Pensacola lost an esteemed clergyman last weekend whose impact reached outside the walls of his church and beyond denominational constrictions and religious boundaries.
As the pastor of Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church for 35 years, Elder Bernard C. Yates’ influence touched institutions, people and many aspects of the city’s greater community.
“He was a visionary for Pensacola,” said Bynium Jefferson, chairman of the Deacon Ministry at Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church.
Yates, 64, passed away Saturday at his home in Pensacola. Those close to his family, who declined to comment for the purposes of this article during their time of mourning, said the cause of death was cardiac arrest.
“He influenced not only the people in his congregation but other pastors and congregations in the Pensacola area,” Jefferson said. “Elder Yates worked to better this whole community.
“He will be missed.”
Yates was the principal force behind Zion Hope’s growth into one of the largest churches in Escambia County and into one of the most predominate African American religious institutions in the greater area — arguably ‘the’ predominate.
For over a decade, Yates annually participated in the Florida State Primitive Baptist Convention as its Bible Expositor, which helped to expand his reputation across Florida.
And as a two-term national president for the Primitive Baptist Convention USA Inc., Yates’ name and proven status as a strong leader were known within religious circles throughout all 50 states.
But it was in Pensacola where his reach extended outside of the church. At the time of his death, Yates sat on the board for Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital.
“I recommended him and wanted him on the Scared Heart board to help answer the question, ‘How do we start reducing the social determinants within health care?’ said prominent businessman Quint Studer. “Because Pastor Yates was a problem solver.
“He did so much, like food drives, in the community and did so much to improve people’s educations. It wasn’t just about Sundays,” Studer continued. “It was about — seven days a week — being there for people in the community.”