The Rev. Paul McDaniel, a beloved Chattanooga minister, groundbreaking political leader and civil rights pioneer passed away last Sunday morning at age 91.
Pastor McDaniel came to Chattanooga in August 1966. Today, a county building off East Third Street is named in honor of the former County Commission member.
“I knew Commissioner Paul McDaniel as an even-handed, quiet statesman of sorts who tried to hear everyone out, give each person the dignity of their individual beliefs and work to build consensus whenever possible,” Zach Wamp, member of the U.S.Congress from 1995-2011, said in a statement.
“His mission here on earth as a minister of the Gospel will eternally bear fruit. His kindness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten and he will be missed as a friend to so many.”
Rev. McDaniel was a Hamilton County Commissioner from 1978-98, and served as chairman of the commission for five years. He had joined the commission after challenging a law that disallowed ministers from serving in the state legislature. His case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1978, the court ruled in his favor, paving the way for future ministers in elected office.
Rev. McDaniel was the longtime pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church, after coming to Chattanooga from New Jersey. He became the church’s 20th pastor in September 1966.
The youngest of five siblings and the son of the Rev. Adam T. and Maggie McDaniel, Pastor McDaniel was well prepared for the ministry. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College, a Master of Divinity degree from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Rochester in New York.
He also was honored by Friendship College, Rock Hill, South Carolina with the Doctor of Divinity degree.
During Pastor McDaniel’s 48-year tenure at Second Missionary Baptist Church, he was instrumental in forming S & S Community Development Corporation and the Church Koinonia Federal Credit Union, which expanded his reach and programs into the community.
Rev. McDaniel won several prestigious awards, including the Jocelyn D. Wurzburn Civil Rights Legacy Award in 2018, for his half century of public service. He is only the third recipient of the award.
Rev. McDaniel served as the East Tennessee representative on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, supervisor of the New Testament Division of the National Baptist Convention, and chairman of the Church Koinonia Credit Union.
In addition, he was a Life Member of the Chattanooga Chapter of the NAACP and he held membership in the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Pastor McDaniel had also served as president of the Clergy Association of Greater Chattanooga.
While at Morehouse College, Rev. McDaniel became acquainted with future civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He witnessed up close such events as Selma, where he was on the ground helping with the work leading up to the famous voting rights trek of March 1965.
He also participated in the final day of the famous march to the Alabama capitol in Montgomery that resulted in federal voting rights legislation.
Rev. McDaniel was also recognized as a civil rights advocate through his work with the Unity Group, which he founded. The group had come together in 1969 to push for Black-related causes, including electing Black Chattanoogans to office, and was instrumental in the election of John Franklin in 1971 as the first Black city commissioner.
Eric Atkins and Pastor Charlotte S.N.N. Williams of the Unity Group of Chattanooga said in a statement: “Today, we were informed on the loss of our longtime former Chairman and Chairman Emeritus Rev. Paul A. McDaniel. His passing is a heavy loss. We pray for his family, the Second Missionary Baptist Church family and to all who knew and served with him. We are comforted in the fact that he can now be counted as one with the great assembly of hosts and is now amongst the great cloud of witnesses. Farewell leader, teacher, mentor, trailblazer, advocate, revolutionary and friend until we see you once more on the other side of the river.”
Rev. McDaniel was married to the late Edna P. McDaniel and to this union was born Paul Jr., Pamela (deceased), Patricia and Peter. He was married to Linda Isadore McDaniel.
At press time, funeral arrangements have not been announced.