Douglas Estill Bartlett
Douglas Estill Bartlett
  • August 17, 1930 - November 25, 2017
  • Catonsville, Maryland

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Reverend Douglas Bartlett, peacemaking and racial justice advocate, dead at 87.

Befitting a man whose grandchildren called him "Grandpa Peace," Douglas Estill Bartlett died peacefully on November 25, 2017, at Brightview, an Alzheimer patient facility near Baltimore. Present were his wife of 20 years, Claire Twose, son Andrew Clayton Kang Bartlett, daughter Martha Maud Bartlett, and two Brightview staff, Shelby and Nicholas. On August 17, 1930, Doug, the youngest of five children, was born to Mary Heift and William Bartlett, who were officers of the Salvation Army. Doug was a pro-peace, racial and social justice preacher, activist, and college professor.

Doug was married to Katharine Griswold from 1956 until 1994 and fathered four children, Stephen, Andrew, Martha and David. As a Presbyterian pastor, with two Master's from Princeton Theological Seminary (1955, 1959) and a BA in History from Bloomfield College (1952), Douglas served churches in New Jersey and New York. His longest pastorship was at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, a justice-oriented congregation, which he started and led for 18 years, in Commack, New York until 1982. Doug relished his final sixteen years of work as a professor at Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, NC), where he founded and taught a Peace Studies curriculum. While there, he also assisted a number of other colleges in the midwest that were developing similar programs. Sons David, Stephen and Andrew overlapped with him there in various roles.

Doug was active in the Civil Rights Movement and his young children sometimes joined him for equal housing demonstrations on Long Island in the mid-60s. He traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1964 with other clergy during the dangerous and violent days of voter registration, and was present in the Washington D.C. rally when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Doug's outspoken commitment to justice occasionally caused upheaval. A controversial sermon against the Vietnam War caused some church members to leave the church. Later, when running for school board, his opponents attacked him with racist rhetoric and red-baiting. Doug's campaign button was a smiley face.

Doug's love of maps and excellent sense of direction led him to international travels, first as a Presbyterian youth delegate to Cuba in 1950, then on a peace delegation to the Soviet Union in 1983, to southern Africa with students, to India with WWC colleagues, to China and Japan to visit sons Stephen and Andrew, and to New Zealand and Mexico with his wife, Claire. If you hung around Doug long enough, you would hear his favorite aphorism, "The journey is the destination."

Doug's peace work drew him to make a home among Quakers and at the time of his death he was a member of Gunpowder Friends Meeting in Sparks, Maryland. His spiritual activism inspires his four children, nine grandchildren, and great-grandchild, who pursue social justice as a foundation for the kind of peace Doug espoused. When asked about peacemaking, Doug would typically quip: "We'll just have to keep trying until we get it right and work ourselves out of a job."

True to his New Orleans roots, Doug loved all kinds of music; true to his mother Mary's progressive outlook, he loved reading the New York Times. A true romantic and an unabashed optimist, Doug was a faithful Mets fan, rose gardener, Dogwood Ridge and Kitchen Mesa hiker, connoisseur of poetry, Thomas Merton, and Wendell Berry, and he loved water -- from ocean walks to teaching his wife and children to sail, and racing across lakes. Among his favorite places are Warren Wilson College, Lake Adaquetangie in NY, and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, where he has requested his ashes be spread.

Doug's legacy carries on in the partners, offspring, church members, and former students inspired to non-violently fight for justice, drink in beauty, and make the world better--all with a sense of humor needed to go the distance. Doug went the distance, living a long and wonderful life.