Rev. James Netters, a Memphis civil rights chief celebrated by many

March 1963 in Washington set Rev. James Netters on a path he had never avoided in his life.

It was this journey that inspired others.

So it was no surprise that many of these grateful others praised the local civil rights leader and longtime pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Westwood on Sunday for making her a part of his life’s journey. one that ended on December 13th at the age of 93.

It was the last of three days that Netters’ life was celebrated. On Saturday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, and US Representative Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, honored Netters, as well as other citizens and officials.

State Representative Jesse Chism speaks at the celebration of Dr.  James Lavirt Netters Sr. at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Westwood in Memphis, Tennessee.

On Sunday, Netters was celebrated with songs ranging from “Jesus is real” to “I bowed on my knees and wept holy”.

There were honors from various boards and ministries – like one from James Stone, chairman of the Mount Vernon Deacon Board, in which he described himself as a leaf produced from the mighty oak that Netters was – and how Netters shaped other leaves .

“I just want to thank Pastor Netters for everything he did for me, because he was such a good man, a great man,” said Stone.

“I was one of his honor guards on Friday and a lot of young men came by and said, ‘If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where I would be. ‘His classmates came over and everyone just loved him … “

Mayor Jim Strickland speaks at the celebration of Dr.  James Lavirt Netters Sr. at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Westwood in Memphis, Tennessee.

Pastor Rickey B. Harvey Sr. of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Rochester, New York, talked about how Netters taught him how to endure tough times, or rather the importance of weathering storms, during a difficult time.

“He told me, ‘If you walk in this storm, from now on you will run away from storms,” ​​said Harvey.

“He was a leader,” said Rev. Dr. Reginald Porter, assistant pastor at Mount Vernon, who represented the Progressive National Baptist Convention from Netters.

“He was an encouragement, he prayed for and with others,” said Porter. “There are people who mourn their loss and celebrate their lives … we will continue to work and bring about liberation and freedom for our people.”

Then Rev. Melvin Watkins Jr., pastor of Mount Vernon, spoke about how Netters said he was pleased with him.

“That meant the world to me,” said Watkins. “He said, ‘I am satisfied with you, I am satisfied with the Church, and I am satisfied with my life… I am proud of my family. I am satisfied with all the experiences God made for me ‘…

“And finally he said, ‘I am pleased with the Lord.'”

But much of what Netters became and meant to everyone around him was sharpened by the courage of his early years.

During these years, like the others he inspired, he was inspired by king and civil rights icon John Lewis.

These were the years he went to jail with others to desegregate the Memphis bus system, when he worked to get King to Memphis to bolster the plumbing workers on their strike, and when he was one of the top three blacks who served the Memphis City Council.

It was this courage and encouragement that inspired Timothy Cleaves, Minister for Youth and Children of Mount Vernon, and other youth in the Church.

Indeed, said Cleaves, Netters “spoiled” her.

Dr.  Charkie Reese reads from the Old Testament during the citizen and community celebration of Dr.  James Lavirt Netters Sr. at Mount Vernon Westwood Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee on Saturday, December 19, 2020.

“We had our own living source of black history teaching us from our pulpit,” said Cleaves. “We were spoiled …

“Pastor Netters, you drove a great race. You have inspired everyone, especially us young adults, to just live and serve because Pastor, you have been a humble servant … “God thank you for spoiling us for so long and allowing us to be of one of your best servants to learn.

“Pastor Netters, we will miss you so much.”

You can reach Commercial Appeal columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee at 901-568-3281, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @tonyaajw.

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