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Church pioneer Lina McCord dies at 86

Lina McCord, second from left, sings with friends during a 2004 National Black Methodists for Church Renewal Annual Meeting. Left to right, Betty Henderson, Lina McCord, Angella Current Felder and Marilyn Magee Talbert.
UMNS photo by Mike Dubose.

A UMNS Report
By J. Richard Peck*
Feb. 1, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Lina H. McCord

Lina H. McCord, 86, former staff executive of the Black College Fund and one of the first black employees hired at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, died Jan. 29 in Nashville.

McCord began the Black College Fund intern program, now named the Lina H. McCord Internship in honor of 26 years of service to the Nashville agency. After a year of service, interns are named “Lina McCord ambassadors.”

The daughter of a preacher, McCord had vivid memories of growing up in a Methodist parsonage and the segregation she experienced growing up in Tennessee.

“My father served several churches and we moved several times,” said McCord in a 2003 interview with UMC.org. “All of them were very, very small churches. I always felt very loved and cared for not only by our family but our members.

“We just grew up in a segregated society. That was a given; (however), I think my father and my mother shielded us from a lot.”

Following graduation from Morristown College and Tennessee State University, McCord was hired in 1959 by the Rev. James Thomas (later elected bishop), top staff executive of the denomination’s Board of Higher Education.

“You never felt segregated as long as you were in the building,” said McCord, “but when you had to step outside of that building, you could feel it.”

The Black College Fund was established in 1972. Prior to that, the 12 historically black schools were supported by the annual (regional) conferences where the schools were located.

Lina McCord Internship

The internship program began when McCord wanted to illustrate the kinds of students supported by the Black College Fund. She invited two young women to talk about their schools. In exchange for scholarships, they were asked to visit churches through the summer.

“People had never seen a black person before,” recalled McCord. “And here they were: having a black person in their church and speaking.” That was the beginning of the intern program.

McCord, who retired from the United Methodist agency in 1985, described how she wanted to be remembered in an interview with UMC.org:

“She was over the Black College Fund. She came up under the rule that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

That is precisely how family and colleagues remember her.

“Lina McCord’s death was a great personal and professional loss to me,” said Newtonia Coleman, executive director of human resources for United Methodist Communications. “She was a preacher’s kid and devoted much of her life to serving the church at all levels—from the local church to the general agency.

“Lina McCord lived out her faith in everything she did,” Coleman added. “She cared deeply about her family, her church and her friends. She was a role model for me, and she would laugh when I told her that I ‘wanted to be Lina McCord when I grew up.’ I will miss her friendship, her grace, her smile and the words of encouragement she shared with me and countless others who were privileged to know her. I extend my deepest sympathy to her children and other family members at this difficult time in their lives.”

“We are forever indebted to Dr. McCord for the keen intellect, passionate vision and dynamic leadership she offered our beloved institutions, students and the world,” said Cynthia Bond Hopson, assistant general secretary of the Black College Fund and Ethnic Concerns for the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

“Her beauty and grace are proudly carried forth in the hearts and messages of our ambassadors who bear her name around the globe,” she said. “We will work tirelessly to uphold her legacy of love and service."

A former intern remembers

Audrey Moorehead, an attorney in Dallas, was a Lina McCord intern in 1985. She recalls spending six weeks living with families and traveling to annual conference sessions to give two-minute speeches about the Black College Fund.

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She says her experience as an intern gave her the confidence to go to law school. After graduating from Huston-Tillotson, a black college in Austin, she graduated from the law school of Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. 

“I’ve gone back every year since 1985 to train other Lina McCord interns,” said Moorehead. “I also do a lot of pro bono work because of my experience at United Methodist schools and the intern program.”

McCord is survived by two children, Cheryl Acklin and Jerry D. McCord III, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

*Peck is a freelance editor and writer for United Methodist Communications and communications director for the Commission on United Methodist Men in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  


Lina McCord audio profile

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