When the Rev. Elmo Johnson first met Willie Earl Scott, the pastor said, the man was a crack addict and ex-convict who wandered the streets of Houston’s Fourth Ward, high and hopeless.
The last time Scott was released from prison nearly two decades ago, however, something changed. Scott stopped looking for his next fix and found God, Johnson said.
“After that, he never wavered,” Johnson said. “He didn’t go back to that life.”
On Tuesday, Scott, 42, was shot to death in the back room of his northwest Houston clothing and shoe store, robbed by the kind of criminals he dedicated the last half of his life trying to help. The killers are still at large.
For Johnson, grieving family and friends, Scott’s violent death marked an unjust end for a man who became a spiritual leader and community activist at the historic Rose of Sharon Baptist Church, where Johnson is the pastor in the Fourth Ward.
After becoming a faithful member of the church, Scott started teaching Sunday school. In short order, he became a deacon, and founded “Jails to Jobs,” a nonprofit organization that trained ex-convicts like himself to do construction work.
Grieving for the loss of his best friend and “right-hand man,” Johnson says all the killers had to do was ask. Scott would have given them his money, his van, anything they needed and more.
“Those were the kind of people he helped and he never gave up on,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’ve got to stay out on the streets and keep witnessing. More Christians need to get out of these four walls and preach to the people who need it most, like Brother Scott did.”
News of Scott’s slaying has rocked the close-knit Rose of Sharon congregation and residents of the surrounding Fourth Ward, most of whom knew Scott by sight. With Rose of Sharon, Scott helped build more than 100 homes in the area for low-income families and seniors, regenerating the historically black neighborhood where he grew up.
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