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C. ERIC LINCOLN, EXPERT ON BLACK RELIGION, JOINS ANCESTORS By ERIC V. COPAGE c.2000 N.Y. Times News Service Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, author of several of the most important scholarly works on the religious experience of black Americans, died May 14 at his home in Durham, N.C. He was 75. He had been suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and heart trouble, his family said. Lincoln wrote ''The Black Muslims in America,'' the first scholarly examination of the movement, and was a co-author of ''The Black Church in the African-American Experience,'' a landmark study of the political and social influence of religious institutions in black America. Lincoln, professoremeritus of religion and culture at Duke University in Durham, N.C., where he taught from 1976 to 1993, wrote or edited more than 20 other books, including ''The Avenue, Clayton City,'' a novel published in 1988, for which he won the Lillian Smith Book Award for Best Southern Fiction, and a series of books in the 1970s called the C. Eric Lincoln Series in Black Religion. An ordained United Methodist minister, his friendships and expertise were truly ecumenical. He was a friend of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Alex Haley, and in 1990 was cited by Pope John Paul II for ''scholarly service to the church.'' ''He was in thetradition of African-American public intellectuals, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin and John Henrik Clarke,'' said Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago. ''He was able to translate lofty concepts into ideas understandable by the general public.'' The Rev. James Forbes, senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City, called Lincoln a 'Renaissance man.'' ''He was a poet, a hymnwriter, a novelist, a horticulturist, an expert on architecture and a gourmet cook,'' Forbes said. ''He was a publisher and the promoter of the publishing careers of young scholars.'' Published in 1961, ''The Black Muslims in America'' remains the authoritative text on the organization. ''After 40 years, it still remains the gold standard, as far as background and history on the Nation of Islam,'' said Steven Barboza, author of ''American Jihad,'' a collection of interviews with Muslims in the United States. ''The Black Church in the African-American Experience,'' co-written with Lawrence H. Mamiya, was based on 10 years of study and fieldwork. In a 1990 review in The New York Times Book Review, Forbes called the volume an ''important study'' that provided a ''long-needed'' look at the black church and gives the reader ''a portrait of black churches that reflects their complexity and variety,'' thereby ''translating general impressions into solid data.'' Charles Eric Lincoln was born in Athens, Ala., on June 23, 1924. He was abandoned first by his father, then by his mother, and was brought up by his maternal grandmother, Mattie Sowell Lincoln. He graduatedfrom a Protestant high school in Athens and was the valedictorian. He went to Chicago, where he worked and studied, before traveling to Memphis, where he graduated from LeMoyne College in 1947 with a bachelor's degree in sociology and philosophy. In 1954, he received a master's of philosophy from Fisk University in Nashville. He received a bachelor of divinity degree from the University of Chicago in 1956 and was ordained a United Methodist minister the next year. He earned a master's in education and a doctorate in social ethics in 1960 from Boston University. Before devoting himself full time to academic life, he worked as a sales representative for Pepsi Cola, a manager for a Memphis nightclub and a road manager for the Birmingham Black Barons baseball team. His teaching career included positions at Brown University and the University of Ghana. Lincoln issurvived by his second wife, the former Lucy Cook of Durham, four children, Hillary Anne Lincoln of Durham, Less C. Lincoln of Atlanta, Joyce Lincoln of Memphis and Cecil Eric Lincoln of Memphis; a brother, William Blye of Chicago; and six grandchildren. Throughout his career, the impact of race motivated Lincoln's academic work, said his son Less. ''The thing to understand about my dad and racism is that it was a studyable adversary to him,'' Lincoln said. ''It is something we can have control over. Through education and awareness, it can be eradicated.'' Lincoln had been recording his thoughts and observations on the subject for in a series of notebooks for more than 50 years. Those notebooks and most of his personal possessions were destroyed in a fire at his home in 1991. Lincoln's last book, ''Coming Through the Fire,'' published in 1996, was a distillation of his thoughts on race. In the book, he calls for ''no-fault reconciliation - the recognition that we are all of a kind, with the same vulnerabilities, the same possibilities and the same needs for God and each other.'' NYT-05-17-00 0014EDT
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