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AKRAM, WALI A.

AKRAM, WALI A. (4 Aug. 1904-1 Aug. 1994) was founder of First Cleveland Mosque, the first official home to Muslims in Cleveland. He remained its imam for 52 years.

Born Walter Gregg to Clarence and Leah Brown Gregg in Bryan, TX, he completed his general education and then studied electrical engineering at Prairie View State College in Texas. He then attended Lane Seminary in Nashville, TN, but while there became interested in Islam. Moving to St. Louis, MO, in 1923 he converted to Islam, adopted his Islamic name, and began teaching Arabic.

On 25 July 1925 he married Kraeema, the former Hannah Dudley. They raised 13 children: Mahmoud, Ali, Rasoul, Ahmad, Khalid, Abdullah, Ameer, Hussain, Maryam, Khadija, Kamelah, Nurah, and Mubarka.

In Cleveland in 1925, he became involved with visiting Muslim missionaries, and when they departed, he became de facto leader of the city's fledgling Muslim community.

First Cleveland Mosque was established in 1937, with Akram as imam. Originally located at 7605 Woodland Avenue, the mosque moved several times; it was at 3615 East 131 Street in 1995.

Akram continued teaching Arabic, and in 1946 produced the volume Arabic Made Easy. In 1957 he made the first of two pilgrimages to Mecca. His second trip came in 1986. From 1947 to 1962 he operated the Akram Family Store next to the mosque on Woodland Avenue. Besides his devotion to Islam, Akram retained his interest in engineering, and liked tinkering with various inventions.

Akram became imam emeritus in 1989. He is buried in Cleveland's Evergreen Cemetery.