- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — The Rev. Melvin H. Watson, who influenced Martin Luther King and helped train other civil rights leaders, died June 19 at Crawford Long Hospital. He was 98.

The funeral was Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.

As senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Atlanta and a religion professor at Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Religion and the Interdenominational Theological Center, Mr. Watson exerted a quiet influence for more than half a century.

Many of his students became civil rights leaders.

Former students include the Rev. Robert Michael Franklin Jr., presidential distinguished professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology; the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland; and the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.

“He was one of the great teachers of his generation, and his teaching skills and mentoring capacity was as comprehensive outside the classroom as in the classroom,” Mr. Moss said.

When King was studying at Boston University and pastoring at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., he turned to Mr. Watson for advice, said Walter Earl Fluker, Mr. Watson’s son-in-law and executive director of the Leadership Center at Morehouse College.

In a series of letters, Mr. Watson critiqued King’s views of socialism and philosophy, and recommended books to read, Mr. Fluker said.

“In one letter, King is bragging about his new programs at Dexter, and Watson writes back — I paraphrase — ‘The abundance of activity is a smoke screen for effective ministry.’ He counseled King to slow down and take care of his people,” Mr. Fluker said.

That philosophy characterized Mr. Watson’s years at Liberty Baptist, said his daughter, Sharon Michelle Watson Fluker of Atlanta. “His sermons were thoughtful, reflective and solidly biblically based. He called for the listener to be an active thinker. He asked how the Word could be part of your life and your service to others.”

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