By Karanja A. Ajanaku, The New Tri-State Defender
God, love and ministry was a trinity embodied by the life of the Rev. Ralph White, the servant-oriented pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church in South Memphis. Rev. White was officiating a funeral when he passed away Saturday.
“So very sorry to hear. He was my friend and brother beloved,” posted the Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson upon getting the word. “Well done, good and faithful Servant!”
Jackson was among the many reflecting and flowing “blessings and love” to Rev. White’s family.
“Rev. Ralph White was a religious leader, community activist, and a friend,” said NAACP Memphis Branch President Deidre Malone. “I will miss our conversations on the challenges facing our communities. I will continue to work on, and fight for those solutions that we discussed are needed. … Rest in Peace, my friend.”
Bloomfield Baptist Church at 123 South Parkway West is a fixture in South Memphis. So was Pastor White, who had served there 33 years…and still was doing the work. Rev. White viewed Bloomfield as an outreach post, having founded the GOD SO LOVED Prayer and Outreach Ministry there.
Roll the clock back and there are multiple points from which to view Rev. White in outreach-ministry mode, speaking about the need to do better and be better. Take the evening of Nov. 20, 2017 for example.
“We must do better individually, so we can be better together, said Rev. White in the wake of the fatal, drive-by shooting of a 10-year-old boy. He had opened the church for a community meeting that served as a summons to join the “God So Loved Initiative.”
“It’s time that we actually go in these communities to see what their needs are, and what we can do to help. Remember, we’re all in this fight together.”
A few months earlier, a two-year-old girl had been killed in a road-rage shooting, fueling a root-level push for a sustained and comprehensive plan of action involving coordination with churches in various neighborhoods, and having volunteers take a hands-on approach in Memphis’ most crime-ridden areas.
Said Rev. White at the time, “We can’t just deal with crime. …We are dealing with education, we’re dealing with jobs, training … a whole package. The crime is just an aftereffect of a greater cause.”
Rev. White was not shy about sharing his views about how to make Memphis better.
“I’ve known him for 25 years and always enjoyed visiting with, and getting advise from him,” tweeted mayor Jim Strickland, recalling Rev. White as “a good man who leaves a strong legacy for Memphis.”
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson’s Twitter post spoke to that legacy.
“We have lost a true soldier in the fight for equality, dignity and truth in Reverend Ralph White.”
A native Memphian, Rev. White was a Memphis City Schools product. He built upon that base at the University of Arkansas, Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) and Mid-South Bible College. He received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Detroit (Mich.) Bible College.
A long-time member of the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, Rev. White’s service through community organizations also included: Board member of Citizens for Community Values of Memphis, Memphis church relations leader for Convoy of Hope, political and social action leader for the Baptist Ministerial Association, board member of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP), member of Shelby County Domestic Violence Task Force, former West Tennessee field representative for Promise Keepers International.
Rev. White also founded the Annual Martin Luther King Park Fishing Rodeo event sponsored and offered by Bloomfield to children of all ages.
On Sunday morning, Brandy Hall posted this Facebook reflection:
“2 words come to my mind this morning. They are perseverance and regret. Pastor Ralph White was persistent! He never let illness, age, people’s criticism, thoughts or opinions STOP him from living his purpose filled life! He has done some truly remarkable things for this city! Things some thought he would not be able to do. When he faced health issues, he went on to finish his race like nothing happened!! To his very last breath he LIVED doing what he loved…SERVING!!! He lived a life without regret! It didn’t seem real until this morning.”
At Rev. White’s side as his wife for the last 39 years was Janet White, also a minister. She was in the pulpit Sunday as Bloomfield held its regular Sunday services.
Also left to celebrate Rev. White’s legacy are three children and seven grandchildren.