Notable First Unitarians
The founder and first president of the board of trustees of First Unitarian Church, Payson was President of Union Bank. He also served nine terms as a city councilman, was chairman of the Commission of the Susquehanna Canal and was Judge for the Orphan’s Court. A member of the “Committee of Vigilance and Safety,” he lobbied for federal money and supplied materials to Fort McHenry to defend the city against British attack. The committee was credited for the failure of the British Navy’s attack on Fort McHenry and North Point, thus saving Baltimore from invasion during the War of 1812 and turning the tide to a U.S. victory over England.
The first minister of First Unitarian, Sparks was also Chaplain of the U.S. House of representatives and served as advisor to the newly founded and struggling Unitarian congregation in Washington. He founded and edited Unitarian Miscellany and Christian Monitor, the first avowedly Unitarian periodical in the U.S.
An artist and founder of the Baltimore Gas Lighting Company (in 1816), Peale also operated the Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, one of the first museums in the country. Because of him, First Unitarian was the first public building the city to have gas lights.
George Washington Burnap
One of the founders of the Maryland Historical Society, Burnap was also the second minister at First Unitarian and a highly regarded community leader.
A state senator and district attorney, Williams headed up one of the first city planning projects in the country, as commissioner for “improving and laying out city streets.”
Founder of the Peabody Institute (in 1857), Peabody maintained close ties between the conservatory and church for many years. Students often practiced in the Parish Hall and on the church organs. Peabody named a number of members of the church to be on the school’s board of trustees (including Enoch Pratt and Rev. George Washington Burnap) and appointed member Nathaniel Morison as its first provost.
A member of the church board of trustees for 45 years, Pratt established the city’s public library system, requiring that the library be open to all, regardless of race, creed or sex. His other philanthropic endeavors included the endowment of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital (now called Sheppard Pratt), and founding the Frederick School for the Deaf.
Mary Ellen Richmond
A national pioneer in philanthropy and social work, Richmond developed the profession of social case work. She was very active in the church’s schools for the disadvantaged and other church-related educational programs.
While a student at Johns Hopkins, the 28th president of the United States sang in the church choir.
Thomas J. Morris
For 33 years, Morris presided over the United States District court for the District of Maryland. He served as register on the church’s board of trustees and as vice president of the American Unitarian Association and the International Congress of Religious Liberals. He is listed as one of the most prominent peace advocates and Unitarians in the country.
The first woman to become director of a major American art gallery, Breeksin was director of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Scott Stamford, Dennis Brown and Tony Young
In response to the growing epidemic of HIV disease, these men were instrumental in founding HERO (Health Education Resource Organization), the city’s first community-based HIV organization.
Along with his partner, Blackburn was one of two lead couples in Deane & Polyak v Conoway, the suit for equal marriage rights in Maryland. In 1961, he was a Freedom Rider in the south, challenging local segregation laws by riding interstate busses.