The Rev. Lee Mason Jr. was the pastor of the Northeast Baptist Church and a civil rights leader who fought against racial and human injustice.
He died on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. He was 79.
He was born on March 7, 1935 to Lee and Martha Mason in Pocahontas, Va. Mason was one of four children. He was baptized at the First Baptist Church of Pocahontas.
Mason participated in football, baseball and several other sports growing up and graduated from the Pocahontas Public School System.
Mason enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 17. He was a certified sharp shooter whose posts included stints in Virginia, Kansas and Korea, where he engaged in combat.
After being honorably discharged from the military in 1955, Mason moved to Philadelphia, where he joined the Resurrection Baptist Church and served as a deacon. He answered the call to ministry in 1957.
Mason was a manager at Sussman Automotive Group for many years before going into the ministry full-time. While working for Sussman, he furthered his education by attending the Philadelphia Bible College at night.
He married Eunice D. Johnson on Sept. 7, 1958.
Between being a husband, working and having a family, Mason built his ministry. His first pastorate role was at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where he grew the congregation and ushered in many new ministries.
Mason founded the New Joy Baptist Church in 1966 in Philadelphia. With the help of a small congregation, he was able to purchase a building, furnish it and invest in an organ and piano. This family church flourished until 1983.
In 1974, Mason became the pastor of the Northeast Baptist Church in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
Mason’s faith-based leadership inspired a new generation of clergymen and a series of prominent pastors he ordained. They include Pennsylvania state Representative The Rev. Louise Williams Bishop, a 50-year Philadelphia radio personality; the Rev. Delores Gardner, the Rev. Sarah Hyman, the late Rev. F.L. Donaldson and the late Rev. Michael Edwards.
Mason baptized more than 400 people and ordained many deacons and ministers throughout his pastoral service.
He often traveled across the country on his own dime to be there for his congregants, whether it was to preside over a wedding or a funeral.
“An infinitely kind, generous, funny and passionate man, Rev. Lee Mason Jr. served God with every breath,” his family said.
“Anyone who knew Rev. Lee Mason Jr. knew that he was a man who loved teaching and helping to enrich the lives of everyone around him. They knew he would do anything to help his fellow human being.”
When he wasn’t behind the pulpit, Mason was in the community, at times putting his life on the line for the people he loved. He marched alongside his friends, The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. to fight against racial injustices. He marched with King in Cicero, Ill., Greensboro, N.C. and several other cities entrenched in violence against Black people.
Mason was also a staunch supporter of gospel recording icons, The Rev. Clay Evans and the late Rev. C.L. Franklin, father of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. He also counted as friends, civil rights legend The Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles and many other theologians and civil rights giants of the time.
Along with several other Black clergy, Mason played a significant role in the election of Frank Rizzo as mayor in 1972 and the election of Philadelphia’s first Black mayor, Wilson Goode in 1984.
When Mason celebrated 30 years in the ministry in 1987, Goode gave the celebration’s keynote address.
Mason devoted many hours to helping advance the city and country he loved, serving as an organizer and field representative for the Philadelphia chapter of Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Organization and a clergyman for the Philadelphia Police Community Relations Organization.
He also held positions in the Philadelphia Pastor’s Conference, Pennsylvania State Baptist Convention, Progressive Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention.
Mason celebrated 50 years in the ministry in 2007. During those 50 years, Mason conducted revivals for some of the greatest preachers and theologians of his time.
He served as a counselor and mentor to many young Philadelphia pastors including The Rev. George H. Smith, The Rev. Kevin B. Williams, The Rev. Eric Simmons, The Rev. Glen Griffin, The Rev. D. Omar Epps and The Rev. Owen Gowans.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons Aaron J. Mason, Nathaniel L. Mason (Cynthia), Jonathan A. Mason Sr. (Dionis), Shawn Salley (Mattie), Micheal Young and Jason Scott; daughter Martha Butler (Elijah); 17 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren and other relatives and friends.
A celebration of life will be held Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. at Northeast Baptist Church, 4744 Tackawanna St.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Northeast Baptist Church in the memory of The Rev. Lee Mason.