Thursday, August 5, 2004

Donald Flemer fought religious, racial bias


Produced interfaith TV talk show

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

SPRINGDALE - Donald F. Flemer, a leader in interfaith and race relations, died Monday of pneumonia at his residence at Maple Knoll Village. He was 85.

Mr. Flemer was former executive director of the Greater Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews), a human rights organization that works to combat bias, bigotry and racism.

Mr. Flemer joined the Greater Cincinnati NCCJ in 1967 and became executive director in 1971.

"His innovative programs to break down the barriers of prejudice and discrimination formed the foundation for many of the NCCJ programs still bearing fruit today," said Chip Harrod, current executive director.

They include the Police/Youth Live-in program, a weeklong camp for inner-city children that promotes positive police-youth relations. He also formed police-community relations councils in each of Cincinnati's seven police districts and created Student Ombuds - a peer-counseling program that received national acclaim.

Mr. Flemer produced the longest-running interfaith TV talk show - Dialogue, which aired on Sunday mornings on WKRC (Channel 12) from 1969 to 1994.

"Dad opened our eyes at an early age to the diverse world around us and encouraged us to help enlarge it in a peaceful way," said his son, Larry of Anderson Township. "He practiced a 'liberation philosophy' of freeing the mind from the things that prevent a person from having self-esteem."

Mr. Flemer held a master's degree in religious education from Princeton Theological Seminary. He came to Cincinnati in 1957 to hold education positions at Seventh Presbyterian Church in East Walnut Hills, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church and Bond Hill United Presbyterian Church. He advanced the racial integration of each of those congregations.

His other accomplishments include creating the inter-religious Brotherhood Medal for the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America and co-founding Ecumedia News Service of Greater Cincinnati - a group of religious communicators.

The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission presented him with its Ethelrie Harper Humanitarian Award, and the NCCJ gave him its Distinguished Service medallion.

Mr. Flemer, who retired from the NCCJ in 1984, was a member of the NAACP and the Coalition of Neighborhoods.

His wife, Hope, died in 1999. In addition to his son, survivors include: two daughters, Sally Flemer of Philadelphia and Deb Flemer of Kingston, Ontario, Canada; and two brothers, Albert of Holmdel, N.J., and Carl of Bellows Falls, Vt.

A memorial service is 1 p.m. Friday at Maple Knoll Village Chapel On the Green, 11100 Springfield Pike.

Memorials: Donald F. Flemer Fund at Bond Hill United Presbyterian Church, 4909 Paddock Road, Cincinnati 45237; or the National Conference for Community and Justice, 106 E. Eighth St., Cincinnati 45202.

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com




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