NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Few people in the public world has ever been able to call themselves a preacher, a politician and a professor, but that’s what one North Nashville state lawmaker will soon be able to do when he receives his doctorate.
Rev. Harold Love Jr. has been mixing the three worlds since 2012. That’s when he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representative while serving as pastor at Nashville’s Lee Chapel AME Church and starting his Ph.D. program in public administration at Tennessee State University.
His voice is being heard on all three fronts as an emerging leader in the African-American community, but the role of lawmaker is one that he learned at an early age from his namesake father.
Harold Love Sr. served the same North Nashville constituency from the turbulent 1960s until two years before he died in 1994.
“This was my afterschool place,” Rev. Love told News 2 from his office on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill. “This is where I would do my homework. Every week day I was here in Suite 35, Legislative Plaza.”
Suite 35 is now the very same suite where Rev. Love has his office and above the desk he uses, an image of his father peers down on him, which he said he sometimes looks to for guidance.
“Voting for certain bills and arguing for certain points, he would be informing me of what he might do,” said Rep. Love.
The lawmaker learned quickly that he should keep his father’s campaign slogan, “Keep Love in the House.” The campaign slogan has been around since Rev. Love’s mother was pregnant with him.
“I tell folks the last three of four months of my mother carrying me, all I heard was, ‘Keep Love in the House, ‘” he said with a laugh, while looking at an original campaign sign bearing those word that’s now hung on his office wall.
His district has kept Love in the Tennessee House since 2012 all while has continued his pastoral duties.
Love says the roles of preacher and lawmaker often intersect.
“For me, the African-American church is a change agent,” he explained. “Social justice is something that we don’t often time talk about, but it is important because we must speak truth to power. We must be able to have conversations about unjust laws, and unjust behavior.”
In another corner of Nashville, just a few miles away, sits Tennessee State University and it’s the third part of Love’s life that completes a triangle between his church and the state capitol.
He’s currently writing a dissertation in public administration and Love said he wants to teach future leaders just like his father taught him.
“In the college setting is where you have people testing theories and exploring,” he said. “How do you get someone to engage to be a better citizen? How do you get someone to realize that in the public sphere, there must be conversations about justice and equity?”
Soon, his words will be heard in all three places.