MIAMI, Fla. – Liturgy of The Resurrection services have been held at The Church of the Incarnation in Miami for the Rev. Canon J. Kenneth Major, D.D., who passed Feb. 16 at age 87.
In July 1968, Major was assigned as curate to assist with the pastoral work at the church, located in the heart of Miami’s Model Cities.
In August, only a few days after his arrival, rioting broke out when the GOP National Convention met on Miami Beach. Major had the task of trying to bring calm to the Liberty City streets during the day, and at night spent countless hours monitoring the city jail to ensure the safety of those who had been arrested.
Father Major was subsequently ordained a priest on Jan. 25, 1969, at the Church of the Incarnation, elected as vicar of the congregation on April 15, 1969, and instituted as the ﬁrst rector of the parish on June 2, 1974.
His ﬁrst noteworthy contribution was elevating the church to a self-sustaining parish by paying off its outstanding debt.
When riots erupted again in May 1980 and December 1982, Major worked with others to bring calm to the area; he was humbly proud of rescuing a man, who happened to be white, who was pulled from his car by a crowd after mistakenly driving into Overtown.
Major was born in Miami on Jan. 4, 1936, the son of immigrant parents, the late Joseph Wakeﬁeld Major and the late Alice Rebecca Taylor from Long Island in the Bahamas.
He was educated in the Dade County Public School System, and awarded a full college scholarship from Wometco Enterprises (WTVJ) with the stipulation that he return to Miami to serve his community.
In 1959, he graduated from St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, NC, where he was inducted as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He was then admitted to Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University to study for the priesthood. His studies, however, were interrupted when he accepted a position as a social caseworker with the NYC Department of Social Services.
In 1960, Major married Peggy Currin and they had three children, Allison, Kenneth, Jr., and Karen.
He resumed and completed his studies in theology at Mercer Seminary, Garden City, Long Island, NY in June 1968, and was soon ordained to the diaconate at St. Philip’s Church, Brooklyn, NY.
In 1977, the Board of Directors elected Father Major president and board chairman of the Economic Opportunity Family Health Center (now known as Jessie Trice Community Health Center), a position he held for more than 10 years, from 1977 to 1988. At the time, the agency was housed in dilapidated trailers; he convinced the Dade County power structure to construct the ﬁrst “state of the art” community health center in the Model City area of Miami. A conference room in the Jessie Trice Community Health Center is named in his honor.
On Feb. 14, 1980, Father Major married Betty Jean Davis in Miami, Florida. To their union, a daughter, Nicole, was born.
In 1993, Major was appointed by the Metro-Dade County Board of County Commissioners to serve as a Board Member at Jackson Memorial Hospital Public Health Trust, a position he held for two terms, until 1996.
During his tenure, the congregation was transformed into a vibrant center of outreach. Major maintained that one of his proudest moments was when the congregation built and moved into a new building, which was dedicated in October 1995. He supervised the conversion of the parish’s former ediﬁce into the parish hall which now bears his name: J. Kenneth Major Hall or JKM Hall.
He served his entire ministry at the same congregation for nearly half a century, until his retirement in 2010. The vestry bestowed the title of Rector Emeritus upon him in 2012 – the only priest in the parish to receive this honor. Other notable honors included being named a Living Legend by the Booker T. Washington National Alumni Association in 2003, and an AT&T Miami-Dade County African American History Calendar honoree in the 2008/2009 calendar.
A longtime advocate for social justice, Major was a “father” to many and was well known for his storytelling and quick wit. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Jean Davis Major (d. 2011) and daughter, Karen Renee Major (d. 2021). He is survived by his children, Allison Herald (Vernon), Kenneth Major, Jr., Nicole Elizabeth Major, Yolanda Shalon Davis-Camacho (Christopher), and Lacarlos McGee, Sr. (Chevelle); grandchildren, Antoine Jeffrey (Kenicia), Justin O’Ferrall, Zakerra Major, Tatiana Camacho, Alyssa Camacho, Ariel Herald, and Kaelynn Kelly; and many great-grandchildren, other relatives and friends.