Sunday, December 2, 2007

Lutheran pastor championed rights, taught jail inmates

Gabrielle Finley

Sentinel Staff Writer

December 2, 2007

The Rev. Samuel L. Hoard 1927-2007

For more than 60 years, the Rev. Samuel L. Hoard weathered the storms of racism and adversity both in his ministry and politics.

The Lutheran minister faced opposition as he fought to become one of a handful of black clergymen in the predominantly white denomination.

With those experiences, he grew into a dogged activist who championed equal rights and political gains for blacks in Orlando.

"He would marshal the troops and he was tenacious," said Hoard's wife, Mary Jo. "If he had a cause he got other people charged. I admired that about him."

Hoard died Friday after losing a battle with prostate cancer. He was 80.

Doors were closed to Hoard when he started his path to seminary school.

"He stepped into racism left and right," Mary Jo Hoard said.

After one school turned him down, Hoard was accepted into Concordia Theological Seminary in his hometown of St. Louis, but only after being required to go to a preparatory school in Fort Wayne, Ind., to learn German, Latin and Greek.

Hoard graduated in 1957 with a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia and then attended the University of Kansas where he earned a master's in social work.

For 27 years he served as a U.S. Army chaplain, including a tour in the Vietnam where he earned several combat medals.

After pastoring churches in New York City and Kansas City, Mo., Hoard and his wife moved to Orlando in 1972, where he became pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, the lone black Lutheran parish in Central Florida at the time.

He was known for writing letters to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel on issues in the black community and was once religion-news editor for the Orlando Times. He served as president of the Orange County Political Coalition.

Hoard wrote an autobiography, Almost A Layman, published in 1981, and another book, The Truth Will Set You Free" in 2004.

After retiring from pastoring in 1992, Hoard began teaching adult classes at the Orange County Jail to help inmates gain their certificate in General Educational Development.

He retired from the teaching position in June.

"He so deeply cared about those inmates," said close friend Jacquelyn Bowers. "He tried to do everything he could to encourage them and make them understand the importance of doing right."

In addition to his wife, Hoard is survived by sons Samuel L. Hoard Jr. and Joel Alan Hoard, both of Orlando.

Mitchell's Funeral Home, Orlando, is in charge of arrangements.

Gabrielle Finley can be reached at or 407-420-5507.

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