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Santa Barbara News-Press : Beloved minister served church 35 years

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Beloved minister served church 35 years


December 2, 2005 11:24 AM

The Rev. Leo Leander Wilkes, former pastor at the Second Baptist Church of Santa Barbara and a UCSB lecturer in the Department of Black Studies, has died. He was 81. The Rev. Leo Leander Wilkes, former pastor at the Second Baptist Church of Santa Barbara and a UCSB lecturer in the Department of Black Studies, has died. He was 81.

The Rev. Wilkes, who enjoyed researching Egyptology along with ancient religions and philosophies, died Nov. 24. In declining health, he retired from the pulpit in July 2004 after 35 years with the congregation. He previously ministered in Oakland and Ventura. The Rev. Wilkes, who enjoyed researching Egyptology along with ancient religions and philosophies, died Nov. 24. In declining health, he retired from the pulpit in July 2004 after 35 years with the congregation. He previously ministered in Oakland and Ventura.

"He was loved by many," his son, Leo Wilkes, said Thursday afternoon during a post-funeral reception at the East Mason Street church, which dates to 1910 and was formerly located downtown on Gutierrez Street. The Rev. Wilkes was its sixth pastor. "He was loved by many," his son, Leo Wilkes, said Thursday afternoon during a post-funeral reception at the East Mason Street church, which dates to 1910 and was formerly located downtown on Gutierrez Street. The Rev. Wilkes was its sixth pastor.

"He was unselfish, and was about serving others," Leo Wilkes said.

His other son, Jamaal Wilkes, described their dad as a gentle man.

"He loved his church and his family," said Jamaal Wilkes, a former star with the Los Angeles Lakers. "It extended beyond that. He just loved people, all types of people. Church was obviously a big part of his life, as well as the Christian faith. We believed what we believed, but we were still open to other cultures and religions. He didn't get caught up in his own beliefs. That's a nice lesson he tried to pass on to us." "He loved his church and his family," said Jamaal Wilkes, a former star with the Los Angeles Lakers. "It extended beyond that. He just loved people, all types of people. Church was obviously a big part of his life, as well as the Christian faith. We believed what we believed, but we were still open to other cultures and religions. He didn't get caught up in his own beliefs. That's a nice lesson he tried to pass on to us."

Denise Juan, a 20-year member of the congregation, said the Rev. Wilkes stressed that everyone matters, regardless of his or her background or ethnicity. Denise Juan, a 20-year member of the congregation, said the Rev. Wilkes stressed that everyone matters, regardless of his or her background or ethnicity.

"He was just wonderful," she said, describing a quiet, thoughtful and compassionate man.

Born Sept. 20, 1924, in Arkansas, the Rev. Wilkes was the youngest of eight children. After studying at AM&N College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, he was employed for 17 years by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. Born Sept. 20, 1924, in Arkansas, the Rev. Wilkes was the youngest of eight children. After studying at AM&N College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, he was employed for 17 years by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.

He joined the ministry in 1952.

In 1942, he met Thelma Benson, who became his wife of 61 years.

His friends and family described the Rev. Wilkes as an avid traveler, and a fan of Western television shows and movies. His hobbies included locksmithing, exploring new technologies and tinkering with cars. A celebrated cook, he enjoyed preparing gumbo and barbecuing at family gatherings. His friends and family described the Rev. Wilkes as an avid traveler, and a fan of Western television shows and movies. His hobbies included locksmithing, exploring new technologies and tinkering with cars. A celebrated cook, he enjoyed preparing gumbo and barbecuing at family gatherings.

In a 1993 News-Press story, the Rev. Wilkes described Second Baptist as "the oldest church in Santa Barbara which was founded by those of African-American descent." In a 1993 News-Press story, the Rev. Wilkes described Second Baptist as "the oldest church in Santa Barbara which was founded by those of African-American descent."

He went on to say, "The church is Baptist in its denominational identification, Methodist in its systematic methods of function, Catholic in its universal care for all people. It is Lutheran in its depth of conviction, Presbyterian in its dignity of worship, Evangelical in its missionary outreach, and it is Holiness in its demand of personal righteousness. Second Baptist is interracial, intercultural and interdenominational in fellowship, but in faith and genius it is Christian." He went on to say, "The church is Baptist in its denominational identification, Methodist in its systematic methods of function, Catholic in its universal care for all people. It is Lutheran in its depth of conviction, Presbyterian in its dignity of worship, Evangelical in its missionary outreach, and it is Holiness in its demand of personal righteousness. Second Baptist is interracial, intercultural and interdenominational in fellowship, but in faith and genius it is Christian."

In May 1997, at the request of Rep. Walter Capps, the Rev. Wilkes stood before the 105th Congress and delivered the opening prayer on the 46th annual National Day of Prayer. In May 1997, at the request of Rep. Walter Capps, the Rev. Wilkes stood before the 105th Congress and delivered the opening prayer on the 46th annual National Day of Prayer.

Lincoln Russell, a deacon at Second Baptist, said Thursday that the Rev. Wilkes often told the faithful to "never reach for the lower end of things when you can reach for the higher end." Lincoln Russell, a deacon at Second Baptist, said Thursday that the Rev. Wilkes often told the faithful to "never reach for the lower end of things when you can reach for the higher end."

"Also, he would say that the best hand you have would be at the end of your own elbow," Mr. Russell said. "In other words, depend on yourself. Believe in yourself. "Also, he would say that the best hand you have would be at the end of your own elbow," Mr. Russell said. "In other words, depend on yourself. Believe in yourself.

"If someone hungry came to him, he would not turn that individual away," Mr. Russell said, adding that the Rev. Wilkes often spoke of early African Christians and martyrs. "His life was that of service." "If someone hungry came to him, he would not turn that individual away," Mr. Russell said, adding that the Rev. Wilkes often spoke of early African Christians and martyrs. "His life was that of service."

The Rev. LEO LEANDER WILKES: 1924-2005, is survived by his wife; three children; and eight grandchildren.

e-mail: tschultz@newspress.com

 


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