Aretha Franklin's pastor speaks of her passing

By Larry Spruill - Reporter, Dane Sager Kelly - Web Producer

DETROIT - People gathered at New Bethel Baptist Church on Detroit’s Westside to mourn Aretha Franklin. 

Many blasted Franklin’s music outside her home church. It’s the same church she grew up in, the same church where she sang her first solo.

"Aretha was not just for Detroit or Michigan. She was for the world," said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, with Detroit’s NAACP. 

Anthony said the people of Detroit didn’t mind bragging about her every chance they got. Franklin was an internationally known singer, but she was, and is, a Detroit girl. 

"We love Aretha not just because she was a great and unique singer, but because she was a great and unique doer. She gave back; she serviced much," said Anthony. 

Anthony said her footprint really started during the civil rights movement.

“That’s why she sang 'Respect,'" Anthony said. "It was not just an anthem for women, but it was an anthem for our people, because we deserve respect."

That respect went a long way at New Bethel Baptist Church. Her dad pastored the church up until his death. That’s when the current pastor, the Rev. Robert Smith Jr, took over. The news of her death hit him hard. 

“Initially you’re saddened, but then when you think about her being a child of God, you know it’s about eternal life not just life,” said Smith.

Smith said he was able to visit Franklin before she passed away. 

“She told me that she was going to be alright," Smith said. "The church was going to be alright."

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