Contributed by the Family
Douglass Lee Motley Jr. was born to the Rev. Dr. Douglass Lee Motley Sr. and Dr. Fannie Ernestine (Smith) Motley on April 12, 1950, in Tuskegee, Ala., on the campus of Tuskegee Institute, (now Tuskegee University). Fondly referred to by his mother as “Scoot,” he grew up in the small town of Plateau, Alabama (a.k.a Africatown”) alongside his one and only brother Anthony Motley.
Living in the midst of the Jim Crow era, he recalled segregated pools and the impact the death of Emmitt Till had on little boys in the south. Despite the circumstances, a young Doug Jr took pride in his early education with all Black peers and teachers. At the very tender age of 10, he picked up the violin for the first time, believing it would set him apart and open doors for him that were not regularly opened for Black people.
In 1963, Doug Jr and his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, after his father, the late Rev. Dr. Motley Sr. was called to pastor Peace Baptist Church.
Douglass attended Woodward High School where he was the first Black male concert master for his school orchestra with aspirations to play in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. With hopes of playing at the collegiate level, he applied to a host of universities, including Indiana University Bloomington, but missed his audition which ultimately led him to his last resort but God’s divinely ordered choice on a full ride musical scholarship – The University of Kentucky. Due to his undeniable musical gift, Douglass (a.k.a “Fiddler”) was the 1st chair violinist as well as a co-founder of the Black Voices, UK’s all Black Gospel choir.
In 1972, during a concert tour in Louisville, Ky., the Black Voices went to different churches ministering through Gospel music. The last stop was a small church in Jeffersonville, Ind., in which Douglass was reluctant and told his fellow group members “I’m driving back to Lexington, I don’t know nothing about Indiana.” Lifetime friend, Wilbur Hackett Jr., convinced Doug to finish out the circuit – the last stop being Gilt Edge Missionary Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Ind. and the rest was history.
Doug Jr would become Reverend D. L. Motley Jr. after being ordained by his father Dr. D.L Motley Sr. at Peace Baptist Church that same year and would begin his pastorate at Gilt Edge Missionary Baptist Church in September at the age of 22.
Rev. D.L. was known to be authentically himself from the very beginning – light blue suits and bell bottoms, plats and afros, but with a vision and heart that led Gilt Edge into a new era. His preaching style was primarily influenced by his uncle, prominent Civil Rights leader, Rev. Dr. Nelson “Fireball” Smith. Rev. D.L. quickly arose as one of the most profound preachers of his time, notoriously known for his closings. An unorthodox and forward-thinking pastor, He was committed to dismantling some of the traditional doctrines and old practices within the church.
With countless accomplishments and monumental moments, Gilt Edge made a name for themselves. Under his tenure he led the D.L Motley Singers, welcomed women in the pulpit, broke ground on expanding the church sanctuary, started blue jeans on Easter Sunday in the early 70s, burned the church mortgage, incorporated theater and arts, centered the youth, and had a vision for a multi purposeful and multi-functional sanctuary by removing the benches and replacing them with inter lockable chairs.
Known as the “Community Pastor,” Rev. Motley believed the true church existed outside of the building. A pioneer for social justice, he fought to ensure fair and equal treatment for Black men and women within the criminal justice system. Due to his advocacy, he earned the respect of judges, lawyers and city officials of any political affiliation. He birthed the jail ministry and aided those who were in addiction/recovery and did not judge anyone by their past mistakes. People knew that if Rev. Motley was in the courtroom on their behalf, the spirit of grace and mercy would intercede. Many received another chance at life due to his relentless dedication.
He served the community partnering with the homeless shelter and helping them to secure apartments/housing as well as opening up the church for additional shelter during White Flag advisories. He led the provision of food to the community through the MLK Food Pantry and the King’s Table. Most of all he was committed to the “the least, the last, the lost, and the forgotten” by also preaching “Love One Another.”
On August 8, 2009, Rev. Motley suffered a stroke, aneurysm, and underwent three brain surgeries as a result. Although he never reached full physical restoration, God preserved his mind in the midst of it all. On September 21, 2012, Rev. D.L Motley Jr would retire from pastoring Gilt Edge Baptist Church, but never from the assignment God placed on his life. He immediately began serving as Pastor Emeritus, still teaching and preaching God’s word. God’s Orator let his primary residence at Windsor Ridge Assisted Living become his new pulpit as he held weekly Bible studies, where many residents came to know Jesus through his teachings. Surrounded by loved ones on July 20, 2023, God called His orator home where every day is the sabbath and he can “walk the Milky Way” with the angels.
Rev. Motley is preceded in death by both of his parents, Dr. Rev. D.L. Motley Sr., and Dr. Fannie E. Motley.
He leaves and cherishes three daughters “daddy’s girls,” Kamya Motley, Chloe Motley (caregiver), and Kyndia Motley (caregiver); Shajuana Campbell (former wife and primary caregiver); his one and only brother, Rev. Anthony A. Wagner (Karen) Motley; granddaughter, Rhyen Dunn; niece, Shaunae Motley; great-niece, Sanaa McCullar; as well as many beloved cousins, extended family and lifelong friends.