- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. Members of the First Missionary Baptist Church sought comfort in the Easter-time promise of joy amid sorrow yesterday, one day after a prominent member and his three sons died in a six-car pileup.
Ushers passed out tissues as more than 200 worshipers gathered around Rodney B. Pulliam's widow and prayed with locked hands for strength and understanding at the end of the 8 a.m. Palm Sunday service.
The boys, ages 8 to 10, were the only children of Mr. Pulliam, a high-ranking city official and pastor of a small Virginia church, and his wife, Tammie, an occupational therapist at Frederick Memorial Hospital.
The Rev. William H. Graham urged worshippers to rejoice that God had called their former assistant pastor home. "I believe in my heart this is the way Reverend Pulliam would have wanted it," he said.
But Dwight Palmer, a church deacon, said afterward he believed Mr. Graham, too, was aching to comprehend the sudden tragedy.
"You've got to ask the Lord, 'Why?' They were young boys. They didn't even live their lives," he said.
Mr. Graham said a memorial service will be held at the church Thursday evening. He and Mr. Pulliam's survivors were working out burial arrangements with Rollins Funeral Services, Mr. Palmer said.
State police say Mr. Pulliam, 38, and his children Matthew, 8, Jordan, 9, and Rodney Jr., 10 died almost immediately after a 1997 Oldsmobile Cutlass smashed into the rear of their 1994 Hyundai as they waited with four other cars at a traffic light just around the corner from the red brick church about 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Police said the Oldsmobile driver, Anthony F. Grimes, 34, apparently had suffered a seizure. Police were awaiting a doctor's report that could confirm that theory, Sgt. Robert Hundertmark said yesterday.
Thomas Ford, who was working at the parsonage Saturday morning, said he ran to the horrific scene after hearing the crash and recognized Mr. Pulliam, gasping his last breaths.
"There was nothing I could do," Mr. Ford said.
He and others remembered Mr. Pulliam as a passionate man and caring father with a ready smile and boundless energy. They were proud of his recent appointment by Mayor Jennifer Dougherty as the city's chief operations officer, which entails overseeing the administration's day-to-day business. Mr. Pulliam, the first such high-level black appointee in the city of about 53,000, had been in the job just two weeks.
"He was ready to make a big impact on the city of Frederick," said Mr. Palmer, who had managed Mr. Pulliam's unsuccessful campaign for Frederick alderman last fall.
The Frederick church sent an assistant pastor, the Rev. Larry Jones, to hold a service in Mr. Pulliam's stead yesterday at Little Forest Baptist Church in Stafford, Va.
Mr. Pulliam started as pastor of the congregation of approximately 100 about a month ago, Mr. Palmer said.


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