The Rev. Joseph C. Profit Jr., a New Orleans religious and civil rights leader who led Stronger Hope Baptist Church in Central City for a half-century, died Sept. 4. He was 80.
Profit, known as a gifted orator and singer, will lie in state at Gallier Hall from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday as an acknowledgement of his life’s work, which included service on a number of city boards and commissions during the mayoral administrations of Moon Landrieu, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, Sydney Barthelemy and Marc Morial.
In a letter to Profit’s family and congregation, Marc Morial called Profit “a giant.” He made his first visit to Stronger Hope at age 19, during his father’s first campaign for mayor, Morial wrote, recalling Profit’s “booming voice and inspirational sermon” that day.
After Profit was elected pastor of Stronger Hope in 1965, the church became a center for civil rights activism in New Orleans and a hub of meetings, programs, outreach and prayer.
His dedication to justice and righteousness was rooted in biblical teachings. “He taught us that we must speak on behalf of the less fortunate and stand up for what was right,” said his daughter, Rachael Profit-Woods.
Profit received Master of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Music also was a passion; he was known for his piano playing and big singing voice. He graduated from Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in music education and received a master’s in music education from Loyola University. He also studied counseling and theology at other colleges.
Each Profit child was given piano lessons, and music was an integral component at the Profit home.
“We were surrounded by it,” said his son, the Rev. Joe Dyson, who leads Holy Faith Temple Baptist Church in the Treme neighborhood, where he carries on his father’s musical tradition, as do other siblings and their children.
As children, Profit-Woods remembered, when they rode in the family car, they usually would listen to classical music, and their father would teach as he drove. “We would have to identify the instruments being played,” she said.
In 1958, Profit became the first music instructor for black schools in Terrebonne Parish and led a 500-voice community choir there.
He taught music in New Orleans public schools for 37 years and led a summer tutoring program called Church Mobilization for Educational Excellence.
Profit served as the fifth president of the Ideal Missionary Baptist and Educational Association Inc. and regional vice president of the Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention.
He also was a leader in the National Baptist Convention, serving on the Finance Committee under the Rev. T.J. Jemison, the Baton Rouge civil rights leader who led the convention from 1982 to 1994.
Despite difficulties walking as he aged, Profit did not stop. He continued to serve as chairman of the board for the Isaiah Institute of New Orleans, an interfaith peace initiative that works to train and employ people as carpenters and skilled tradesmen in order to rebuild the Central City community and fight violence in the city.
“In recent years, it was obvious he was in pain. But he kept moving, kept going to the church every day, kept going to meetings, kept leading,” said institute director Joe Givens, whose first office, to organize Vietnam veterans, was in Stronger Hope in 1972.
Over the 40-year span of their work, their phone calls followed the same rhythm, Givens said: “I never left a conversation with him without him saying, ‘Let’s have a word with the Lord.’ And then he and I would pray.”
Survivors include five sons, Elder Lowell Profit Sr., Dyson , Wendell Profit, the Rev. Joel C. Profit Sr. and Daniel Profit; four daughters, Deidra Dyson, Profit-Woods, Terrell Profit and Janel Profit; a brother, Milton Profit Sr.; three sisters, Rosie Profit, Ruth Profit and Lillian Profit; 37 grandchildren; and 26 great-grandchildren. His former wife, Diedri Johnson Profit, also survives.
On Thursday, after he lies in state at Gallier Hall, 545 St. Charles Ave., Profit’s body will lie in repose from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Stronger Hope Baptist Church, 2401 S. Galvez St., followed by a memorial service at 7 p.m. and then a wake. On Friday, viewing will be from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the church, followed by a funeral at 10 a.m.
Rhodes Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Interment will be at Providence Park Cemetery, 8200 Airline Drive, Metairie.