Daddy Grace was a charismatic and controversial figure who founded the United House of Prayer for All People, a predominantly African-American denomination that still exists today. He was known for his flamboyant style, his lavish lifestyle, and his claims of divine authority. But how did he die, and what happened to his church after his death?
The Life and Ministry of Daddy Grace
Daddy Grace was born as Marcelino Manuel da Graça on January 25, 1881 or 1884 (the exact year is disputed) in Brava, Cape Verde Islands, a Portuguese territory off the west coast of Africa. He immigrated to the United States with his family in the early 1900s and settled in Massachusetts, where he worked as a dishwasher, a cranberry picker, and a patent medicine salesman. He also changed his name to Charles Manuel Grace and adopted the nickname “Sweet Daddy”.
He was baptized as a Roman Catholic in his homeland, but he became interested in Protestant forms of worship, especially the holiness movement. He tried to start a church several times, but he faced rejection and failure. He finally succeeded in 1919, when he opened his first House of Prayer in Wareham, Massachusetts, with himself as the bishop.
His church grew rapidly in the next two decades, spreading to over a dozen states. He attracted thousands of followers who believed in his miraculous healing powers and his divine status. He also amassed a fortune from the donations of his faithful members, which he used to buy real estate, cars, jewelry, and other luxuries. He traveled with an entourage of bodyguards, chauffeurs, lawyers, and assistants. He had long hair, painted fingernails, bright suits, and flashy accessories.
He was often compared to other religious leaders of his time, such as Father Divine, Noble Drew Ali, and Ernest Holmes. However, he also faced criticism and skepticism from outsiders who saw him as a fraud and a cult leader. He was accused of exploiting his poor and uneducated followers for personal gain. He was also involved in legal disputes over taxes, property rights, and inheritance issues.
The Death and Legacy of Daddy Grace
Daddy Grace died on January 12, 1960 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 76 or 78 (depending on his birth year). The cause of his death was heart ailments, according to Encyclopedia.com. He had been suffering from ill health for some time and had undergone several surgeries, according to Wikipedia.
His death sparked a succession crisis in his church, as he had not named a successor or left a will. His followers were divided into factions that supported different candidates for the leadership position. Some of them even claimed to be his reincarnation or his son. The dispute lasted for several years and resulted in lawsuits, violence, and schisms.
The church eventually settled on Walter McCollough as the new bishop in 1963. McCollough made some changes to the church’s structure and doctrine that allowed it to move closer to the mainstream of American Christianity. He also expanded the church’s social services and outreach programs. He was succeeded by Samuel C. Madison in 1991, who continued to lead the church until his death in 2017, according to Blackpast.org.
Today, the United House of Prayer for All People has over 100 churches in 28 states. It is still charismatic by nature and emphasizes one God, one faith, one baptism, and one leader. It is also known for its brass bands, its annual convocations, and its soul food restaurants, according to Harlem World Magazine.
Daddy Grace remains a revered figure among his followers who regard him as a prophet and a saint. His mausoleum in New Bedford, Massachusetts is a pilgrimage site for many of them. His legacy is also evident in the cultural influence of his church on African-American music, art, and literature.