Rev. Marvin McMickle: Politically Active Pastor

Rev. Marvin McMickle
Dan Bobkoff for NPR

Delegate: The Rev. Marvin McMickle, 60

Hometown:Shaker Heights, Ohio

Occupation: Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church

Why We're Watching: The longtime civil rights warrior is bringing his activist verve to Denver.

The Rev. Marvin McMickle bridges religion and politics as pastor of Cleveland's influential Antioch Baptist Church. He says he fights for fairness and justice from the pulpit. And he'll be bringing that activist verve to Denver, his first political convention.

For McMickle, who is African-American, the symbolism of this election is great. Seventy-eight years ago, his distant cousin was killed in Kentucky as he tried to register to vote. Now McMickle will be casting a ballot for Barack Obama, the first major-party African-American presidential candidate. Exhilarated, he says he never expected this in his lifetime. He's bringing his wife and 28 year-old son to Denver to share in the moment.

McMickle grew up in Chicago, and says his life changed when he saw the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak there about open housing. McMickle was 17 and contemplating a career as a printer and designer. The speech, though, hooked him on social activism and advocacy.

A few years later, he took a job at a church led by Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who was both a pastor and a congressman — a life McMickle would try to emulate. In 2000, McMickle was the only African-American Senate candidate in the country. He lost. He has also run for Congress and served as president of a local school board.

Antioch Baptist is in the backyard of the famous Cleveland Clinic, but serves the city's impoverished Fairfax neighborhood. The church has been a leader in HIV/AIDS testing and counseling.

With his highly visible position, McMickle urges politicians to focus on urban issues. He doesn't intend to run for elected office again, though. He's focusing on his ministry and university teaching positions and leaving the politics to the next generation.

Dan Bobkoff reports from member station WCPN in Cleveland.

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