First Unitarian Church of Baltimore

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Notable First Unitarians


Harry Payson

The founder of First Unitarian Church, Payson was President of Union Bank.  He also served nine terms as a city councilman, was chairman of the Commission of the Susquehanna Canal and was Judge fot he Orphan's Court.  A member of the "Committee of Vigilance and Safety," he lobbied for federal money and supplied materials to Fort McHenry to defend the city against British attack.  The committee was credited for the failure of the British Navy's attack on Fort McHenry and North Point, thus saving Baltimore from invasion during the War of 1812 and turning the tide to a U.S. victory over England.

Jared Sparks

The first minister of First Unitarian, Sparks was also Chaplain of the U.S. House of representatives and served as advisor to then ewly founded and struggling Unitarian congregation in Washington.  He founded and edited Unitarian Miscellany and Christian Monitor, the first avowedly Unitarian periodical in the U.S.

Rembrant Peale

An artist and founder of the Baltimore Gas Lighting Company (in 1816), Peale also operated the Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, one of the first museums in the country.  Because of him, First Unitarian was the first public building the city to have gas lights.  

George Washington Burnap

One of the founders of the Maryland Historical Society, Burnap was also the second minister at First Unitarian.

Nathaniel Williams

A state senator and district attorney, Williams headed up one of the first city planning projects in the country, as commissioner for "improving and laying out city streets.

George Peabody

Founder of the Peabody Conservatory (in 1857), Peabody maintained close ties beween the conservatory and church for many years.  Students often practiced in the Parish Hall and on the church organs.

Enoch Pratt

A member of the church board of trustees for 45 years, Pratt established the city's public library system, requiring that the library be open to all, regardless of race, creed or sex.  His other philanthropic endeavors included the endowment of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital (now called Sheppard Pratt), and founding the Frederick School for the Deaf.

Mary Ellen Richmond

A national pioneer in philanthropy and social work, Richmond developed the profession of social case work.  

Woodrow Wilson

While a student at Johns Hopkins, the 28th president of the United States sang in the church choir.

Thomas J. Morris

For 33 years, Morris presided over the United States District court for the District of Maryland.  He also served as vice president of the American Unitarian Association and the International Congress of Religious Liberals.  He is listed as one of the most proinent peace advocates and Unitarians in the country.

Adelyn Breeksin

The first woman to become director of a major American art gallery, Breeksin was director of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Scott Stamford, Dennis Brown and Tony Young

In response to the growing epidemic of HIV disease, these men were instrumental in founding HERO (Health Education Resource Organization), the city's oldest community-based HIV organization.  

Charles Blackburn

Along with his partner, Blackburn was one of two lead couples in Deane & Polyak v Conoway, the suit for equal marriage rights in Maryland.  In 1961, he was a Freedom Rider in the south, challenging local segregation laws by riding interstate busses.

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