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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019 1:00 am

Ex-local NAACP leader, 58, dies

Latham in post of chapter president from 1998 to '08

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A longtime president of the Fort Wayne chapter of the NAACP and pastor at Renaissance Baptist Church has died, his family announced Monday.

The Rev. Michael Latham Sr. died Friday. He was 58.

“As we mourn his passing away, we recognize and remember Reverend Latham as a pillar in Fort Wayne, viewed by many as a selfless, caring man with a heart for people,” the family said in a statement issued by New Horizon Church, where his son, Michael Latham Jr., is senior pastor.

“His invaluable contributions to the community will not be forgotten,” the family said. “He will be remembered as one of the great community leaders in Fort Wayne.”

The elder Latham was named acting president of the local NAACP in December 1998, when President Elizabeth Dobynes was hospitalized after suffering an aneurysm. She died in January 1999, and he became president.

He would serve in the post until 2008, when he stepped down and the Rev. Bill McGill was elected president.

Latham was praised for his work for youth and the poor. Shortly after taking office, he pushed back against rules allowing the county to charge jail inmates for their incarceration.

NAACP membership waned toward the end of his tenure, and personal issues including a bankruptcy in 2007 added to the challenge of leading the local chapter.

In 2009, Latham helped form advocacy group the National African-American Founders' District. He sought in 2015 to establish a historic district to honor black founders.

“Reverend Latham was consistent and responsible in challenging us all to do our part to reflect the love of God and improve our city,” Latham's family said.

Viewing will be 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at The Chapel, 2505 W. Hamilton Road S. The funeral is 11 a.m. Saturday at The Chapel. Burial will be in Highland Park Cemetery.