Reference Entry

Flake, Floyd

LaVerne Gray

in Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780195167795
Flake, Floyd

Show Summary Details


minister, politician, educator, and writer. After serving as a U.S. representative from New York, Flake became the minister and leader of New York City's largest African American church, the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Queens. He elevated the membership to over eighteen thousand and assisted the economic growth of the church through concentrated efforts in community development. In 2002 Flake became president of Wilberforce University, one the oldest historically black colleges, in Ohio. He worked in the private, educational, and government sectors while simultaneously serving in the church.Floyd Harold Flake was born in Los Angeles, the third of thirteen children born to Robert Flake, a janitor, and Rosie Lee Flake, a homemaker. When Flake was still small, the family relocated to Houston, Texas. Growing up, Flake was resourceful, and his parents stressed a strong work ethic. He was always working, delivering a paper route, cleaning homes, and toiling as a waiter or dishwasher, doing whatever it took to earn money. Church was a major influence, and he began preaching at the age of fifteen and pastoring at nineteen. With uneducated parents, he was not college bound, but with encouragement from a teacher he attended Wilberforce University and graduated with a BA in psychology in 1967. Shortly afterward he was ordained as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.In the next few years Flake alternated between the sacred and the secular, working as a social worker, then as a sales representative for the Reynolds Tobacco Company, and later as a marketing analyst for the Xerox Corporation while serving as an associate pastor. His work in higher education began in 1970, when he became the associate dean of students and director of student activities at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. In 1973 Flake became the dean of students, chaplain, and director of the Afro-American Center at Boston University. He was called to pastor Allen AME Church in a depressed area of Queens, New York, in 1976. Drugs and other negative elements plagued the community. The church and the neighborhood were both in decline. Flake's diligence and hard work focused the church's efforts toward community, economic, and educational development. He saw the problems as a challenge for people to take control of their community. The church bought decaying commercial buildings and sought legitimate business owners to lease them. The church built 166 two-family houses and a 300-unit senior citizen complex. Flake and his wife, Elaine McCollins Flake, cofounded the Allen Christian School in 1982.In 1986 Flake was encouraged to run in a special election for the 6th New York Congressional District seat made vacant by the death of Joseph Addabo. Flake lost that bid. Later that same year, however, Flake won the seat and became the first African American elected to the House of Representatives from the New York City borough of Queens. One of his most significant actions was the 1991 Bank Enterprise Act that enabled banks with adequate lending records to poorer communities to receive insurance breaks. He also enabled the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Drug Administration to be headquartered in his district, which brought in over four thousand jobs. As a member of the Banking Committee, Flake negotiated with Fannie Mae to get five hundred new homes built. On the education front, he supported school vouchers and was the founding director of the School Choice Scholarship Foundation. Throughout his time in the House of Representatives, Flake never left his pulpit and continued with his ministry at Allen AME Church. In 1997 he left Congress in the middle of his sixth term.In 2002 Flake became the president of his alma mater,Wilberforce University, one of the oldest black colleges in the United States. Under his administration the university thrived in terms of academic programs, the student population, and the physical campus structure. Flake was a champion for enhancing the lives of African Americans by focusing on the spiritual, educational, and economic development of the people. His books include The Way of the Bootstrapper: Nine Action Steps for Achieving Your Dreams (1999), coauthored with Donna Marie Williams; and African American Church Management Handbook (2005), coauthored with Elaine McCollins Flake and Edwin C. Reed.

Reference Entry.  738 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or purchase to access all content.