By. Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan

Jack SullivanJust caught Peter and Paul, of the famed freedom and justice singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary, on the Tavis Smiley show. Goodness, they were magnificent! It was quite good to hear them sing some of the folk songs of the Civil Rights movement while describing the climate surrounding their music and activism. They have a book out titled, “Peter, Paul and Mary: 50 Years in Life and Song”. As I heard their music and reflections, I became inspired by the fact that the sacred work of Civil Rights and freedom has always featured a multicultural, multifaith cast of bold, risk-taking, visionary people who had the audacity to sing their faith and convictions as they delivered truth to power. While our contemporary climate does reveal amazing levels of progress since the 1960s, the rivers and streams of everyday life continue to reveal toxic amounts of waste products such as hate, bigotry, violence, and discrimination of many forms that poison too many of our environments, physical, political and cultural. I am not altogether sure of the many songs we sing when we gather nowadays, but I sure think it is time for our music to recapture the passion and poetry of the songs of people like Peter, Paul and Mary, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and so many others who sang about freedom, justice and peace and therefore provided us with a soundtrack for social progress. During a contemporary era where large segments of society seem to congratulate themselves for not knowing or accepting the histories, values, and aspirations of people who differ from themselves, we need right brain inspiration that can liberate us from the prisons of our linear, individualism-colored world views so that we may actually see ourselves caring for our neighbors by acknowledging then dismantling walls and systems of nullification and selective privilege, by helping each other to succeed, and by learning each other’s story. Now is the time for music that teaches us, transforms us, and then transports us so that we may create earthly places where the long dictatorship of fear comes to an end, where a warm smile can melt glaciers of arrogance, and where people are willing to walk or roll hand-in-hand into a future punctuated by peace, with progress for everybody, and the trivialization of nobody. When we sing songs with these kinds of themes, we open ourselves to God’s still awesome ability to transform the world. I am ready to sing! How about you?

Dr. John R Compton was my first pastor and role model as a spiritual leader.  I wanted to acknowledge him during Black History month yet his legacy as a pastor and community leader extends beyond the confines of a one month celebration.

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Rev. John R. Compton, former president of the Cincinnati NAACP and the first African-American to serve on the governing board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), died April 19. He was 77.

Active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Rev. Mr. Compton was part of the march on Washington led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 and helped organize visits to Cleveland by King.

The Rev. Mr. Compton came to Cincinnati in 1948 to become pastor of the Wehrman Avenue Christian Church. Prior to that, he had served at a church in Palestine, Texas, after graduating from Jarvis Christian College there. During his 30 years as pastor at the Wehrman Avenue church, the growth of the congregation necessitated a move to a larger building. With the move came a new name – the United Christian Church.

After he left that assignment, the Rev. Mr. Compton provided leadership in the regional and national offices of the Christian Church. He was the first African-American to serve as regional minister (for the church in Indiana) and as president for a unit (the division of homeland ministries). He was administrator of the National Convocation of the Christian Church, and administrator of the reconciliation mission, the church’s race and poverty program.

He also served on the church’s 16-member general cabinet, wrote numerous articles for the church’s magazine and lectured at the Christian Theological Seminary.

After his retirement, the Rev. Mr. Compton served the Bond Hill Christian Church, overseeing the merger of that African-American church with the white Forest Park Christian Church. The resulting church is known as the Kemper Road Christian Church.

The Rev. Mr. Compton received awards from Jarvis Christian College, Cincinnati Community Action Now, the NAACP and honorary doctorates from Lynchburg College and the Christian Theological Seminary.

In 1988, he received the Liberation Award from the National Convocation of the Christian Church and was inducted into the Jarvis Christian College Hall of Fame in 1995.

The Rev. Mr. Compton was a member of the Walnut Hills Area Council board, Victory Neighborhood Services Agency and the Cincinnati Model Cities board.