North Carolina provided many memorable experiences for the young Jacob Cohen. It was in Fayetteville, North Carolina where he was saved, baptized and called to the ministry at Anderson Temple Church of God in Christ under the pastorate of the late Elder J. R. Anderson.
During this time, he began his dedication to the work of the church and was instrumental in remodeling and improving the physical appearance of Anderson Temple. He also served as the Y. P. W. W. President of the Fayetteville District, associate minister of Anderson Temple, and secretary to the late General Board member, Bishop Wyoming Wells of the Greater North Carolina Jurisdiction.
It was also in North Carolina where Cohen met his wife, Josie Mae, the daughter of the late Deacon John and District Missionary Josie Jackson. Cohen and Josie were married for 57 years until her death in October 2011.
Indeed, North Carolina impacted the life of Bishop Cohen, but the love of a son for his father prompted him to return to Miami to assist his ailing father.
Cohen was the ninth son and 12th child of 18 born in Miami, Florida on Jan. 4, 1932. He was born to Mother Mamie Evans Cohen, and his father Bishop A. M. Cohen, founder and pastor of Miami Temple Church of God in Christ and also the first Eastern Florida Jurisdictional Bishop.
During Cohen’s formative years in the Dade County School System, he attended Dunbar Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School.
After graduating high school, he attended Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida, until Cohen decided to interrupt his educational pursuit to serve his country in the United States Army. He was subsequently stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina serving in the 82nd Airborne Division.
Never forgetting the importance of education, Cohen was later honorably discharged and enrolled in Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. At Fayetteville State, his charisma and love for people were evident and he became a dynamic student leader.
When he returned to Miami, he had ministerial duties at the Temple and taught in the Dade County Public School System, up until the death of his father in 1959.
Cohen was appointed pastor of Miami Temple, now known as A.M. Cohen Temple. With his God-given abilities and educational skills, he embarked upon the task of shepherding the flock.
A.M. Cohen Temple Deacon Larry Smith was 4 years old when he met Cohen and described him as a man unlike any other.
“He would give you the shirt off his back and he never saw anyone go hungry,” he recalled. “If you was hungry, he didn’t have to know you – he fed you.”
Cohen’s upward mobility in the church continued with his appointment as Superintendent of the Miami District and subsequently his appointment in 1971 as Jurisdictional Bishop of Eastern Florida. In order to fulfill his leadership responsibilities to the jurisdiction, Cohen culminated his tenure with the Dade County school system.
Promotion continued for Cohen in November 1972 when he was elected to serve on the General Board of the Church of God in Christ, the governing board of the international church. Bishop Cohen served a total of 14 years with this governing body.
Under his leadership, the Eastern Florida Jurisdiction expanded from about 50, to more than 114 churches. More than 40 years later, Cohen built a strong, supportive and successful Jurisdiction.
As an active man in community service, Cohen wrote the financial plan for the National Church of God in Christ; contributed to the successful building and operation of a radio station in Brasilia, Brazil; sponsored the Labor Task Force for the renovation of Saints Industrial Junior College; spearheaded the growth of the Eastern Florida Jurisdiction from 8 districts to 15 districts and served on many national, state and local boards and advisory councils including, past president of the Miami Dade Chapter of the NAACP, the YMCA, Governor’s Committee on the Black Family (1986), Boy Scouts, Overtown Development and Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
He was also presented with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Saint Thomas Christian College in Jacksonville, Florida on March 11, 2006.
Beyond the 88 years of legacy Cohen leaves behind, he will also be remembered by his family and friends as an avid skier, fisherman and a long-time member of the Walls-Patterson-Haynes-Cohen Bullseye Sportsman Club.
Leah Cohen Mayes said she will remember her great uncle for his wise advice, genuine and kind heart.
“I really love the fact that he was a church man, but he was not someone who was judgmental,” she shared. “A lot of times you go to church and may feel like you’re being judged by the preacher or whoever else, but he was not like that.”
Cohen leaves behind his five children: Cheryl Cohen-Vader; Joel Cohen (Gloria); Amaziah Melvin Cohen; Shawna Cohen and a precious granddaughter raised as a daughter Latoya Cohen-Johnson (Andrae). He was a devoted grandfather to Quincy Cohen Sr. (Shelia), Joshua Cohen and Brenden Jacob Covert, and a great grandfather to Isaiah “Ike” Williams; Isaiah Cohen; Katherine Knowles; Quincy Cohen Jr.; and Joi Cohen.
Memorial services for Cohen will be held on Thursday, Feb. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Upper Room Ministries Church of God and Christ in Miami Gardens. The funeral will be held Friday at 11 a.m. in the New Birth Cathedral, located at 2300 NW 135th St., Miami.
Eman Elshahawy, Miami Times multimedia content producer, made contributions to this report.