Pioneering Civil Rights pastor James Bass passes

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Rev. James Bass

Reverend James Bass, former pastor of Chicago’s historic Mount Olive Baptist Church, passed away at the age of 98. Reverend Bass died at a Chicago area hospice facility on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 of natural causes.

Reverend Bass was the organizer and retired pastor of Mt. Olive M.B. Church, 5729 W. Chicago Ave., in Chicago. He organized the church in 1956. He pastored there for 45 years, retiring at the age of 81.

Funeral arrangements for Reverend James Bass include a Tribute Service scheduled for Sunday December 9 at Gatling Memorial Chapel, 10133 S. Halsted in Chicago. A viewing will take place from 2p.m. to 3p.m.; a program from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. will follow.

On Monday December 10, funeral services will be held at the House of Hope, 752 E. 114th St., Chicago. Viewing is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. A program will follow from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“Pastor Bass was a mentor to all of us who dared to be leaders of congregations. He taught us all that our greatest presence is outside the walls of the church,” said Bishop Larry D. Trotter of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago.

During the 1960s it was Reverend James Bass who stood up against the wishes of the white community and allowed Dr. King to speak at Mount Olive. Bass ignored the many death threats and stood firm in his support of Dr. King.

In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was running a civil rights campaign in Chicago. Bass arranged an open meeting at Pulaski and Lexington, introducing Dr. King to the West Side. Bass worked with Bread Basket as well as Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder, Reverend Jesse Jackson.

“Reverend Bass contributed much to upward mobility of African Americans in Chicago. Without his support of Dr. King, Black Chicago would never have experienced the political empowerment which we enjoy even on today,” says Bishop Tavis Grant of the Antioch Churches Network International.

Trotter adds, “His relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King was extraordinary and well regarded. He was a catalyst of sorts in getting citywide support for Dr. King during some difficult and turbulent times for African Americans living in Chicago in the 1960s.”

A veteran of World War II, Bass was the oldest son of six children, born in Florence, MS.  James (affectionately known as Reverend Bass), his four brothers, and one sister, were raised on the Dockery Plantation near Ruleville, MS.

Reverend Bass attended the Rules School and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1941. James Bass was drafted into the army during World War II. He served his country, spending two years in the States, then 14 months overseas, including the South Pacific and New Guinea. James, the preacher, was authorized as a chaplain to conduct worship services in the field and camp headquarters. He was honored with a Good Conduct Medal, Battle and Service. He was honorably discharged.

In 1967 Reverend Bass met Helen Julius. Two children were born during their marriage, a son Vincent, and daughter, Vikkeda.  In 2003 a grandson, Jamie Bass was born.

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