When prominent broadcaster Frank Ski announced his return to Atlanta and to the station V-103 last year, one of the first people to give him a ring was Bishop Eddie Long.
The two friends met for breakfast at the Four Seasons and talked about Ski's plans, how his kids were doing, a little of this and that. But talk never centered on Long himself.
"He never told me he was sick," Ski said. "He just asked about me."
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday issued a statement saying Long, who was the senior pastor "transitioned from this life early Sunday morning after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer."
His death follows months of speculations but no official statements indicating he was ill.
"The hardest job in the world is to be a church pastor," Ski said. "Your job every single day is to pray for other people who are hurting. when you are hurting, who prays for you?"
Ski often played snippets of Long's sermons during his "Inspirational Vitamin" segment.
"He affected and motivated so many people," he said. "His ability to be a great orator really helped people."
One of his favorites concerned the Old Testament story of Joseph, favored son of his father, whose brothers sold him into slavery. Gifted with powerful and prophetic dreams and the ability to interpret dreams of the Pharaoh, Joseph ultimately became ruler of Egypt and when reunited with his brothers, he forgave them.
"Sometimes it's the closest people to you who turn on you," Ski said.
He never turned on Long, even when troubling headlines about him circulated after four men sued in 2010, alleging in court documents alleged that the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relations. The case was dismissed after a settlement was reached.
While not defending any of the alleged actions, Ski stood by his friend.
"As a member of the church and accepting Bishop Eddie Long to be a spiritual leader, I have to spiritually remain in faith, which is the essential core of Christianity: Faith," he said during a Sept. 22, 2010 broadcast. "As a friend as an extended family member, I am loyal. I believe in being a friend to someone not only when they're up but also in times of trouble. I am a loyal friend."
On Sunday, he stressed again that he never defended Long's alleged actions.
"Obviously there were people hurt on both sides," he said Sunday. "My prayers have always gone out to the people who said they were victims. I wasn’t defending him. I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there. I know he helped a lot of people. When you’re a friend of somebody you don’t abandon them."