Voting rights advocate Albert E. Love dies at age 74

The Rev. Albert E. Love poses for a portrait in his office at the SCLC in Atlanta, Friday, Oct. 12, 2007, as he recalls the events of the Million Man March for the upcoming anniversary. CURTIS COMPTON / Staff

The Rev. Albert E. Love poses for a portrait in his office at the SCLC in Atlanta, Friday, Oct. 12, 2007, as he recalls the events of the Million Man March for the upcoming anniversary. CURTIS COMPTON / Staff

Election seasons come and go. Candidates change. But the Rev. Albert Eugene Love was a constant.

“Mr. Vote,” as he was called, was always there, recruiting political newcomers, registering and mobilizing voters, reminding people of the importance of casting that precious ballot.

“He has done voter registration consistently for the last 30 years,” said his wife, Juanita Love. “He believed that all politics were local. It was his concern that we didn’t give enough time and effort to local politics and that we focused too much on national elections. He wanted everybody involved all the time.”

The longtime Atlanta resident died of pancreatic cancer on Monday, just two months after he was diagnosed, his wife said. He was 74.

“He never had any pain,” Juanita Love said. “He died peacefully.”

A big man who loved basketball as much as he loved service, Rev. Love seemingly walked around with a permanent smile on his face. He was as comfortable with U.S. Rep. John Lewis as he was with the people he shuttled to church.

“That was my man,” said Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “He was always there for me, and he was always there for the people whom he loved so much. He had a love for the movement, and he believed in helping people.”

When Steele was appointed to his position in the SCLC, the first thing he did was hire Love as his special assistant. Love had years of experience working with SCLC, having served as an administrator under the Rev. Joseph Lowery in the 1980s and 1990s.

“He had just left the Christian Council of Metro Atlanta and just felt that it was time for him to contribute his skills of organization to our community,” Steele said. “And he was impressed with Dr. Lowery’s vision.”

Between those SCLC stints with Lowery and Steele, he worked in Lewis’ congressional office, doing voter outreach, housing and veterans services.

The Rev. Albert E. Love, playing basketball in Europe while serving in the United States Air Force from 1970 until 1974. Rev. Love died on Dec. 23, 2019

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A founding member of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, Love also worked with Love in Action Ministries, Future Voters of America and the Voter Empowerment Collaborative.

“We can transcend the religious lines, the faith lines and the class lines and work toward a common agenda,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2007. “Whenever I am despondent about some things, I can always point back and say, yes, it is possible that we can work together.”

Love was born Aug. 2, 1945, in Durham, N.C. to Herbert and Geneva Richmond Love.

In 1963, at the age of 18, he went down the road to Raleigh to enroll at St. Augustine’s College, where he played basketball. During orientation week, he met another freshman, Juanita Sneed, from the tiny town of Kittrell in Franklin County.

“I could tell right away that he was smart and intelligent,” she said. “I liked him from the beginning.”

The two were together nearly every day and got married on March 14, 1970.

The Rev. Albert E. Love and Juanita Love on their first anniversary in March of 1971. The couple met in 1963 as freshmen at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh. I could tell right away that he was smart and intelligent, she said. I liked him from the beginning.

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He joined the United States Air Force that same year and served in England until his discharge in 1974.

The couple moved to Atlanta after he left military life. He got a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University in 1974 and attended Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

The Loves were members of Wheat Street Baptist Church, where he was ordained as a deacon in 1975 and as a minister in 1977. In 1983, he became the founding pastor of Boatrock Baptist Church.

He was still pastoring Boatrock upon his death.

He was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., pledging the Gamma Psi Chapter at St. Augustine’s in 1967.

“He was amazingly close to the descriptions I have seen on social media about him,” Juanita Love said. “Integrity and hard-working. But humility would be at the top. He knew how to bring diverse groups of people together.”

Rev. Love’s funeral will be held on Jan. 3 at 10 a.m. at Wheat Street Baptist Church, 359 Auburn Ave., Atlanta.

A viewing will be held on Jan. 2 at the Willie Watkins Funeral Home, 1003 Abernathy Boulevard SW, Atlanta, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

He will be buried at the Georgia National Veterans Cemetery in Canton.

Aside from his wife, the Rev. Love is survived by two sisters: Betty Love of Columbia, Md; and Joyce Lane of Washington, D.C.

Donations in Rev. Love’s name should be sent to the Albert E. Love Scholarship Fund at Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church, 316 Hebron Road, Durham, N.C., 27704.