Grace, Sweet Daddy

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Grace, Sweet Daddy

January 25, 1881
January 12, 1960

Religious leader Bishop Charles Emmanuel Grace, better known as Sweet Daddy, was born Marceline Manoël de Graça in the Cape Verde Islands of mixed African and Portuguese descent. Around 1908 he immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he engaged in several occupations, including cranberry picking, before a journey to the Holy Land inspired him to found a church in West Waltham, Massachusetts, around 1919. In religious revivals in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the mid-1920s, Daddy Grace gathered several thousand followers and in 1926 incorporated in the District of Columbia the United House of Prayer for All People of the Church on the Rock of the Apostolic Faith.

A flamboyant and charismatic leader, Grace wore his hair and fingernails long, the latter painted red, white, and blue. He baptized converts with fire hoses and sold his followers specially blessed products, such as soap, coffee, eggs, and ice cream. He specialized in acquiring expensive real estate, particularly mansions and hotels, but he also supported church members with housing, pension funds, and burial plans. At his death in Los Angeles in 1960, there was an estate of some $25 million, but it was unclear what was owned by the church and what was his personal estate. An Internal Revenue Service lien of $6 million in back taxes was settled for $2 million in 1961.

Sweet Daddy never overtly claimed the divinity his followers attributed to him. "I never said I was God," he once noted, "but you cannot prove to me I'm not." At Daddy's death in 1960, Bishop Walter T. McCullogh took over the House of Prayer following a successful lawsuit against rival James Walton.

See also Christian Denominations, Independent; Protestantism in the Americas


Fauset, Arthur Huff. Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944.

Halter, Marilyn. Between Race and Ethnicity: Cape Verdean American Immigrants, 18601965. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

richard newman (1996)