Originally created 11/15/00

Churches remember minister

The Rev. Robert David Padgett was not the typical minister.

Instead of preaching from a single pulpit, he traveled from church to church on a personal quest to reach out to those who had slipped through the cracks.

"The streets were his church," said the Rev. Bobby Hankerson of Hammond Grove Baptist Church in North Augusta. "That was his ministry of helping people."

Early Sunday morning, the Rev. Padgett, 61, was found dead in his mobile home off Deans Bridge Road. He had been strangled to death, authorities said.

Friends and members of the local black Baptist church community said he was a civil rights activist who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a humanitarian who had unselfishly helped the area's needy for more than 30 years.

Police have not arrested anyone in connection with the homicide, Richmond County Sheriff's Department Maj. Ken Autry said Tuesday afternoon.

But investigators are still working on leads in the case, he added.

The Rev. Padgett's death is an enormous loss to the church community, said the Rev. C.W. Phinizy, minister of Runs Baptist Church in Beech Island.

"They're losing a great help," he said."His project was to help those that were in need."

That project involved helping people fill out welfare and Social Security forms and finding affordable medication for the elderly.

"He didn't have much, but what he did have he tried to render to the ones that needed help," said Frankie J. Madison, who met the Rev. Padgett 15 years ago when he came to speak to a local elderly support group.

"I don't know who would go in there and take his life," she said.

For his efforts, the Richmond County Board of Health honored the Rev. Padgett last year with a plaque that commended his "tireless advocacy on behalf of others."

To support his work, he kept a regular schedule of visiting the area's black Baptist churches, where he would speak to the congregations about the merit of helping others.

The Rev. Padgett was widely accepted by the area's black church community, the Rev. Hankerson said.

"His platform was always, `I'm for the poor people - white and black,"' the Rev. Hankerson said.

Family members will receive friends at Elliott Sons Funeral Home on Lumpkin Road today between noon and 2 p.m., with a graveside service at Hillcrest Memorial Park afterward.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.


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