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Community Board 4 Votes to Rename Street to Honor Rev. Wenzell Jackson

By Patrick Wall | March 29, 2013 3:59pm

HIGHBRIDGE — Many Sundays, a soulful baritone entreated passersby as they turned the corner of Nelson Avenue and 167th Street and stepped into the shadows of Mount Hermon Baptist Church.

The powerful voice belonged to the Rev. Wenzell Jackson, the church’s senior pastor and Community Board 4 chairman, who died suddenly of a heart attack last month.

Now, the church and the board hope to rename that corner for the man who transformed the neighborhood around it.

“It’s one way that the board can physically show gratitude for all the work he did on behalf of the community,” said CB4 district manager José Rodriguez. “It’s a way for us to honor his memory and his service.”

Jackson, who was 46, left his native California a decade ago to head Mount Hermon, where members credit him with expanding the church membership, attending to the needs of local youth and even quelling gang activity in the area.

“There was so much violence when he came into the neighborhood 10 years ago,” said Lucille Robin, the church secretary. “And then it calmed down.”

His way, she said, was to embrace the community, banishing any fear or judgment he may have felt.

“He would walk down the streets at night, unguarded, and greet everyone,” Robin said. “He had God with him — I know, because I don’t do that and I’ve lived in The Bronx all my life.”

Even as he shepherded the church forward, he took on extra duties as the founder of the Highbridge Clergy Coalition, the vice chairman of the 44th Precinct Clergy Council and the chairman of CB4.

Still, he remained approachable, easygoing and always humble, Rodriguez said.

“He never allowed his titles to get in the way of him being a regular person and meeting individuals where they are,” he said.

At its March general meeting, the board unanimously approved a letter of support to rename the corner in Jackson’s honor.

Now, the renaming resolution must be introduced and approved in the City Council and signed by the mayor.

In the meantime, Mount Hermon will continue its six-month period of mourning, Robin said, after which it will select a new head pastor.

Jackson’s wife of 24 years, Tamra Holman Jackson, who moved with the pastor from California to The Bronx, has helped hold the church together since her husband died, Robin said.

“Our First Lady has been like a rock for us,” Robin said, adding that Holman Jackson has not missed a single service since Jackson’s funeral.

On Friday, the church was set to offer its normal Good Friday service.

“He would have wanted us to continue on,” Robin added. “So we got to go on.”