Harper, John C(arsten) 1924-2002
HARPER, John C(arsten) 1924-2002
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born July 17, 1924, in Winthrop, MA; died of a heart attack September 13, 2002, in Washington, DC. Minister and author. Because Harper was the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, which is located near the White House and often referred to as the "Church of Presidents," he came into prominence as the minister to eight different U.S. presidents, though he also did much to change the mission of his church. The son of an Episcopal minister, Harper graduated from Harvard University in 1946 and earned his degree in divinity in 1953 from Episcopal Theological School, the same year he was ordained. During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy and after the war became an English teacher at Taft School, a private boys' school in Watertown, Connecticut. He was a curate in Providence, Rhode Island, in the early 1950s and a rector in Foxboro, Massachusetts, from 1954 to 1957 and in Bedford, New York, from 1957 to 1963. He was made rector of St. John's Church in 1963, where he remained until his retirement in 1993. While at St. John's, Harper preached to U.S. presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. More importantly, however, he transformed his church from a "social church," where Washington, D.C.'s elite went to pray and paid fees for renting pews, into a church that was much more involved in the community. Harper opened St. John's Church to the public and created programs to help the poor and provide counseling to alcoholics and those with other problems. During the protests of the 1960s he allowed St. John's to be a refuge for those seeking shelter from teargas bombs. Harper wrote about his experiences in two books: Sunday: A Minister's Story (1974) and Fifty-two Windows on Lafayette Square (1978).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2002, p. B11.
New York Times, September 16, 2002, p. A19.
Times (London, England), September 24, 2002.
Washington Post, September 15, 2002, p. C6.