The Rev. Lee T. Wesley speaks during a discussion of the costs of industrial tax exemptions for East Baton Rouge Parish, at Together Baton Rouge's monthly luncheon at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

Long before words like inclusion and equity became buzzwords for today, long before a future president learned to be a community organizer in Chicago, Lee Wesley labored for Louisiana and Baton Rouge to become more just places for the African American community.

The pastor of Community Bible Baptist Church in Scotlandville and Plymouth Rock Baptist Church in Plaquemine died after a lifetime of, yes, community organizing before it was cool. His skillful negotiation of political worlds was matched by the power of argument and moral suasion as a minister who could move people to rise above entrenched interests and prejudices.

His work spanned the Great Society to the present. He has most recently been in the public eye as the moving spirit over a decade of Together Baton Rouge and its Together Louisiana offshoot. The group has been a winner in contentious fights over issues like public transit in Baton Rouge and rubber-stamped industrial tax exemptions in parishes up and down the Mississippi River industrial corridor.

Few have made the impact on Louisiana that Lee Wesley did. The tougher the issue, it seemed, the more gracefully he would navigate the process to a conclusion that benefited the community. He will be missed.

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