SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Prolific Savannah preacher Pastor Matthew Southall Brown Sr., who spent 35 years at the helm of Savannah’s St. John Baptist Church, has passed away due to natural causes.
“My father was a giving person. He had a statement that said there was no night too dark or no day too long for him to come to the aid of persons in Savannah, and that’s what he did,” said Leonard Brown, Pastor Brown’s oldest son.
WSAV News 3 learned of Brown’s passing Sunday afternoon.
Pastor Brown touched the lives of many throughout his 99 year journey.
“We will always think of him and smile. As a minister of the gospel, I know that there’s so many things that I’ve learned from him and I speak for countless pastors, not just here in Savannah but across the country and around the world who are better because we came to know him,” explained Bishop Matthew Odum, Pastor of Temple of Glory Community Church.
Before serving as the Pastor of St. John Baptist Church, otherwise known as the mighty fortress, Brown was one of the first African Americans to desegregate the military in World War II. Serving in the 9th Division, 60th Infantry Regiment, Company E.
“Given his generation he remembered a time when it was really tough, especially for black people. He had seen Jim Crow segregation but he was never bitter as a result of it. He was a patriot, served in the armed services but he also served in the non-violent army of the lord,” said Georgia Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Savannah native.
Pastor Brown retired from the pulpit in 2004 at the age of 81.
Playing an instrumental role in the lives of so many local faith leaders, Brown is described by many as the Pastors Pastor, and Savannah’s dean of clergy.
In a statement, Mayor Van Johnson said of Pastor Brown: “Today, with heavy, but grateful hearts, we celebrate the life of Savannah’s Pastor, Rev. Matthew Southall Brown, Sr., who has transitioned from time to eternity.”
Johnson went on to say, “For many of us, he was a spiritual father, mentor, confidante, encourager, and trailblazer. His branches are too many to count, and the loss to our community is enormous. I extend my love to his family, and we know that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. Donec iterum convenient – Until we meet again.”
Brown often said that as early as his junior year of high school, he knew God had a calling on his life.
The Brown family are still determining funeral arrangements, but tell WSAV the service will be live-streamed for those who may not be able to attend.