegate.

The service began with the Rev. William Calhoun of Trinity Baptist Church repurposing the venue, “We ask the Lord to take Shiver Hall and let it be a church sanctuary.” And thereby church was held to signify a life well lived. 

After a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the officiant, the Rev. James J. Fuller, retired pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, introduced speakers 4-5 at a time. First to speak, Rev. Calhoun said, “I stand here because I know the preacher. Not only a preacher but a prophet.” He quoted from the Old Testament, referring to Doug’s voice, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Father Joseph Muth, another longtime Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) member, read from the New Testament. “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” He cited the Bishop as a man of deep faith.

At this point, Yvonne Bell sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and JHU President Daniels called today’s gathering, “a stirring testament to his commitment to his beloved hometown.”

Daniels then announced the creation of the Bishop Miles Scholarship Fund and a JHU opening contribution of $250,000 to encourage young people to choose scholarship and leadership as Bishop Miles did. Daniels called him a prophet and a rebuilder like the prophet Nehemiah in the Bible. Bishop Miles worked to rebuild Baltimore, Daniels said.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin called Bishop Miles, “our frontline worker for justice and what is right.” Mayor Brandon Scott said, “On behalf of our city, we are all grieving but let us remember this is a great life of a great man. I appreciate that he always allowed me to get in some good trouble with him. Bishop Miles was a master gardener and (we young people) were his crops.” Scott’s remarks were interrupted by applause, the most of all the speakers.

The Rev. Andrew Connors of Brown Memorial Presbyterian, dubbed him “Baltimore’s Bishop.” 

Alicia Wilson, a vice president at Johns Hopkins, spoke of her student years at Mervo High School, her acceptance into the CollegeBound preparedness program and her gratitude to the Bishop for mentoring her. Graf was the Bishop’s friend for 41 years. He spoke fondly of his meeting him after four attempts and until he sat in at the bishop’s office.  “We did lots of things together.”

Finally, tributes were cited from Md. House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State’s Attorney; State Sen. Cory McCray, Schools Chief Sonja Santelises, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olzewski and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

From the outpouring of tributes, it is plain to see that Bishop Miles will be missed by his family, his Koinonia Church family and APO those who watched him work for justice on their behalf.

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