The Rev. Gardner Taylor, nationally renowned preacher and civil rights figure, dies at age 96

A pastor regarded as the dean of American preaching who played a key role in the civil rights movement has died.

The Progressive National Baptist Convention says the Rev. Gardner Taylor died Sunday. He was 96 and lived in North Carolina.

Taylor was the grandson of former slaves who gained national prominence as pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn.

Taylor was known for his preaching voice, which experts compared to an organ with all the stops pulled out. Around 1960, he sided with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a pivotal dispute among black clergy about whether King was too liberal. Taylor and King went on to help form the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Taylor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.