Dr. Murray’s drive and passion to serve was evident early in his life. As he matured, he served 10 years of active duty on flying status with the United States Air Force as a Jet Radar Intercept Officer (Air Defense Command), and a navigator (Air Transport Command). He was decorated with the Soldier’s Medal of Valor in 1958 following an aircraft explosion in his two-seated fighter. He retired as a reserve Major with the United States Air Force.
Dr. Murray is a native Floridian with an undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University. He received his Doctorate in Religion from The School of Theology at Claremont and Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College, May 14, 2007. He has lectured and been adjunct professor of Iliff University, Seattle University, School of Theology Claremont, Fuller Seminary, and Northwest Theological Seminary. He has been featured in Time Magazine, Ebony Magazine, CNN, Network News, religious periodicals, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles 900, and other print and television media.
The members of Dr. Murray’s family begin with his devoted wife, Bermardine, and their one son, Rev. Drew David Murray. In 1977 Dr. Murray was assigned to First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black church in Los Angeles. His new church family had 300 active members in 1977. They received his vision to set a fire in the hearts of his members to be a church that extends beyond the walls. The fire and spirit of love spread, and the congregation grew to 17,300 members. The ministry of the church fills the sanctuary with an awe-inspiring spiritual worship service and spills beyond the walls of the church with some 40 task forces that include health, substance abuse, homelessness, emergency food and clothing, general and specialized housing, tutoring, entrepreneurial training, employment services and the like.
Each member joins a task force to help make the effort to take the church beyond its walls. Notable among the membership are Senator Art Torres, the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Mayor Judge Roosevelt Dorn, Judge Irma Brown-Dillon, Arsenio Hall, former Community College Chancellor Dr. Donald Phelps, Dianne Reeves, Michael Warren, Stack Pierce, Dionne Warwick, Mary Wilson, Chauntel Westerman formerly of Good Morning America, Pat Harvey KCAL-TV, Warren Wilson of KTLA-TV, Jim Hill of KCBS-TV, and Beverly White NBC-TV. The vision of the First AME is a manifestation of Rev. Murray’s 27 years of ministry and leadership to carry out God’s work.
Notable facets of programming include:
- $4 million housing for physically handicapped
- 12 dwelling units for general public low-income housing, totaling
- $35 million
- 2 units to provide housing for HIV/AIDS infected persons
- $5 million transportation program for seniors and the handicapped
- Cecil L. Murray Education Center, Grades K-8
- Health care, AIDS/Tobacco ministries
- Free tutoring, legal aid, computer training
- Job training/placement
- $5 million micro-loan program, $500,000 economic development
- Prison ministry
- Oil recycling/environmental programs
- Business incubator for multi-media production
- Monthly feeding program-provides groceries for 600 families
- 24 hour lock-in program for youth, focusing on God and youth issues
- 600 voice choirs, 3 impacted services and other musical events (6 choirs)
Dr. Murray shares membership and support of the traditional civil rights groups and human rights organizations. His fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, named him Man of the Year in 1951.
President George Bush named the First AME Church the 177th Point of Light for its courageous outreach in community services. The Hawthorne Shopping Plaza has included Dr. Murray in a sand sculpture as a tribute to African Americans who have overcome. George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Phyllis Wheatley, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King. The story of struggles and triumphs of African Americans cannot be told without including the pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Los Angeles, Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray.
Rev. Murray retired in November 2004 as the senior minister at First AME Church, Los Angeles. Dr. Murray currently serves as Professor, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Religion, University of Southern California and holds the Tanzy Chair of Christian Ethics, University of Southern California.