SHREVEPORT, La. - A pastor and civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Harry Blake, died Wednesday night. He was 85.
Blake's family recently revealed that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. They issued a nationwide call for prayers Wednesday afternoon.
Following his death, the family released the following statement:
"The family is appreciative of the outpouring of support that has come (from) the local community and from across the nation. During this critical time, the Blake family requests private time as they, together mourn the passing of their father, brother, grandfather and uncle."
From the cotton fields of Northeast Louisiana, to the mission field in Shreveport, Blake lived his life with a plan. He worked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and his staff for four years and said he planned every stage of his life.
But early on Blake didn't realize what sacrifice that would come as he was woven into Shreveport's history. Planning civil rights protests with King, Blake said, "I didn't see that as history in the making, I just saw it as a job I had to do or mission I had to fulfill. I never took a photo with Dr. King, I never took one with him."
But he had the battle scars: Blake was beaten, nearly killed and arrested.
In 2018, Blake stepped down as pastor of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, where he led the congregation for 52 years.
He recently returned to the pulpit and before his illness, served as interim pastor at St. Rest Baptist Church in Shreveport.
"I think I'd like to be remembered as a man who really cared about people, and did all he could to make life better for people. And that's the story of my life," Blake said in a 2018 interview with KTBS.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Blake becomes the fourth community leader to die of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
Rev. Stephen Bradley, 78, died March 24 after being hospitalized for several days. He was pastor of Eightieth Street Church of God In Christ in Shreveport. The next day, the Rev. Ronnie Hampton, 64, died at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center. Hampton was pastor of New Vision Community Church in Shreveport and led Takin' is to the Streets ministry.
Saturday, Caddo Parish School Board member and Shreveport NAACP Chapter President Lloyd Thompson died after being hospitalized.