Bishop Ronald H. Carter, leader of the Apostolic Church of Christ’s Refuge in Freeport for more than 50 years, died Sunday of a long illness at the age of 84.

Carter founded the church 57 years ago in Hempstead, then moved it to Roosevelt and then to Freeport on Broadway, where it has been for 40 years. He led the parish with his 59-year-old wife, Pastor Phyllis Carter.

Carter, who lived in Freeport, wielded influence and voice with political leaders and community members as a leader of the black community.

He was a lifelong Republican, but his influence crossed party lines to win the respect and attention of Democrats and Republicans alike, officials said.

Hempstead Deputy Town Supervisor Dorothy Goosby, a Democrat and the town’s first and only black councilwoman, said Carter always takes the time to listen to community members.

“He was a fantastic human being,” Goosby said. “He was working for us, and it was something you really needed. It was important for us to be part of the community and instead of being separated, we all worked together as one.

Carter was born legally blind and raised in Canton, Ohio, said his daughter Tanya Carter, 57, of Hempstead. She said her father briefly played with a soul band, the O’Jays. But his mother sent him to live with his aunt in Mount Vernon after she said he partied too much, Carter said.

He went to the Bible Institute of the Church of Christ in Harlem and received his bachelor’s degree in theology and sociology from Fordham University. He then obtained a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate in theology.

He founded Refuge Church in Hempstead in 1965, which later moved to Roosevelt, with a congregation of around 250 parishioners, before it was torn down by the town of Hempstead as part of Roosevelt’s revitalization plan in 1979. The church moved to its present location in Freeport three years later.

As the congregation grew, Carter became a strong community advocate, working with Nassau County Democratic and Republican leaders, City Council members, and Freeport Village officials.

“It was important to him because we’re here, and he wanted to make sure we had a voice and it wasn’t just whites and blacks and Hispanics,” Tanya Carter said. “He was very wise and very direct. He had meetings with everyone.

Carter joined other clergy leaders, including the Reverend Arthur Mackey, in including blacks and Hispanics in local politics as part of the Republican Party.

The Nassau County Democratic and Republican party chairmen issued statements of condolence on Monday.

“Preparing souls through spirituality and improving communities through decisive action, Bishop Ronald Carter left an indelible and positive imprint on Long Island,” said Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo. “The void left by his passing is enormous, and I consider myself blessed to have counted him among my close friends.”

“Bishop Carter was a friend, a respected voice to his community, and someone I turned to for advice and guidance, like so many others,” said the Nassau County and Democratic Chairman. New York State, Jay Jacobs. “He will long be remembered as someone who put his followers and neighbors before himself and fought hard to improve the lives of people in his community and this county.”

One of his last acts was to work with the Village of Freeport to turn a property in the village into a 78-unit retirement building, his daughter said.

“Bishop Carter was a pillar of this community and a personal friend,” said Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy. “He was a great leader and he was an asset to Freeport and the whole community.”

Besides his wife and daughter, Ronald Carter is survived by three other daughters, Tracy Carter Randall of Richmond, Virginia; Tina Carter Baker of Freeport; and Tammy Carter Reaves of Canton, Ohio. He had 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for Nov. 17 at Greater Refuge Temple in Harlem and Nov. 18 at Zion Cathedral in Freeport, though times have not been set.


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