110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Jefferson Rogers, founder of Stetson’s Thurman Program, dies
posted Aug 13, 2014 - 3:12:10pm
Rev. Jefferson Parramore Rogers, former founder and director of Stetson University’s Howard Thurman Program, died Friday, Aug. 1, in Daytona Beach. Born in Quincy, on Jan. 24, 1917, Rogers was 97.
A service to celebrate his life and legacy will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Allen A.M.E. Church, 580 George Ingram Blvd. in Daytona Beach. Following the service, everyone is invited to visit the Howard Thurman Home.
Both Rogers and his wife of more than 70 years, the former Mary Grace Harris, lived a lifetime together devoted to social justice and civil rights. In 1996, Jefferson Rogers, with the support of Stetson’s late president H. Douglas Lee, established the Howard Thurman Lecture Program honoring the legacy of Rev. Howard Thurman (1899-1981), a theologian originally from Daytona Beach. Thurman studied in India under Mahatma Gandhi, and observed his tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience used successfully in India’s struggle for independence. He inspired leaders past and present in the American civil rights movement.
Stetson’s Thurman Lecture Series, designed to unite people in a search for social justice and an end to discrimination wherever it existed or persists, featured world-class scholars, authors and civil rights stalwarts — mostly friends and collaborators of Jeff and Mary Grace —including Harvard law professor Derrick Bell, Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael), U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, noted author Taylor Branch, activist Angela Davis, and many others. These lectures broadened the understanding of the civil rights movement, and strengthened Stetson’s commitment to social justice and community engagement.
Rogers graduated from Florida A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He earned a master’s degree in religion and philosophy from Howard University, where the Rev. Howard Thurman was one of his professors, and became his personal mentor. Rogers received a graduate degree from Yale Divinity School, specializing in social ethics.
He served as director of Christian education at Jones Tabernacle AME Church in Philadelphia, and race relations secretary for the Evangelical and Reformed Church, headquartered in New Haven, Conn. Having become well-known for his scholarly, intellectual and spiritual presence, for his devotion to promoting social justice and his participation in the civil rights movement, he was named pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, D.C.
Rogers founded the Church of the Redeemer in Sept. 1958, and served as its pastor until 1970. He served as head of the Washington, D.C. chapter of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Rogers’ home often served as a center for strategy sessions with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, Wyatt T. Walker, Jesse Jackson and other leading members of the civil rights movement.
In 1998, Stetson honored Rogers with an honorary doctorate of divinity. In 2004, Jeff and Mary Grace were the recipients of Stetson’s Doyle E. Carlton Award, one of the university’s highest honors presented annually to an alumnus or friend of Stetson University in recognition of devotion to Christian higher education and in appreciation for extraordinary contribution to the life and development of Stetson University, the cities of DeLand and Daytona Beach, and the state of Florida.
In 1981, Rogers and tennis legend Arthur Ashe founded New Birth Corporation, to promote Thurman’s teachings, and foster a cultural renaissance in the African-American community. New Birth purchased Thurman’s boyhood home in Daytona Beach, which the Rogers worked to protect as part of the Thurman legacy. The Howard Thurman Home, at 614 Whitehall St. in Daytona Beach, continues to be open to the public, and part of Rogers’ legacy. For more information, visit www.Howardthurmanhome.org.
Besides his wife Mary Grace, who preceded him in death in April 2012, Rogers is survived by his children, Anita Rogers Howard (Richard Andrews) of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Qasim Abdul-Tawwab (Najwa) of Daytona Beach, and Weldon Rogers of Atlanta; niece Barbara Anders (James) of Miami; nephew Byron Jones of St. Petersburg; eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
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