Rev. Paul M. Ritter, pastor and activist

The Hartford Courant reports that Paul Ritter, leader of the Warburton Community Congregational Church on Brookfield Street for 25 years until his retirement in 1997, died last week at age 82.

Ritter, a North Carolina native who came to Hartford in 1969, may be best known outside the city for his three unsuccessful runs for mayor, in 1979, 1993, and 2001. But he was best known around the city as an activist for those who lacked political power, particularly the poor and sick.

For instance, as the Courant notes, “Ritter had long been a voice for those living in Hartford’s public housing, much of it dilapidated, ridden with vermin, and difficult for the elderly and disabled to navigate. In 1977, his Brookfield Street church was ransacked after he spoke at a rally for low income tenants, the sixth time in 12 months his church had been burglarized … Earlier that year, its windows had been shot out after Ritter led a demonstration to rid a housing project of rats and roaches.”

In the 1990s, he pushed for giving those living HIV/AIDS a publicly funded apartment building on Wethersfield Avenue. That failed amid controversy–it was opposed by neighbors and even some HIV/AIDS activists who feared creating something of a leper colony–but Ritter and other clergy eventually opened a building on Homestead Avenue for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, called Zezzo House.

According to his obituary, a memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 28, at the Victory Cathedral, at 205 Bellevue Street.

By the way, if you’re wondering where Warburton Community Congregational Church got its name, check out this great article on the Historic Buildings of Connecticut site.

%d bloggers like this: