The Rev. Dr. Joseph Bragg, man of the pen and cloth, dead at 75

September 19, 2014

By Herb Boyd

September 18, 2014

For more than a generation, Joe Bragg was a tireless journalist whose words and voice constantly kept us abreast of local and world happenings. Then, as the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lee Bragg, he chose to comfort our souls and lift our spirits with his sermons. The omnipresent journalist and pacifying minister is no longer with us. He joined the ancestors Sept. 1 at age 75.

As a political reporter, Bragg was never one to bite his tongue, always asking the hard questions, putting our elected officials feet to the proverbial fire. Whether it was at City Hall or in the boondocks, he was as intrepid as he was resourceful in getting the story, and getting it right.

Sometimes the stories he delivered for publications were given a verbal turn on several radio stations, including WLIB-AM, WWRL-AM and WRKS-FM. His passion for the airwaves matched the love he brought to print journalism.

Born July 7, 1939, in Raleigh, N.C., Bragg earned his B.A. degree from CUNY. He pursued graduate studies at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, which prepared him well for his travels abroad. Africa, Japan, Italy, Belgium and the islands of the Caribbean were among his favorite destinations.

It is daunting to list the number of organizations, institutions and community groups that thrived from Bragg’s commitment. He served as president of the New York Press Club and the Inner Circle, a group of 100 top metropolitan-based journalists. His connection to the National Association of Black Journalists was long and productive and earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honored by the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People and was granted the NAACP Excellence in Journalism Award and the New York Urban League’s Distinguished Leadership in Journalism Award.

Many New Yorkers and viewers in the region recall Bragg’s appearances on Gil Noble’s television program “Like It Is,” as well as a guest panelist or commentator on numerous news and cultural affairs shows. And when he wasn’t sharing his information with other hosts, he was moderating his own show, “New York Forum,” where such notables as Vice President Walter Mondale were among the guests.

But journalism wasn’t enough to contain his restless spirit, and he committed himself to the church, obtaining a master’s degree in divinity from the New York Theological Seminary in 2002. Four years later, he was awarded his Doctor of Divinity degree from the same institution. In between these two celebrations, he was ordained in the gospel ministry by the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

For four years, according to an email from an associate, Bragg taught broadcast journalism at St. John’s University in Jamaica, N.Y. For three years, he served as associate pastor and taught Bible classes at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 231 W 142nd St.

Bragg lived his life sharing the political news of the day and trying to make a difference in the city that he loved. He believed that by sharing God’s Word, he could make a difference in the lives of so many of the youth who needed a second chance. As Bragg’s health began to fail him, he had to curtail his passion for working with the youth and find other ways to help his community.

Serving the people was always the most important thing in his life, and he believed that education and knowledge were the keys to success. He believed that every child deserved to have a decent home from which to set forth on his or her journey in life. “He is the former vice president of the Children’s Aid Society, an agency that renders services to underprivileged children; the former chairman of the Board of Milbank Houses Inc., where 32 housing units were built under his direction and dedicated to the homeless in Harlem; and former president of the Board of the Philip H. Michaels Child Care CenterInc. in the South Bronx,” the Amsterdam News was informed.

The paper didn’t have to be told about what he meant to the world of journalism or the church. He was first a man of the pen, and then a man of the cloth. In many respects, the two endeavors nicely complemented each other.

Originally published by The New York Amsterdam News