/ Updated  / Source: NBC News
By Christopher Nelson
Taylor Boyd
Louis Boyd, 41, wife, Dorothy, 38, and their eight children stand on the steps of Concord Baptist Church of Christ with pastor Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, right, in Brooklyn after attending Easter Services, April 22, 1962.ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, respected minister, civil rights leader and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, died Sunday at the age of 96.

The announcement was made on the website of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York, where Taylor served as pastor for decades before retiring.

A history on the church's website said that Taylor became pastor of the church in 1948 and served until 1990.

The church also noted that Taylor helped to found the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a group composed primarily of black Baptists, when the National Baptist Convention failed to fully engage in the civil rights movement.

A friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Taylor not only participated in protests with King but also served as a source of support often exchanging letters with the civil-rights icon.

Taylor was born in Baton Rouge in 1918 and attended Leland College, also in Louisiana, and Oberlin Graduate School of Theology in Ohio. In 1996, Texas' Baylor University named Taylor as one of the "12 Most Effective Preachers."

In August 2000, President Bill Clinton honored Taylor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United State's highest civilian honor, which is awarded for contributions to American life and society.

In a statement released by the Congressional Black Caucus, Chairman G. K. Butterfield called Taylor “a revered leader and homiletical authority."

Butterfield added, "He will be greatly missed but his legacy will live on in all those he touched, influenced and inspired."

Rev. Gardner Taylor is seen in his home in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007.
Rev. Gardner Taylor is seen in his home in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007.Gerry Broome / AP