The Rev. Barbara Brewton Cameron was remembered Saturday as a woman whose uncommon faith, stubborn determination and devotion to others left an indelible mark on Charlotte and all who knew her.

During a three-hour memorial service that more resembled a Sunday revival, friends and family recalled a Christian warrior who refused to accept no, a mother with a tender love for the poor and a visionary who saw beyond what was to imagine what could be in a drug-plagued neighborhood she singlehandedly transformed.

Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot recounted his first encounter with Cameron in 1992, when she called his office shortly after he was elected demanding that he and the police chief come immediately to her neighborhood.

“I knew when I met her that she was not a woman to be messed with,” Vinroot said. “When she said she was going to do something, she did it.”

An estimated 1,500 people attended the noon memorial in the 2,000-seat sanctuary of Forest Hill Church in south Charlotte. The service was held there because Cameron’s church, Community Outreach Christian Ministries, could not accommodate the expected crowd.

Solos were performed by a who’s-who of gospel luminaries — recording artists Blanche McAllister, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Dewayne Woods. The Rev. John P. Kee, pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, was scheduled to offer a tribute but was away on business.

Far greater in number were the hundreds of ordinary people whose lives were transformed by Cameron, who founded the Harvest Center, one of the city’s largest church-based, African American charities.

The center last year served more than 58,000 hot meals, and more than 14,000 families used its food pantry. It also offers medical screenings and provides clothing and blankets to the poor. Many of its clients are homeless or drug addicted.

Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Michael Barrow offered a tear-filled tribute to the woman he called his mother.

“Her footprints are all over my life,” said Barrow, now a coach at the University of Miami, where he played in college. “There was nothing phony about her. She was real. You could be the president of the United States, but she was going to tell you, ‘Thus, says the Lord.’”

Barrow wept openly when he told of his recently born daughter, a child Cameron never got to see, except in pictures.

“So many people in this room never would have made it without her,” he said, referencing the Marvin Sapp gospel hit. “God did use her; You can’t deny it.”

Cameron, an ordained minister, received national acclaim for her work fighting crime and drugs in Charlotte’s Double Oaks community in the 1980s. The New York Times had dubbed it one of the most violent neighborhoods in America. Drug gangs fought openly for turf. Syringes littered a forgotten park where children no longer played.

Cameron ignored threats from drug gangs to establish a church there. She worked with city officials to rehab homes that were sold to local owners. Gradually, the community began to change. The city later renamed part of the area Genesis Park, a nod to its new beginning, giving it street names such as Peaceful Way.

Cameron died Dec. 5 in a Miami hospital after suffering a stroke while visiting a daughter over the Thanksgiving holiday. She was 66.

The Rev. David Chadwick, pastor of Forest Hill Church, used the Old Testament book of Judges in delivering Cameron’s eulogy, comparing her to the prophetess Deborah, who, with God’s help, routed a superior Canaanite army to save Israel.

“Barbara Brewton Cameron became the mother of the Charlotte community,” he said. “She saw the internal enemy of godlessness that was consuming so many people.”

He told how God once led his congregation to give $500,000 — money they had saved to build a much-needed sanctuary for themselves — to build a church for Cameron and Community Outreach.

“We knew that God wanted us to serve them before we served ourselves,” he said.

And he challenged the congregation to keep alive Cameron’s vision for her community and her work with the poor.

“We grieve with hope,” he concluded. “For those of us who trust in Jesus, we are going to see Barbara Brewton Cameron again.”

Order of Service

Prayer………………….Pastor Terrell Murphy, New Birth Church, Charlotte, N.C

Scripture………………Apostle Betty Clay, Refuge House of God, Charlotte, N.C.

Rejoicing in Song ………………….Blance McAllister, Gospel Recording Artist

Tributes of Love (3 minutes)

Mr. Frank Martin, Harvest Center Board Member

Mr. Bradley Thompson, New Dominion Bank, CEO

Mr. Hoyle Martin, Former City Council Member

Tribute Liturgical Dance………Kingdom Fleet, Grace Covenant Church, Huntersville, N.C.

Tributes of Love (3 minutes)

Mr. Tom Wright, Forest Hill Church

Mr. McKay Belk, Harvest Center Board Member

Minister Michael Barrow, Coach — University of Miami

Rejoicing in Song ………………………….Vanessa Bell Armstrong

Family Tribute…………Ms. Catherine Brewton

Tributes of Love (3 minutes)

Pastor John P. Kee, New Life Fellowship Church, Charlotte, N.C.

Eulogy…………………Pastor David Chadwick, Forest Hill Church

Rejoicing in Song………..Special Guest Artist


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