Bill Clinton to honor legendary Rev. Amos Brown in San Francisco

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A student of Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Amos Brown has been leading his San Francisco congregation at the Third Baptist Church for decades -- now parishioners and friends, including Bill Clinton, want to honor him for his good works. (KGO-TV)

Organ music filled the empty sanctuary of the Third Baptist Church as the Reverend Amos Brown made his way up the aisle to talk to ABC7 News.

RELATED: Rev. Amos Brown to celebrate 40 years at SF's Third Baptist Church

He has led this congregation for 40 years as they celebrate their faith every Sunday. But on this day, they're celebrating him -- their pastor.

"I am unspeakably pleased," he told ABC7 News in the slow, melodic cadence of a man who's spent decades speaking from the pulpit. "Speaking truth to powerful sectors of this nation, in which there is too much racism, division, homophobia, xenophobia, and all those 'isms' that have no business in the human family."

Brown has earned a reputation for tackling big issues head-on. A student of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he helped lead the struggle for African-American civil rights, and continues to advocate for the minorities he feels are being pushed out of San Francisco by unaffordable housing.

"To take on civil rights issues, especially in this day and time, that's a tough fight, but he takes it on every day," said Gordon Greenwood, who chaired the committee organizing tonight's celebration of the Brown's 40 years of service.

The program will feature an all-star lineup of elected leaders and activists who've advocated for civil rights over the years. The keynote will be delivered by former President Bill Clinton, who's shared a close friendship with the Brown since the early 1990s.

"Bill Clinton is probably the first president who came to our community and talked to us about the issues that we thought were most important," Greenwood said. "People in this community remember that."


The lineup of other speakers includes former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, current Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.

Brown listed them off, and added, "For my friend, President William Jefferson Clinton, to be here -- it means unspeakable joy for me."

Many of the dignitaries will arrive with their own security personnel, and guests were required to undergo Secret Service background checks. For Leona Bridges, who's served as Chief of Protocol for the event, it's been an effort months in the making.
"Cleaning out rooms and closets and things -- anything that could go wrong. Everything has to be clear," she said.

The event will serve as a fundraiser for Third Baptist Church, with some donors earning the privilege of a private reception before the speeches begin. Brown hopes amid all the festivities, guests can remember how much work is left to be done.

"My teacher, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, said we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters -- or perish as fools."

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community-eventschurchreligionjerry brownbill clintoncelebritywhere you livebay area eventsSan Francisco
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