Clara McCollough, longtime matriarch of the United House of Prayer for All, dies at 95

February 24, 2011

Clara McCollough, 95, the longtime matriarch of the United House of Prayer for All People, a denomination where her charismatic late husband preached to thousands of poor and middle-class inner-city residents, died Jan. 24 at Washington Hospital Center. She had complications from diabetes.

The church, started in a North Carolina storefront in 1926, says it has more than 1.5 million members and 150 congregations nationwide. Her husband, Bishop Walter "Sweet Daddy" McCollough, led the church for more than 30 years until his death in 1991. He had succeeded the church's founder, Bishop Charles M. "Sweet Daddy" Grace.

Long based in Washington's Shaw neighborhood, the church took a strong role rebuilding that area after the 1968 riots, and today there are several large apartment complexes, a restaurant and other buildings that have been opened and are operated by members of the United House of Prayer.

In addition to activities in building and construction, the church has a colorful history that includes fire-hose baptisms and New Orleans-style brass bands. United House of Prayer for All People has also been credited as a force in city elections.

Mrs. McCollough grew up in Washington and managed her family's dry-cleaning business - she cleaned and pressed the suit in which "Sweet Daddy" Grace was buried - while immersing herself in church activities as a choir member and top fundraiser.

In 1967, she traveled with her husband and son Charles Leon to Israel for spiritual growth and, upon their return to the United States, her husband sent her across the country to rally support for the church's "Talent Drive," which financed construction of United House of Prayer sanctuaries across the country.

Known for her fashionable wide-brim hats, Mrs. McCollough was a leading participant in the annual House of Prayer Memorial Day Parade, which featured vintage automobiles, brass bands and marching groups from across the country.

Clara Bell Price was born Feb. 22, 1915, in Kershaw, S.C. She was the youngest of 12 children and reached sixth grade before leaving school to help support her family. Her parents were domestics.

The family relocated to Washington when she was a teenager. She became a member of the Jubilee Chorus and the Choir No. 2, both at the District's Charlotte Mission of the United House of Prayer. It was there she met her future husband. They married in 1935.

In 1941, after her husband was named pastor of the Anacostia Mission, Mrs. McCollough served as president of its choir. In 1956, when her husband was named pastor of God's White House - the D.C. headquarters of the church - Mrs. McCollough became a member of "Sweet Daddy" Grace's Choir No. 1.

After her husband's death, Mrs. McCollough was a regular attendee of Marshall Heights Mission, where her son Charles Leon was minister for many years.

Charles Leon McCollough died in 1996 and another son, James E. McCollough Sr., died in 2009.

Survivors include two children, Walter McCollough Jr. of Bowie and Regina McCollough Hargrove of Washington; 17 grandchildren; 41 great-grandchildren; and nine great-great-grandchildren.

Mrs. McCullough, a District resident, was fiercely protective of her husband's legacy. She had her husband's casket exhumed and transferred from the $700,000 United House of Prayer crypt at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland to a family burial plot in Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Bladensburg so that they could be buried together.

Hamil Harris is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of The Washington Post.
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