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Originally published February 24, 2013 at 5:23 PM | Page modified February 24, 2013 at 6:36 PM

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Activist minister Milton P. Andrews Jr. fought injustice, doled out care

The Rev. Milton P. Andrews Jr. spoke out for civil rights, protested the Vietnam War and angered parishioners and church leaders. He died Feb. 14 in Des Moines.

Seattle Times staff reporter

When kids at school accused Irene Andrews of being a “pinko,” just like her father, she had to ask her teacher what the word meant. But no one had to tell the little girl that her dad was different.

The Rev. Milton P. Andrews Jr. was labeled a Communist sympathizer, or pinko, because he spoke out against U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist witch hunt in the early 1950s.

At Rainier Beach Methodist Church in South Seattle, which the Rev. Andrews led for six years, he shocked some parishioners by advocating civil rights and inviting blacks to join the congregation.

The Rev. Andrews, 90, who died Feb. 14 at Wesley Homes retirement community in Des Moines, also protested the Vietnam War and pushed from the pulpit for nuclear disarmament. His activism got him bounced out of several parishes in Washington and eventually led to his ouster from the Methodist Church, said Irene Andrews.

In 1970, Seattle Times columnist Don Duncan described the Rev. Andrews as the church’s resident “hot potato.”

“He could fill his pews and be popular if he followed the lead of some pastors, who feed their flock bits of scripture laced with homilies,” Duncan wrote. “Since he does not choose to do so, his pews are uncomfortable.”

The Rev. Andrews was the eldest of eight children born to a dirt-poor minister’s family in Oklahoma City.

His family was conservative, said son Paul Andrews, a former reporter and columnist for The Seattle Times. The Rev. Andrews credited his education at Oberlin College, provided through the Navy during World War II, with opening his eyes to injustice and its toll.

“Someone has to be out there fighting for progress, and that’s the role my dad saw for himself,” said Paul Andrews.

The Rev. Andrews’ first parishes were on the East Coast. He moved the family to Seattle in 1955 with the assignment of rebuilding the Rainier Beach church. His next parish was in the Eastern Washington farming community of Colfax, where his liberal views were not welcome, and where Irene learned the definition of “pinko.”

He was reassigned to build a new church in the rural suburbs north of Seattle, near where the Alderwood mall now stands.

Throughout the 1960s, the Rev. Andrews helped organize anti-Vietnam protest marches. But among his parishioners, he was known for the time he spent counseling couples, visiting the sick and teaching illiterate adults to read.

“He got a lot of notoriety for the controversies, but people always loved him personally, because he did so much for them on an individual basis,” said Paul Andrews.

The Rev. Andrews’ final Methodist parish was ­Epworth Methodist Church in Tacoma, where he took the reins in 1967. But once again, his activism clashed with the views of many in his congregation.

In 1970, he was arrested for unlawful assembly during an anti-war protest in Tacoma’s Wright Park, where he and two other men had chained themselves together.

Irene Andrews, then 13 years old, remembers the day well. She recorded the badge numbers of the arresting officers, as her father had taught her to do, and later testified in court about the way police roughed up the protesters.

“It really made an impression on me,” she said. It also helped inspire her to carry on her father’s tradition of social activism in Texas, where she now lives.

The Rev. Andrews’ first wife, longtime Tacoma teacher Catherine Smith (Kate) Andrews, died in 1971 from injuries suffered in a car accident.

After parting ways with the Methodist Church, the Rev. Andrews served at several churches of other denominations in Washington before moving to Bakersfield, Calif., with Ruth Long, whom he married in 1993.

In addition to Paul, Irene and Ruth Andrews, the Rev. Andrews is survived by son Carl, of Bonney Lake, Pierce County; daughter Twila Slind, of Gig Harbor; two brothers and four sisters.

The family suggests remembrances be made to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or sdoughton@seattletimes.com

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