A memorial service will be held for the Reverend Robert W. Andrews at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16 at the New Ark United Church of Christ at 300 East Main Street, Newark, Delaware.
Bob Andrews was a tireless civil rights crusader, internationalist and mentor for six decades in Newark. He had long lived on Grays Avenue and had a home in Ticadel, Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica, where he died in his sleep on May 8 at age 85.
He was born on July 14, 1929 in Chicago and educated at Wheaton (Ill.) College, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Pennsylvania.
Andrews traveled widely, taught in Indonesia and marched with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Ala., in 1965. He twice was invited by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to consult with him in Beirut regarding U.S. public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was a volunteer in the World Council of Churches refugee program for the 1956 Hungarian uprising, and worked with the Carter administration for the release of political prisoners in Indonesia.
He was Protestant co-secretary of the National Conference on Religion and Race; chair of the Delaware delegation to the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963; president of the Delaware Commission for Fair Practices, and head of American Christians for Justice in Palestine.
But for Newark residents and generations of University of Delaware students, Andrews was the longtime (and always smiling) face of the United Campus Ministry on Orchard Road, which was better known as the Phoenix House.
The Phoenix House was many things — a place to explore one’s religious and political beliefs, a shelter for the troubled and downtrodden, but most of all an escape from rigid town-and-gown formality of Newark and the university campus.
The Phoenix’s coffee house was welcoming to folkies and other musicians who had nowhere else to play, as well as an opportunity to be served hot cider by a professor who had taught you in class earlier in the day. It also was a safe haven for aspiring young journalists, including the staff of The Heterodoxical Voice, which chronicled ghetto life in Wilmington while championing radicalism, counter-cultural music and literature, and free speech. I was just one of many young people who was first introduced to vegetarian cooking at the Phoenix House’s one-dollar Friday night dinners.
A frequent jumping off point for protest marches and sit-ins, the Phoenix House also was a target of the Ku Klux Klan, which burned a cross on its lawn one night. Andrews frequently locked horns with the university administration, which won in the end. Today the site of perhaps Bob's greatest work, a place of so many positive memories for so many people, where many of us arguably came of age, is a parking lot.
After his career on campus, Andrews founded The Phoenix Community in Delaware Inc., an ecumenical ministry with a global perspective. He continued to work tirelessly until his death for the many causes he championed during a long and extraordinarily giving life.