Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was a prominent, American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist, and speaker in the mid to late 19th Century. He was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of evangelist Lyman Beecher. He was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and Isabella Beecher Hooker, a suffragist. He also had a brother, Charles Beecher, who was a renowned Congregationalist minister.
Thousands of worshipers flocked to Beecher‘s enormous Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Abraham Lincoln (who said of Beecher that no one in history had “so productive a mind”) was in the audience at one point, and Walt Whitman visited. Mark Twain went to see Beecher in the pulpit and described the pastor “sawing his arms in the air, howling sarcasms this way and that, discharging rockets of poetry and exploding mines of eloquence, halting now and then to stamp his foot three times in succession to emphasize a point.”
“He obtained the chains with which John Brown had been bound, trampling them in the pulpit, and he also held mock ‘auctions’ at which the congregation purchased the freedom of real slaves,” according to the Web site of the still-existing Plymouth Church. The most famous of these former slaves was a young girl named Pinky, auctioned during a regular Sunday worship service at Plymouth on February 5, 1860. A collection taken up that day raised $900 to buy Pinky from her owner. A gold ring was also placed in the collection plate, and Beecher presented it to the girl to commemorate her day of liberation. Pinky returned to Plymouth in 1927 at the time of the Church’s 80th Anniversary to give the ring back to the Church with her thanks. Today, Pinky’s ring and bill of sale can still be viewed at Plymouth.”
Henry Ward Beecher died of a cerebral hemorrhage in March 1887. The city of Brooklyn where he lived declared a day of mourning upon, and the New York State Legislature went into recess to honor him. He was buried on March 11, 1887 in Brooklyn‘s Green-Wood Cemetery.
For the entire article, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ward_Beecher