The Dean is a title earned by the Rev. Wallace Hartsfield through years of servant leadership to his church, his community, and the nation.
Hartsfield tells a story about how as a boy growing up in the South, a truck of about 13 White men bearing guns drove past his grandparents’ house. His grandmother saw them coming and told him to go inside. He did, but he looked out from behind the curtains in time to see a Black man’s lifeless body being dragging behind it.
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It was a vision that changed his life. What could he do to eliminate that kind of injustice? He’s been working at it for decades and while things have gotten better, Hartsfield said at his retirement from the ministry in 2007, there’s still work to be done. He spoke openly about the continuing need for justice and equality and shared some of his next step visions.
Didn’t he say he was retiring? Yes, but heroes like Hartsfield spend almost every waking moment of their life helping others, doing things – something, anything, to help improve the world. Thankfully for Kansas City’s African-American community, a great deal of Hartsfield’s focus was on helping his people.
His church, Metropolitan Baptist, located in inner Kansas City, MO., was a light for the area surrounding it. Under his leadership, they developed housing for low-to-moderate-income people and helped to create opportunities for them to become homeowners. They helped older people hold on to their homes, particularly when they were being taken advantage of by persons from outside the community.
As the Dean of Kansas City ministers, Hartsfield had access to power brokers and he was a power broker. He was the person “they” called on. Anyone who knew him will tell you, he wasn’t looking for personal gain from these transactions. His goal was to find a way to make things better for others.
Beyond Kansas City, Hartsfield was a national powerhouse. He served as chairman of the Congress of National Black Churches and served in many capacities with the National Baptist Convention.
His philosophy was fairly simple, “Just do right” - and he’s still doing it.