October 24, 2021

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Civil rights activist who met MLK and Nelson Mandela retires after 48 years as Stamford pastor

STAMFORD – Nearly 50 years after pastoring the Union Baptist Church, Rev. Robert Perry said he was ready for a new endeavor: retirement.

During Perry’s decades of tenure, the Church moved from Adams Avenue to Newfield Avenue, underwent and completed a multi-million dollar construction project, and later burned its mortgage.

“After 48 years, I feel like the time has come,” said Perry, who is 90 years old.

The Union Baptist church has grown, Perry said, and he expects this to continue. The church was first founded in 1888 by a group that included former slaves.

“It’s a very active church,” he said. “And there are new members with what seem like great opportunities and a desire to do great things.”

Perry grew up in Virginia, and while his uncle wanted him to be a doctor like him, Perry eventually followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became a pastor. Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Virginia was his congregation before he moved to Stamford in the early 1970s.

Perry was active in the civil rights movement, which led to his meeting Martin Luther King Jr. Perry remembered that he was once Church King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr.

“We had a lot of interesting conversations on the way here,” said Perry.

Years later, in the 1990s, Perry met Nelson Mandela on a trip to South Africa, where Union Baptist funded the construction of a church in Whittlesea.

“It was exciting and very informative to meet them,” Perry said, referring to both Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. “They were concerned about what I was doing and I was learning … what they were doing. “

Perry has received countless awards over the years for his service, leadership, and advocacy for equality, including being named one of Connecticut’s Most Influential Blacks by the state NAACP. He has also served on several city boards and commissions, including the Police Commission, the Fire Brigade Commission, and the Ethics Council.