During Black History Month, AARP is celebrating the stories of six Californians defining what it means to take hold of all of life’s possibilities at any age.
Our six-part series starts with Reverend Cecil 'Chip' Murray, former pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles. Despite retiring from the pulpit in 2004, Rev. Murray is far from done working to make the world a better place.
If you live outside of Los Angeles, you might have heard of Rev. Murray for the first time during the civil unrest in the city in 1992. On televisions across the country, he was shown as a peacemaker, working to keep order and protect the community from harm. FAME congregants acted as human shields for firefighters working to put out fires as rocks were thrown at them. In the aftermath of that devastating time, Rev. Murray and FAME members worked to bring investment, redevelopment, and hope to a shattered community.
Rev. Murray’s legacy in Los Angeles looms large; his smile and laugh are familiar to families, politicians, scholars, and leaders across disciplines. He grew FAME from 250 members to an 18,000 person church visited by President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. Before his half century of ministry, including 27 years at FAME, he was in the United States Air Force and served in the Korean War. He received the Soldier’s Medal of Valor when he retired as a reserve major in 1958. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in religion from the School of Theology at Claremont College.
Rev. Murray has never stopped giving back to the community. He’s a faculty member at USC, holding the Tansey Chair of Christian Ethics at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture. The campus is also home to the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement. He serves on the board of several organizations, including the California African American Museum, the Ray Charles Foundation, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Commission.
He’s also a father, a chess player, a statesman, and a proud member of AARP for over 30 years. We salute Rev. Murray and his legacy of turning dreams into real possibilities.
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