Dr Clifton Whitaker Jr. embarked on a career as a Richmond police officer, but an injury after 17 years in the police opened the door to a new career in the ministry.

The first black police detective in his hometown, Dr. Whitaker became best known for his 33 years of spiritual leadership at Grayland Baptist Church in the community of Highland Park on the North Side.

Dr Whitaker’s role in the Richmond ministry is remembered following his death on Friday, September 10, 2021. His death has been attributed to COVID-19 and underlying health issues.

His life will be celebrated in a service on Tuesday, September 21 at the Cedar Street Baptist Church of God, 2301 Cedar Street in Church Hill, and he will be interred in Riverview Cemetery in Richmond.

Prior to the service, Dr. Whitaker will travel to Grayland Baptist Church, 2301 3rd Ave., for a guided tour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, September 20, according to Scott’s Funeral Home.

Known for his chanting and preaching, the Richmond native has received praise for guiding the rebuilding of Grayland Baptist after his sanctuary burned down in 1996 and for developing a multi-purpose communion hall in 2003 which enabled an expansion of programming for the congregation of 350 members.

During his tenure as pastor, he was named Minister of the Year three times by the Union of Bailiffs of Richmond and District.

Long active in ministry circles, Dr. Whitaker preached his last sermon on March 29, 2015, at Grayland Baptist, which is now led by his son-in-law, Dr. Dexter Cannon, and his wife, the Reverend Gina W. Cannon. , long an assistant pastor at Grayland.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution praising Dr. Whitaker’s ministerial service, which included volunteer chaplain service to the Richmond Police Department.

“He was a humanitarian who was for the people and served the people well,” said his daughter Joy N. Whitaker-Thomas, who leads the choirs at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Henrico County and at the First Baptist. Church-Centralia in Chesterfield County. “He was an honorable man who rose from the streets of Richmond to the pulpit of Grayland.”

A graduate of Armstrong High School, Dr. Whitaker began classes at Virginia Union University, but left to join the Richmond Police Department. After training and spending eight months on patrol, he jumped to the detective in a major departure from standard practice. During his years with the force, he received the Medal for Excellence in Policing and the Dale Carnegie Highest Achievement Award.

Forced to retire after being injured, Dr Whitaker returned to VUU to complete his undergraduate studies. While in school in 1979, he delivered his first sermon and graduated as a Baptist minister.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, he enrolled in the VUU seminary where he obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate in ministry. Dr Whitaker was called to the Grayland Baptist chair in 1982 while still in seminary.

“They took a chance when they hired me,” he said in an interview with Free Press before retiring. “I was still a student at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. I had never been a pastor anywhere else before.

Dr. Whitaker was a past president of the National Convention on Christian Education and the Baptist General Convention of the Virginia Clergy Division. He was also a former dean of the Richmond Virginia Seminary and was a member of the Richmond and District Baptist Conference of Ministers, the Richmond Union of Ministers, and the Richmond Ecumenical Clergy Committee.

He also served on the board of directors of Bethlehem Senior Center and was a member of Engine Company No. 9 and Associates, which honors Richmond’s first black firefighters and police.

Survivors include his 58-year-old wife, Dolores W. Whitaker; four daughters, Reverend Cannon, Mrs. Whitaker-Thomas, Jacquelin L. Whitaker-Miller and Terry Jackson; two sisters, Beverly Whitaker-Cleveland and Joyce Whitaker-Campbell; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

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