Los Angeles lost a giant in the faith with the passing of the Rev. Dr. Solomon L. Drake, pastor emeritus of Greater Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. Drake, who died on August 18 at the age of 90, was a spiritual father and mentor to scores of leading ministers.
His body will lie in state on Tuesday, August 31, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., and on Wednesday, September 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., in the sanctuary of Greater Ebenezer, 5300 Denker Avenue in Los Angeles.
The homecoming celebration takes place on September 1, at 11 a.m., at the church. Due to limited seating, advance registration is mandatory via Eventbrite under “Drake Homegoing.” Also, masks are required and social distancing will be observed during the service.
Drake has served at Greater Ebenezer for nearly 34 years. During his tenure, he led the membership in expanding the edifice, purchasing additional properties, opening a pre-school, and establishing a state-of-the-art library. In addition, a portion of South Denker Avenue was designated as ‘Pastor Drake Square’ by the City of Los Angeles.
“We sorrow deeply, but not as those that have no hope. ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21). Please keep Sister Drake, the entire Drake family and our church family lifted in prayer as we navigate this season,” Greater Ebenezer Pastor DeNon A. Porter stated in a Facebook message.
Throughout his ministry, Drake made a significant impact upon clergy on the West Coast and across the nation. “Dr. Drake is well known for his distinguished preaching, teaching and for leading hundreds to Christ. He is a godly man of impeccable integrity, outstanding character and has served as an exemplary leader, mentor and spiritual father to many younger ministers,” said Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Alvin Tunstill, Jr., as he announced Drake as a guest preacher at Trinity in 2017.
When Drake retired as pastor five years ago, several preachers saluted his ministry such as the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, pastor of Historic Weller Street Baptist Church and current president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of L.A. and Southern California. “I say to him thank you for being an example to young pastors like me,” Tulloss said.
Bishop-designate Xavier L. Thompson, pastor of Southern, St. Paul and Calvary Baptist Churches, described Drake’s attributes as, “Integrity, good character and a good Christian. That’s the summation of Dr. Drake. He has always been a senior pastor that I could seek out wise counsel and advice.”
On a personal level, Thompson shared that Drake wrote a letter of recommendation in support of Thompson’s enrollment at Fuller Theological Seminary. “He was always been a senior pastor that I could seek out wise counsel and advice. He’s been like a physical, living and spiritual GPS for me,” noted Thompson.
Prior to his ministerial career, Dr. Drake made a significant mark in professional baseball as an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. Also, he and his brother, Samuel, were the first African American brothers to play in the major leagues.
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Drake was born on October 23, 1930 to Solomon and Jessie Drake. He was a high achiever, both academically and athletically. Not only was he a member of the National Honor Society, but he also excelled in track, football and baseball.
Dr. Drake graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1948 and played on several baseball minor league teams while also attending Philander Smith College. From 1951 to 1953, he served in the U.S. Army and participated in the Korean War. After the military, Drake received his B.A. degree and resumed playing professional baseball until he retired from the game in 1960.
Following his MLB career, Prudential Insurance Company hired Dr. Drake in 1963 and he became the firm’s first African American representative west of the Mississippi. In protest, White agents resigned from their positions because they refused to work alongside a Black man. However, Drake remained with the company and earned countless awards and commendations until retiring in 1983.
Dr. Drake united with Greater Ebenezer in 1964, accepted his call to preach in 1968 and was ordained by the late Rev. Alzo W. Lott, then-pastor of Greater Ebenezer, two years later. In 1975, he became the pastor of Santa Barbara Avenue Baptist Church and later organized Good Fellowship Baptist Church. Also, he enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary where he earned his Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Theology in 1977.
On September 19, 1982, Drake was installed as pastor of Greater Ebenezer. The members of Good Fellowship Baptist Church voted to join with Greater Ebenezer and the two churches became one congregation. Ten years later, the Southern California School of Ministry conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his contributions to the evangelical community.
A member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, he was also active in a number of organizations including the Pacific District Baptist Association, California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Eight Council District Clergy, Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Commission, Athletics for a Better America and the Young Men’s Christian Association.
Cherishing his memory are his wife of 53 years, Isabelle Frances Drake; sons, Ronald Drake and Gary Cunningham; daughter, Yvette Drake, M.D., grandson, Gary Drew Cunningham; great granddaughter, Bonnie Drew Cunningham; sisters and brothers in-love (law) Verna Jean Brown, Wrenetta Howard, Alola (Joseph) Stoot, Edwin (Edith) Dunlap, Edwina Dunlap and a host of nieces, nephews and longtime friends.
For more information, call Greater Ebenezer at (323) 759-4996.