Wilke, Harold H(enry) 1914-2003

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WILKE, Harold H(enry) 1914-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 10, 1914, in Washington, MO; died of a heart attack February 25, 2003, in Pomona, CA. Pastor, activist, and author. Wilke, who was born without arms, was a leading advocate in winning equal rights for the disabled. Despite his physical handicap, he overcame prejudice from administrators in schools and churches to earn an A.B. from the University of Missouri in 1937, a B.D. from Union Theological Seminary in 1939, and his S.T.M. from Andover Newton Theological School in 1943. Overcoming objections from superiors at the Evangelical and Reformed Church (the former name of the United Church of Christ) who tried to dissuade him from doing so, Wilke was ordained in 1939. His first position as a pastor was at the University of Missouri, and after working for a year as a hospital chaplain, he was a chaplain at Winter Veterans Hospital in Topeka, Kansas, during World War II. During the early 1950s, he was a pastor in Crystal Lake, Illinois, before moving to New York City, where he was executive director of the Council for Church and Ministry from 1955 to 1975. As a fighter for the rights of disabled people, Wilke worked to have churches provide easier access to buildings, and towards this end founded the Healing Community Project in 1975, which he directed until his retirement in 1989. He was also the founding director of the National Organization on Disability, and campaigned for legislation prohibiting discrimination against the disabled at the workplace, which later helped lead to the passing of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Not limiting himself only to issues regarding the handicapped, Wilke was also active in the Civil Rights movement and participated in several marches. He was the author of Greet the Man (1945), Strengthened with Might (1952), Creating the Caring Congregation: Guidelines for Ministering with the Handicapped (1980), and Angels on My Shoulders and Muses at My Side (1995).



Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Chicago Tribune, March 4, 2003, section 1, p. 10.

Washington Post, March 3, 2003, p. B5.

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Wilke, Harold H(enry) 1914-2003

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