Congregation remembers longtime member of Memphis religious community

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Memphis congregation came together to fondly remember a key spiritual and community leader who died last week.

Dr. Fred Lofton was pastor of the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church near LeMoyne-Owen College for 29 years. He died last Thursday at the age of 89.

On Sunday, church members remembered him with kind words, acknowledging Lofton's commitment to leading the congregation he loved and shepherding a generation of future Shelby County leaders.

"He ordained me as a deacon at this church," County Commission Chairman Melvin Burgess said.

Dr. Lofton graduated from the famed historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta and would later make his way to Memphis. He became pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church in 1972 and served until 2001.

"The reason that I attended Morehouse College was because of Dr. Lofton," Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said. "He would come and visit me at school and always give me an encouraging word."

Lofton spent time as president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a group started by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Lofton was an accomplished author and spiritual scholar who wrote many books.

"Dr. Lofton is bigger than just Metropolitan and Memphis, Tennessee," Turner said. "His legacy and what he's done is worldwide."

"He is kind of the last of a generation of pastors," Dr. Reginald Porter said.

Dr. Porter succeeded Lofton as senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church. Porter himself grew up in the church he now leads.

He said Lofton believed the church had a major role in making the community better for the people it served, and that is something that will not change.

"We continue by being true to the things that he stressed and strived for," Porter said.

Lofton will be remembered twice at Metropolitan, with a memorial service Sunday, July 2 at 6 p.m. followed by a funeral Monday, July 3 at 11 a.m.

"We lost an icon. We lost a loved one. We lost a family member," said Renee Jeffery, Lofton's goddaughter.

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