Darius Nelson, pastor of music and arts at Little Rock's Saint Mark Baptist, dies at 52

Darius Nelson, pastor of Music and Arts at St. Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, is shown in this June 27, 2023 file photo. The church announced Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 that Nelson had died. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)
Darius Nelson, pastor of Music and Arts at St. Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, is shown in this June 27, 2023 file photo. The church announced Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 that Nelson had died. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Darius Lamar Nelson, pastor of music and arts at Saint Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, has died, according to a Friday announcement on the church's Facebook page. He was 52.

The announcement by Senior Pastor Phillip L. Pointer Sr., who signed the post "Pastor P," did not include a cause of death. However, Pointer added that "while we do not understand, we still trust God."

Nelson was born on Aug. 12, 1971, the youngest of two sons of Lee Edward and Willie Jean Nelson. He grew up near Pinnacle Mountain in west Little Rock off of Arkansas 10.

His father owned a brick masonry business, and his mother had a hair-styling salon. He described himself as a “latch-key kid,” adding that his brother was 10 years older than him and left home after graduating from high school.

Nelson graduated from Parkview Magnet High School in 1989 and from Philander Smith College in 1995.

He said he discovered his love for music and singing at a local church, and he carried that love with him into adulthood.

Nelson was the subject of the High Profile feature story in the July 16 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In that profile, he shared many fond memories of his childhood and of traveling with the Saint Mark Baptist Church choir, which took first place in the How Sweet the Sound gospel choir competition in Dallas in November 2013. The accolades from that win led to other honors for the church choir, including singing Christmas carols at the White House the next month, and being one of the choirs chosen to sing "Let It Go" from "Frozen" during a sing-a-long on ABC's "Good Morning America" in 2014.

Survivors include his wife, Dr. Michelle Riddick-Nelson; their two children, Daria and Devhan; one granddaughter, Emersyn; and his mother, Willie Jean Nelson.

Funeral arrangements were pending Friday night. Pointer asked in the church's Facebook post that "those who knew and loved Darius" not send condolences until details about the funeral arrangements were provided.


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