Black History Month: Remembering Dr. Mack Statham


In honor of Black History Month, I want to remember an accomplished African-American who not only shaped our world for the better, but also shaped my life, too. I think we need to take the time to remember these everyday heroes– those who truly blessed the world even if their names are not emblazoned in the history books.

Dr. Mack Statham 9/24/1934-9/2/2013

Dr. Mack Statham
9/24/1934-9/2/2013

Today, I am remembering and honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Mack Statham (September 24, 1934-September 2, 2013). Dr. Statham, or “Dr. Mack” as he was fondly called, was at heart a church musician. I met and befriended him while I served at First United Methodist Church of Laurel. He was a quiet, gentle, and warmly personable man, and yet he possessed an almost unstoppable energy to play prolific music every Sunday, even while his health was failing. He took the time to help anyone further their own musical expressions, especially in worship. He was an accomplished classical pianist and organist, but far from being a diva, he was an accessible, down-to-earth musician who could work with anyone under any circumstance. His approach to music and people, given his tremendous gifts, was marked by an uncanny, Christ-like love and patience. In my eyes, he was a humble giant of a man.

Dr. Mack was born and raised in Baltimore as one of seven children. The Stathams are a musical family, and so quite naturally, Dr. Mack began taking piano lessons as a child. He excelled in music and later graduated from Hampton University with a degree in music education. (He was later honored with an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater.) He taught music in several school systems, was a veteran of the Korean War, and was a successful businessman, too.

He also spent his adult life as a church musician and music director with several churches in the Baltimore-Washington area: Metropolitan UMC in Baltimore, Asbury UMC in Washington, D.C., and First UMC in Laurel. Dr. Mack never did truly retire. In fact, he played the organ at First UMC on a Sunday morning and died that night. He truly lived out all of his days doing exactly what God had created and called him to do.

But I believe Dr. Mack’s greatest vocational accomplishment was his ability to unite whole communities of people around the gift of music. Dr. Mack was not only a world-class musician, but he was also a prolific composer. His hallmark composition was “Trilogy of Dreams” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He wrote it for a mass choir, two pianos, an organ, and a small orchestra. Here’s the beauty of this music: it united so much of the Laurel, MD community, black, white, different denominations, Christians, Jews, politicians, and anyone else who attended what became a yearly event called “Sing for King” on the Sunday of MLK weekend. During the six years I participated in “Sing for King” as a member of the choir, I was awed by the power of one man and his music to gather a wide diversity of the Laurel community. For one day, there was no separation of white and black, Jew and Christian, religious and non-religious, and even church and state. We were one people. The bonds these yearly events created were long-lasting.

Dr. Mack demonstrated that things as simple as music and love can unite people and form new relationships of trust and cooperation. All it took was one person with a vision, good friends, a lot of persistence, and grace to make it happen. In that way, not only did Dr. Mack advocate for peace, equality, and justice, he made it happen by offering the best of himself. That’s an example we all could carry on.

As for me, Dr. Mack instilled many valuable lessons that shaped my life in the 6 years I knew him while serving as pastor of First UMC in Laurel. Here are a few of those lessons:

  • Whatever you commit to do, give it your all. Avoid half measures.
  • Whatever you commit to do, do it with excellence, striving for perfection. Avoid any notion of “good enough”.
  • Make the time to invest in someone else’s growth. Every person is worth our time because they, too are a gift.
  • Do what you love, and don’t stop, no matter the struggle.
  • Slower with excellence is far better than faster and sloppy.
  • Practice, practice, practice… It’s the only way to get better.
  • Trust God above all things and believe in yourself. No, that’s not a contradiction. (Dr. Mack showed how that is possible.)
  • Use your gifts wherever they are needed, no matter how small or seemingly trivial. It makes a difference.

As I write this, I miss my good friend very much. Mack, as I called him, was a rare gift, one of those few people I’ve met who profoundly impacted me for the better. For all the reasons he has touched my life and the lives of thousands of others, Dr. Mack Statham is worthy to be remembered and honored during this Black History Month. May we all live his kind of legacy to the glory of God and the blessing of others.

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8 Comments

Filed under Reflections

8 responses to “Black History Month: Remembering Dr. Mack Statham

  1. dawn king

    Beautiful Pastor Chris Just Beautiful! Round of Applause! 👊

    Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2014 17:09:27 +0000
    To: petunia5464@hotmail.com

  2. Russ

    I remember the day he passed like it was yesterday. He came to church in a blue and white pin stripped suit. He played every song with the passion he always had. He took communion with one hand while playing a hymnal, not missing on single note. He walked around and greeted everyone with his passionate smile. He went to Sunday School and played Happy Birthday for one of his classmates. He went home and departed this life to be wiht th Lord…That to me is a perfect last day on earth…God Bless Dr. Mack and his family…

  3. Sharon Scott

    Sometimes we never really know how we mpact other’s lives. As I read your comments about my dad, it’s clear to see that he impacted you Pastor Chris profoundly and many others as well. While I knew him in one light and had some inkling as to how others saw him, it is extremely moving to me to read exactly how blessed we were to have him in our lives. I miss him too very much, but I am so glad to realize that he is not forgotten. Our family thanks you for being a part of dad’s life and ours as well. God bless you and your family!

    • Sharon, I’m grateful to you for two things: being there to support your dad right at his side through some very trying times in his last couple of years, and just as importantly, sharing your dad with so many people whom he blessed with his love and music. God bless and keep you and your family as you continue to remember and grieve. I’m remembering and grieving with you.

  4. Great stuff Chris. What a gentle soul he was. I miss him

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