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Sherman Howard; Church of God in Christ Bishop

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 16, 2004; Page B06

Bishop Sherman Scott Howard, a church pianist and gospel radio personality who rose to become head of the Washington jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, died Dec. 11 of hypertensive cardiovascular disease at his home in Washington. He was 77.

From daily radio broadcasts to the grand concerts that welcomed new artists and diverse crowds to the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in the District, he wrapped style and faith in the same package.

Bishop Sherman Howard is credited with expanding his denomination's membership in the D.C. area. (Church of God in Christ)

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He was one of 225 bishops of the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination founded in 1897 and headquartered in Memphis. The denomination has more than 8 million members in the United States and 56 other countries.

"Bishop Howard was known worldwide as Mr. Hospitality," said Rickey Payton Sr., minister of music for the 40 Church of God in Christ congregations in the Washington area. "He demanded excellence in everything that he did."

Bishop Howard expanded the reach of the denomination in the Washington area, Elder Isaac Sams said. "Bishop Howard has really taken us to a new level," he said. "There has really been growth in the District. Our convention has gotten so large we have had to move our annual meeting to the D.C. convention center."

Bishop Howard was born in Roanoke. The second-eldest of six children, he was 11 when his father died and he had to assume a leadership role in his family.

He joined the Church of God in Christ in Roanoke, where as a young adult he used his piano skills while accompanying his pastor on evangelistic campaigns. In 1946, he was called into the ministry. On an evangelistic trip to Washington, he decided to stay here.

The young minister was ordained in 1948 by Bishop Samuel Kelsey of the Temple Church of God in Christ in Washington. He became an associate minister at the church, a pianist and director of the church's Radio Choir. He later served as jurisdictional president of the Young People Willing Workers, and as vice national director of the Church of God in Christ Youth Congress.

In the late 1950s, he was the one of first male African American gospel radio announcers in Washington.

He started the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in a small storefront space at 1123 S St. NW in 1955. New Bethel became known for live radio broadcasts of its services and its prayer ministry, and outgrew that location. In 1972, the church made a move to its present location on Piney Branch Road in Northwest Washington.

Bishop Howard, who attended the Howard University Divinity School, became a bishop in 1998 and later that year was installed as the jurisdictional prelate of Washington by the denomination's then-presiding bishop, Chandler D. Owens.

He continued to be heard on a daily basis on area radio stations, the last one being WYCB-AM, where every afternoon he would offer his "Words of Inspiration." He also was a popular host during concerts and award programs.

Bishop Howard served as adviser to the Urban National Hip Hop Choir, often allowing the group to use his church for rehearsals and concerts.

Survivors include a sister, Josephine Howard of Washington; a brother, Lewis Howard of Riverdale; and a niece and a nephew whom he raised, Carolyn Tolbert of Silver Spring and Clinton Bowman of Reston.

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