WASHINGTON (RNS) Eugene Allen served eight presidents as a White House butler, and his legendary career is the inspiration for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” a film starring Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda and a host of A-list Hollywood talent.
But members of The Greater First Baptist Church knew the man who died in 2010 by other titles: usher, trustee, and a humble man of quiet faith.
“The attributes that made him a great butler made him a great usher,” said Denise Johnson, an usher at the predominantly black D.C. church where Allen was a member for six decades.
Those qualities were both external — black suits and white gloves — and internal — a dignified, soft-spoken manner.
On a recent Sunday, parishioners recalled Allen as a peacemaker, someone who never raised his voice.
His devotion to service extended far beyond the public and private rooms of the White House to the doorways and kitchen of his church. In African-American churches, the usher is a special role bestowed on highly regarded members. Allen joined others to open doors to visitors and pass out fans and offering plates. He also would roll up his sleeves and help prepare fish and chicken at church fundraising dinners.
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