Civil-rights leader the Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney dies

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/11/18)—The Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney, 91, a civil-rights leader; pastor emeritus at Mount Zion Baptist Church, Seattle; and supporter of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ publishing ministry, Judson Press, died April 7 at an assisted-living center in Seattle. He was married to the late Louise (Jones) McKinney for 59 years.

He was pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church for more than 40 years before retiring in 1998. Under his leadership, the congregation grew from 800 to more than 2,500, making Mount Zion the largest black church in Washington state. In 2014, several blocks near the church were renamed “Rev. Dr. S. McKinney Avenue.” He was the first black president of the Church Council of Greater Seattle and a founding member of the National Black Caucus of American Baptist Churches USA. He was known for mentoring aspiring young pastors throughout the United States.

At the forefront of advocacy, McKinney was co-founder and first president of the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center for vocational training and adult skills development. He was a founding member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which won passage of the city’s first fair-housing act. He led construction of the Samuel Berry McKinney Manor for the elderly and working poor. In addition to other civic projects, McKinney helped to launch the city’s first black-owned bank; founded a daycare center and kindergarten; and initiated a scholarship fund.

A charter member of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference—a nonprofit organization that engages African-American faith leaders in social justice issues—the group honored him with its “Beautiful Are Their Feet” award in 2006 for his significant contributions to social justice.

In the 1960s, McKinney participated in civil-rights demonstrations in Seattle and across the United States, including the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965. In 1961, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Seattle at the request of McKinney, his college classmate. McKinney was arrested for protesting apartheid outside the South African consulate in Seattle in 1985. At age 86, McKinney continued to address injustice, speaking at a prayer vigil for Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen who was fatally shot in Florida in 2012.

“We have not reached heaven yet,” McKinney said. “We do not live in a nonracist society. … We have to tell the truth, whether we like it or not.”

Born Dec. 28, 1926, he was a son of the late Rev. Wade Hampton McKinney and Ruth (Berry) McKinney.

McKinney served in the Air Force during World War II. He earned a doctorate of ministry degree and master of divinity degree at what is now known as Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y., and a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College, Atlanta.

A faithful supporter of Judson Press, McKinney received the Judson Press Ministry Award in 2009. He co-authored “Church Administration in the Black Perspective,” a classic reference manual that remains popular. It was one of two books published in 1976 that launched Judson Press’ acclaimed genre of books for the African-American church. Judson Press will contribute 2018 proceeds from the sales of the revised edition of the book to the “Friends of Judson,” a fund that provides practical resources to graduating seminarians.

“In addition to his writing for Judson Press, Dr. McKinney maintained a long and continuous relationship with members of the board of directors, executive directors and staff of ABHMS,” says ABHMS and Judson Press Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. “Sitting beside Dr. McKinney during the National Black Caucus dinner during the recent Mission Summit in Portland was my last occasion for conversation and fellowship with Dr. McKinney. His mind was sharp, and his dedication to American Baptist mission and ministry remained strong. We will miss him dearly.”

Survivors: Daughters, Dr. Lora-Ellen McKinney and Rhoda McKinney-Jones.

Services: To be announced.

 American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.