It is with deep sadness that the Board of Trustees and the entire Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) family mourns the passing of Rev. Henry H. Mitchell, Th.D. Our Beloved Baba Henry made his transition to the arms of God on Saturday, January 15, 2022.
Dr. Mitchell, who with his wife the late Rev. Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell, was one of the first recipients of SDPC’s “Beautiful Are Their Feet” award in 2004, given annually to people who have made important and lasting contributions to the work of social justice.
Dr. Mitchell was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1919. He earned his undergraduate degree from Lincoln University and went on to earn both his Bachelor of Divinity (BD) and his Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York.
After earning his ThD from Claremont School of Theology and a MA in linguistics from California State University, he joined the faculty of a consortium which included Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Bex Ley Hall, and Crozier Theological Seminary where he became the first professor of Black Church Studies. He was a professor of religion and Pan African Studies at California State University and from there became a professor of history and homiletics at the Proctor School of Theology at the Virginia Union University.
He was also the founding director of the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies, and wrote a book, Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years, describing the work of that organization.
In 1988, he and his wife joined the faculty of the Interdenominational Center (ITC) as a team, teaching homiletics. He was the author of several books, including Together for Good: Lessons From Fifty-Five Years of Marriage that he co-authored with his wife, Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art, and A Word for All Seasons: Sermons from Henry H. Mitchell.
“We will miss Grand Baba Rev. Dr. Henry Mitchell,” said the Rev. Dr. Iva Carruthers, SDPC’s general secretary. “For as long as we as an organization have been in existence, Baba Henry has been there. He lived a good, long life, and he helped and inspired so many people over the years. He was a mentor and role model that spoke with authority, truth and always in love. It’s hard to put into words the impact of his passing; but we know a mighty tree in God’s Forest has fallen. On a personal note, he and Mother Ella invited me to join them on a family cruise and it was a joyous time. What I know is that he and Mother Ella are together again in the arms of our loving God to whom they gave their utmost devotion. Their good works will always guide the footprints of the Proctor family.”
Information on funeral arrangements will be forthcoming. The SDPC extends its sympathy to the family and friends of Dr. Mitchell, a true giant in the world of Black Church scholarship, preaching, and teaching.