In his storied ministry, the Rev. Dr. Eugene Saint Clair Callender touched the lives of thousands, and none more significantly than those in desperate need of assistance and tittering on the brink of devastation. Callender’s angelic spirit made its transition on Nov. 2. He was 87.

Blessed with extraordinary leadership skills and motivated by a passion for social justice, Callender, who was born in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 21, 1926, of Barbadian ancestry, arrived in Harlem in 1950 and almost immediately began to put his endowed attributes to the service of the needy. The needy who flocked to him for comfort and care included alcoholics, drug addicts, the formerly incarcerated, battered women and severely abused children. None were turned away from his community-based clinic, where he began, with the help of a medical and psychological team, to detox heroin addicts. This initiative was instrumental in making the city see drug addiction as a public health issue.

At a very early age, Callender had demonstrated his ability to take charge, and no matter what organization or institution he joined, almost invariably, he rose to the top. His natural charisma and deep concern for the welfare of others was apparent at Cambridge Latin High School, where he graduated second in his class, the salutatorian.

Harvard University was his choice for college, but they had already filled their quota of African-Americans, so he enrolled at Boston University as a pre-med student. Competing with his academic excellence was his prowess on the basketball court, where he made the varsity team as a freshman, but his devotion to the ministry won out and thus he began his lifelong commitment to social justice and equal opportunity, particularly for Black Americans.

It was during his tenure as chaplain at Rikers Island in the early 1950s that he connected with a number of notable jazz musicians, including pianist Walter Bishop Jr., trombonist J.J. Johnson and trumpeter Chet Baker. Then came a succession of community involvements that put him on the ramparts with residents in a rent strike and with activist attorney Mark Lane in the struggle to protect and treat the mentally disabled and ultimately led him to organize the first Street Academy Program.

In 1957, his connection to the emerging Civil Rights Movement acquired national attention when he brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Harlem. King, sharing the stage with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, spoke to about 25,000 people in front of the Hotel Theresa. Two years later, Callender succeeded the esteemed James Robinson as the minister at Presbyterian Church of the Master.

Alarmed by the high rate of high school dropouts, Callender founded Harlem Prep, which was an extension of his Street Academy Programs. No student could graduate from Harlem Prep unless they had been admitted to college—a unique requirement in education in the nation. Two thousand young people graduated from the school, many of them going on to acclaim in various fields of endeavor. Both of these institutions were predecessors to his more renowned Har-You Act, the nation’s first anti-poverty program.

Many people are not aware of the prominent role Callender played in the life of famous author Alex Haley. Haley, surviving off sardines and crackers and living in Greenwich Village, was sitting with a typewriter on orange crates when he was encountered by Callender in 1962. A conversation ensued, and the two of them went to Callender’s home, thereby making the minister the first to hear of the remarkable circumstances that would make Haley an American legend.

As executive director of the Urban League, Callender began his association with several city administrations. Under Mayor John Lindsay, he was a deputy administrator of housing and served on countless presidential commissions under Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton. Time was also set aside to support a variety of small businesses, such as New Breed Clothing, Ashanti Clothing Enterprise and Essence magazine. He was also significantly involved in the creation of “Positively Black,” the first major Black show on NBC.

Callender, according to his website, served as pastor at the Christian Parish for Spiritual Renewal from 1991-2000. In 1996, he was named national chairperson of the Senior Citizen Council for the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign. For many years, he was an active participant in the Hunger Project and served as a senior advisor to their Global Board of Directors. From 2002 to 2007, he was the pastor at St. James Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1895 and is the oldest African-American Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.

In August of 2007, Callender was appointed leader in residence at the Colin Powell Center at the City College of New York. He gave seminars and colloquiums to graduate students on emerging issues involving race in the U.S. He was also chairman of the board of the National Black Theater of Harlem and serves as the chairman of the senior coordinating committee of the Democratic National Committee.

Among his academic achievements, Callender earned a B.A. from Boston University, a Master of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary, cum laude; a Master’s Degree in Ministry from Union Seminary; a Doctor of Divinity from Knoxville College; and a Juris Doctor from New York Law School. He taught at Columbia School of Business, New York University, the New School for Social Research and CUNY York College in Queens.

Last year, Callender published his memoir “Nobody is a Nobody: The

Story of a Harlem Ministry Hard at Work to Change America.”

He is survived by two siblings, Thelma Burns and Leland Callender; a daughter, Renee Callender-Williams; a grandson, Roshon Martin; and a great-granddaughter, Shanice Jackson; as well as countless loving friends in New York City and nationwide.

For information about funeral arrangements, please contact Harriette Cole at 917-226-2835.