Otis Norman Shands Jr., 96, a key figure in the peaceful desegregation of Atlanta Public Schools in 1961 and a resident of The Baptist Home in Chillicothe, Mo., died at home on Dec. 17.
While pastor of West End Baptist Church in Atlanta (1953-63), Shands was a signer of the 1957 Ministers’ Manifesto, the first statement on race relations by white Protestant ministers in the South.
He was co-chair of OASIS (Organization Assisting Schools in September) that helped facilitate the desegregation of Atlanta’s schools.
The story of his stand for civil rights as a white pastor and the opposition he faced within the communities and congregations he served at the time is recorded in a book written by his son Robert in 2006 titled In My Father’s House: Lessons Learned in the Home of a Civil Rights Pioneer, published by Bushel Basket Publishing in Olathe.
Born the son of Otis Norman Sr. and Mary Minerva (Holt) Shands on March 13, 1916, in Columbus, Ga., he married Nan Catherine Land in on June 26, 1938. She preceded him in death on May 17, 2004.
Survivors include two sons, Robert E. Shands, Olathe, Kan., and Norman Clyde Shands, Blue Springs, Mo.; a daughter, Karen Marguerite Shands Vaughn, Norman, Okla.; six grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters, Dorothy Shands Lester and Peggy Shands Dodd.
Funeral services were held at First Baptist, Chillicothe, on Dec. 21. Burial was in The Baptist Home Cemetery in Chillicothe.
Shands graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1941 from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and earned a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 1944.
Shands served in the U.S. Navy as a chaplain during World War II, from 1944-45. He then served in the Naval Reserves at Lt. Junior Grade and chaplain from 1945-51. From 18945 until 1948, he was the director of student life for Mercer University.
Pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., from 1948-52, he became president of Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C., from 1952-53.
He left the pastorate of West End Baptist in Atlanta to become pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Kansas City (1963-70). He served in various capacities at Southern Seminary from 1971-79.
Later, he lived in Alpharetta, Ga., and then Liberty, Mo., before making his final home in Chillicothe, where he was active in First Baptist Church.
Memorial contributions may be made to the benevolent care fund of The Baptist Home-Chillicothe in memory of O. Norman Shands at 500 Baptist Home Lane, Chillicothe, Mo. 64601.