In his prime, they called him the “Mayor of the West Side.”
That was in the 1960s when Lawndale preacher Dr. C. Sugar Hampton had the ear of Mayor Richard J. Daley, and the kind of clout that could get you out of a jam in housing court. These days, Sugar is content trying to bring “more people in church and get them saved.”
A farmer’s son from Magnolia, Miss., Sugar turned 97 last week and celebrated with a sermon at Jehovah Baptist Church in Austin.
“I told the Lord after I turned 92 that every year he gave me from now on I’d celebrate his name on my birthday. I preach in different churches every Sunday,” he says. “I feel pretty good.”
Sugar still tends to a small flock — about 25 parishioners — at his Lawndale Interracial Missionary Baptist Church, which he founded in 1955 in an old synagogue on Independence Boulevard. His congregation once boasted 1,500 members. S
Standing-room-only crowds came to hear him preach on Sundays. That thriving church gave Sugar clout in Lawndale, where he still lives even though he says all the trouble there with gangs, crime and drugs, “really makes me sick.”
The former president of the Lawndale Ministers’ Civic League and the West Side Baptist Ministers’ Conference, Sugar says he always tried to used his political connections to help neighborhood folks. He takes great pride in that.
“No West Side politician had the power I had. I could walk in on the mayor when he was having a pow-wow,” he says. “It was because I was honest and never took a dime from anyone. I helped thousands of people.”
New Jehova Baptist Church Pastor James Rogers says his 97-year old mentor doesn’t let old age stop him from making a difference. “His body is limited, but he has a strong mind and strong willpower to still help people. To make a difference in the political and spiritual arenas,” Rogers said. “He keeps going and will not give up.”
Sugar wants folks to know his secret to living a good life. “Trust the Lord, and do good. Obey the Lord, and don’t get so angry about everything,” he says, preaching over the phone.
“You gotta have love. You can’t make it without love. See, God loves you no matter what. You can cuss him, and he still loves you. Ask him to save you, and he’ll save you. “That’s it. Got it?’