The Rev. Carlton Lee, 34, National Action Network’s Ferguson, Mo., chapter president, died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack, sources close to the family confirmed to The Root Tuesday afternoon after NAN’s founder and president, the Rev. Al Sharpton, shared the sad news on Twitter.
Lee, the pastor of Flood Christian Church in Ferguson, baptized Michael Brown Sr. on Nov. 23, 2014, the Sunday before a Missouri grand jury declined to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the extrajudicial killing of Brown’s son, 19-year-old Michael Brown Jr.
Flood Christian was set on fire and gutted by flames later that Monday night as protests raged through the city.
“The police called me and told me the church was on fire,” Lee told NBC News at the time. “I was in complete disbelief. I didn’t think anyone would set a church on fire.
“I feel like one of my children has died. I put my blood, my sweat, my tears into this church, getting this church built from the ground up,” Lee continued. “To see that it was taken down in a few minutes is really heartbreaking.”
Lee, who was extremely vocal about the need for justice for Mike Brown, said that he had received “over 71 death threats” in response to his activism, including one that read, “I’m going to come pick you up with all you other hateful nigger preachers and put you all in your church and burn you straight to hell.”
It’s unsurprising, then, that Lee did not shy away from blaming white supremacists for torching his church.
“Sunday, we do the baptism; Monday, the church is on fire. It just doesn’t add up,” Lee said.
Lee used $160,000—all of his personal savings and all of the money he had put away for his children—to transform an old auto shop into a church, the Washington Post reported.
Lee’s family members and friends expressed on social media their sadness and shock at the news of his death.
WESL PRAIZZE 1490 AM asked that listeners share their condolences or memories of Pastor Lee by calling 314-300-2916 and leaving a message. The messages will begin airing Wednesday.