Crown Heights

Crown Heights street co-named for revered local pastor and his wife

New Sign Outside First Baptist Church of Crown Heights Reads: “Rev. Dr. Clarence Norman Sr. Ellen Norman Way”

November 8, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Proudly displaying the new street sign co-naming the corner of Eastern Parkway and Rogers Avenue "Rev. Dr. Clarence Norman Sr. Ellen Norman Way" are the couple's family members and Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, from left: Charles Thomas, Kendra Norman, Dawn Norman, Clarence Norman Jr., Maia Parker, Beverly Norman Thomas, Cumbo, Jennifer Norman, Kimberly Fortune and Jermaine Joseph. Photo courtesy of the office of City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo
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To honor them for a legacy of more than 60 years ministering to their congregation, the street outside First Baptist Church of Crown Heights has been co-named for its famed pastor and his wife.

In a ceremony after last Sunday’s service attended by their children, as well as more than 100 congregants, area residents and local leaders, a new sign reading “Rev. Dr. Clarence Norman Sr. Ellen Norman Way” was installed outside the church at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Rogers Avenue.

The Rev. Norman Sr., who died in July 2015 at age 85, founded the church with 20 members as First Baptist Church of Williamsburg in 1953. He ultimately moved it to its current location, where it has grown to 2,000 members. Ellen Norman, who died in January, 2016, was Norman Sr.’s wife and the “First Lady” of First Baptist for 50 years.

He is credited with founding the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights, which helped develop more than 800 units of housing for senior citizens and low-income families. The corporation built 21 buildings across Crown Heights, including the David Chavis Apartments, St. John’s Apartments and The Albany Residence.

The congregation has become so influential in Central Brooklyn that it is now a key destination for campaigning politicians at all levels. Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and numerous others have made a point of trekking to First Baptist for an audience with the Rev. Norman Sr. 

“Throughout their ministry within and beyond, the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, the Normans inspired and empowered thousands,” said City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights), who submitted the street co-naming request to the Council and championed its passage. 

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), one of several high-ranking elected officials who attended the street co-naming, took the opportunity to note that the Rev. Norman Sr. and Mrs. Norman “used their considerable talents to support education at the John Edward Bruce Day Care Center and the Whitelaw Reid Junior High School and build affordable housing.”

“Rev. Dr. Clarence Norman Sr. and Ellen left a lasting legacy in Crown Heights, and co-naming the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Rogers Avenue in their honor is just one of the many ways we can and will say thanks in the years ahead,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Reverend Dr. Clarence Norman Sr. and Ellen Norman were staples in Crown Heights for over six decades,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “By creating Reverend Dr. Clarence Norman Sr. and Ellen Norman Way, we will ensure that their legacy is eternalized not only through those who knew them, but for the entire city.”

Clarence Norman Jr., a former state assemblymember from Crown Heights, former chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party and one of the couple’s six children said the co-naming “serves as a daily reminder to us and to future generations that a man named Rev. Dr. Clarence Norman lived amongst us and that he dedicated his life to the service of God and to the service of others. He was able to do that because he had the support of a loving wife, Ellen Norman.”


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