CHICAGO—Black Chicago is mourning the loss of Reverend Leon Finney Jr., a longtime pastor and community activist who passed away September 4 at the University of Chicago Medical Center battling leukemia. He was 82 years old.
He is remembered for his hard work in the community in establishing fair housing and reaching members of many walks of life.
“It is with great sadness that The Metropolitan Church announces the passing of our Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Leon D. Finney, Jr., on September 4, 2020,” the church posted on their Facebook page. “Pastor Finney served Metropolitan as Pastor for 20 years. In addition to being a dedicated Pastor, Dr. Finney devoted his professional life to the revitalization of urban communities.”
Rev. Finney opposed the expansion of the University of Chicago and “slumlords” in the Black community and founded the Woodlawn Organization in 1960 which invested $90 million in real estate. He also fought for equal housing, health care, employment, schooling and social welfare for South Side residents. He was remembered by those who admired his work and legacy.
Claudette Marie Muhammad remembered fondly Rev. Finney’s support for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. “Rev. Leon L. Finney, Jr. was a friend and strong supporter of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Nation of Islam; he and I developed a very strong relationship as he assisted me and various persons within the Chicago community,” she told The Final Call. Ms. Muhammad is a longtime aide to Min. Farrakhan.
Rev. Finney supported Ms. Muhammad in arranging for Min. Farrakhan to be a keynote speaker at the historic Parliament of the World’s Religions on Sept. 3, 1993, at the Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois.
“There are people from all walks of life in the religious world who attended. Rev. Finney was assigned and appointed by Rev. Clay Evans along with the late Rev. Addie L. Wyatt to work with me and meet with Minister Farrakhan in planning the conference,” she continued.
“We all must remember that Rev. Finney was for the people. Woodlawn Organization was well-known for accommodating the Black community, and he also had a recording studio built near his church where my brothers and sisters who wanted to record their music and make announcements, he allowed them to come and do that. He even offered Minister Farrakhan if he wanted to use the recording, to come and any time and use the recording studio. He did so much and he supported Saviours’ Day every year,” Ms. Muhammad said, referring to the annual Nation of Islam convention.
“He was so instrumental and made sure the community was well protected,” Ms. Muhammad continued. Many went on social media to express their appreciation for the reverend’s work in the community.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker posted in a statement on Facebook, “As a civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Leon Finney Jr. worked to make our state a better place. At a time when so many of our great civil rights giants have been called home and when the need for equity and justice is again at the forefront, this loss comes at an especially poignant moment. My heart is with his family, friends and the countless people he touched.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said, “Rev. Dr. Leon Finney, Jr. was an icon in the Woodlawn community. From preaching in the pulpit of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, Rev. Finney devoted his life to serving others. It goes without question Rev. Finney’s legacy will be long-lasting. I extend my sincere condolences to his family during this difficult time.”
Rev. Finney also served as vice-chairman of the Chicago Public Housing Authority, board member for the Chicago Planning Commission among others, and has written several publications on economic and social development.
On Twitter, Renita Austin wrote, “RIP Leon D. Finney Jr!!! Thank you for the time I was allowed to sit under your tutelage while employed at TWO!! You taught me so much about the importance of empowering people based on their gifts and that there is strength in numbers when the people are united. You recognized my talents, defined me by and for my assets, and always engaged me as a valued member of the TWO family. Your legacy lives on, rest well good and faithful servant!!!”
“WOW! I can’t believe this … Rev. Leon Finney was an awesome, Man of God, he’s mentored so many people, just found out that he has passed, I’m praying The Lord’s Strength for The Finney Family…,” posted Steven Hunley on Facebook the night the reverend’s passing was announced.
Local activist Mark Allen said in an emotional Facebook video, “Leon Finney came to lift me up when other people didn’t, and then the last thing was when I was fighting cancer, the world didn’t care then. … I sent letters all over the place and a whole lot of people didn’t answer but once again, here comes Leon Finney who helped saved me personally and professionally …We might need to take one of his offices on 63rd and make that into the Leon Finney Legacy Office.”
Rae Lewis-Thornton on Twitter posted, “My heart is heavy to learn the passing of Rev. Dr. Leon Finney. With all of his flaws he was still a giant of a man. He was my friend and my memoir. Rest In Peace Doc. #rip #chicago”.
“Rev. Dr. Finney & I have worked closely on so many projects & had more to work on. You were a mentor to me, you’ve sponsored many projects & invested in the community. You were a Great Man! Words can’t express how much I will miss you Doc. Rest in Power Dr. Leon D. Finney,” Mbombock Lambe wrote.