Gerald L. Durley is a highly motivated man with an exceptional will to serve. He is an achiever who is always striving to do better – not only to make himself a better man, but to improve life for the least of Gods children. He has spirit and a lust for life. This gentle man can’t help but to make history. God only knows where his soul came from? Maybe his thirst for doing good came from walking barefoot in the soil of Kansas where he was born and blessed with a mother and father who set him on the right path? Maybe it was from the California sunshine that warmed his heart as a growing child, or the basketball courts in Colorado that taught him humility. Wherever he got it — he got it. Most of all, he got it right.
At Tennessee State University, during a stellar college career, Durley honed his leadership skills while he was president of the student government association and playing on a championship basketball team. He graduated with a BS Degree in psychology; and through his activism in the civil rights arena, he become one of the first Peace Corps volunteers assigned to Nbawsi, Nigeria where he worked in agriculture on farming assignments. Following the calling for new experiences, in a new land, Gerald Durley went to Switzerland and enrolled at the University of Neuchantel for graduate study. A basketball game with a few buddies called attention to his athletic skills and he was invited to play with one of the Swiss National basketball teams.
Switzerland was more than a travel venture; it was a life-altering experience. This is where Gerald Durley met Muriel West, a beautiful sister and another determined spirit also studying in Switzerland. Muriel later became his wife and the mother of their two children.
Life was just getting started for Durley during the mid 1960’s. Returning to the United States, he enrolled in Northern Illinois University and earned a Master’s Degree in community mental health. He became passionately involved in the struggle for human dignity and assisted in the founding of the Afro-American Cultural Organization where he taught minorities about their heritage. Upon graduation, he remained in DeKalb, Illinois as an administrator, counselor, professor, recruiter and director of Black studies.
Moving to Washington, DC, he became Assistant Branch Chief of Pupil Personnel Services at the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C. The Institute for Services to Education, Inc. invited Durley to direct many of its major projects working with historically black colleges and universities.
Durley earn a PhD Degree in urban education and psychology from the University of Massachusetts. He later founded and became president and CEO of Perspectives International, Inc. to produce positive, constructive programs for African Americans and other minority communities.
A combination of life experiences and a dedication to improve the lives of his fellowmen and women prompted Dr. Durley to attend Howard University earning a Master of Divinity Degree. “I was gravely disturbed by the decaying moral, social and family value systems throughout the nation,” said Durley. “It was time for a major change.”
With his family at his side, Dr. Durley moved to Atlanta, GA and accepted the position as director of the counseling center at Cark College (now Clark Atlanta University). He later became dean of student affairs at Clark Atlanta University. His concern for families and children was the catalyst that encouraged him to accept the position of executive director of Head Start for Fulton and Douglas Counties in Georgia. Durley also served as the associate pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church while working at Clark. Following his term at Clark, Durley relocated to Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in 1990 as the director of their Health Promotion Resource Center.
Reverend Dr. Durley accepted the position as pastor at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in 1987. While at Providence Church he became known as a “warrior preacher.” Reverend Dr. Durley did not confine his ministry to his congregation; he worked throughout Atlanta for many causes. The list of organizations to which he gave service and leadership are extensive. To name a few, he is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; the former president of Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta; Board of Ministers at Morehouse College; Atlanta Beltline Project; Atlanta Union Mission; Co-Chair, Atlanta Regional Council of Churches; the Committee to Re-Name Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport; and many more.
As an active member of the World Pilgrims Interfaith Community Institute, he has traveled to Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Morocco, and other destinations with Muslims, Christians, and Jews to better understand the differences and similarities among people, cultures and beliefs. He has worked across faith lines to promote interfaith relations, and has been an outspoken advocate for assisting groups and individuals to communicate across faith disciplines. He is an advocate for educating our people on the traumas of global warming and the greening of American. Involved in the global warming climate change discussions nationwide, he is calling attention to the fact that global warming is a civil rights issue.
The Gerald L. Durley Providence Manor, a home for senior citizens, stands on Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta as a testimony to the determination and the will of Dr. Durley who had the vision to secure the funding and build it. The $6 million facility, with hardwood floors, living room, dining room and a kitchen, can accommodate 46 residents. It has reached its capacity with some residents paying as low as $4 a month and others paying no more than 30% of their income.
Retiring from the position of pastor at Providence, he preached his last sermon on August 5, 2012. But Durley will never truly retire. As pastor emeritus at Providence Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. Durley will maintain an office and continue to work on various community projects and be of service to the church as needed. Durley says, “When you are committed to a cause, you don’t retire, you just refocus.”
On August 4, 2012, when Pastor Durley was honored with his retirement dinner, nearly one thousand distinguished leaders and lay people, bridging all faiths, social and civil society, were in the audience to celebrate his one-of-a-kind leadership and his legacy. Atlanta’s City Council President Ceasar Mitchell imparted his thoughts about Rev. Durley’s leadership in Atlanta. “Rev. Durley was more involved in the City of Atlanta than any citizen of Atlanta will ever know. His strong voice was present in many meeting rooms where people never knew he was. I have seen him foster the beginning of political careers, revive others’ [careers] – and end some too! Rev. Durley is more than a powerful preacher in the black community. He is a civic leader . . . and unquestionably a prevailing power-broker. And this community will not let him retire to a rocking chair.”
And retire – it’s questionable? He seems to be more energized as he continues to make history. He has been honored with hundreds of awards and tributes during his servant-leader career; and there is no stopping him now. He is called upon nationwide to deliver inspirational talks to political, educational, and civic groups. Pastor Durley stood with President Obama and Jesse Jackson when many Black preachers were in opposition to the position the president took on same sex marriages. Concerned that Black mega churches were shifting their focus from traditional alliances and the solid Black vote, Durley said “We’ve got too many Black preachers telling their congregation not to vote for Obama.”
Being a ‘history maker” takes time, extraordinary commitment, moral standards, leadership skills, tenacity, and dogged determination; and it helps if one is a Christian. All of these characteristics are embodied in the personality of The Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley. His latest challenge was serving on the Fulton County Board of Elections where he was nominated by the Fulton County Democratic Party and confirmed by the Board of Fulton County Commissioners. This is why he is already in the history books and continues to write a new page in history every day.