Memorial plans set for Rev. Samuel McKinney, late Seattle civil rights leader

SEATTLE — Memorial service plans are now set for an iconic champion of civil rights in Seattle.

Family members have set the memorial date for Tuesday, May 8, to remember Reverend Samuel McKinney.

The lifelong friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior spent 40 years at the pulpit of Mount Zion Baptist Church.

After he died over the weekend, his daughter told KIRO 7 she was overwhelmed by the supportive messages on social media.

The memorial for Reverend McKinney is at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 8, at Seattle's McCaw Hall.

KIRO 7 will livestream the memorial online for those who cannot attend.

Read about Reverend McKinney's life below.

Reverend Samuel Berry McKinney, who served as a pastor of Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church from 1958 until 1998, passed away at age 91. Scroll down to read about McKinney's life in an essay from HistoryLink.

Seattle Council President Bruce A. Harrell released the below statement after receiving word of the passing of Rev. McKinney:

"Seattle lost a great leader today with the passage of Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney.  I've always known Rev. McKinney as a person who uplifted others and worked tirelessly to advance the development of civil rights for every person, everywhere.

Just a few years ago my Council colleagues and I honored him by recognizing 57 years of service to the church, the city and our community by proclaiming October 18, 2015 Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney Day.

Rev. McKinney served at great sacrifice to himself and his family and went far beyond the call of duty to the residents of Seattle.  His courage allowed others to draw enough strength to continue climbing toward the promise land where the scales of justice work equally for all.

While Seattle has made undeniable progress during his life, in death Dr. McKinney will serve as a constant reminder that securing gains on human rights and civil rights, and when confronting issues of race and social justice, requires constant vigilance, not complacency."

The following is an overview of Rev. McKinney's life in a historylink.org essay from Mary T. Henry

Reverend Samuel Berry McKinney served as pastor of Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church from 1958 until his retirement in 1998, and provided the longest continuous pastorship in the history of the church. (Mount Zion is located at 19th Avenue and E Madison Street.) Rev. McKinney was a civil rights leader as well as a minister and did much to shape the conscience of Seattle.

A Preacher's Son

McKinney was born in Flint, Michigan, on December 28, 1926, to Reverend Wade Hampton McKinney and Ruth Berry McKinney. Young McKinney grew up listening to his father preach, watching him fight discrimination in the Midwestern city, and hearing national leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Walter White, and A. Philip Randolph speak at his father’s church.

Although he had every intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer when he enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, a deep inward drive propelled him into the ministry. After serving in the armed forces, he graduated from Morehouse in 1949 and went on to graduate from New York's Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1952. He received his Doctor of Ministry Degree from the Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozier Theological Seminaries (Rochester) in 1975. His book, Church Administration in the Black Perspective (co-authored with Floyd Massey) has gone through numerous printings.

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Mt. Zion Becomes a Major Force in the Community

Before assuming the pastorate at Mount Zion, Reverend McKinney served as pastor of Olney Street Baptist Church in Providence, R.I. When he arrived in Seattle, the congregation at the church at 19th Avenue and E Madison Street numbered 800. Forty years later, as a result of his leadership, the church had more than 2500 members, making it the largest black congregation in the state, a church where political candidates have found it compelling to make a stop. Thousands of people have been fed, clothed, counseled, and educated within the walls of the Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Early on, the community knew of his stance on human rights and civil rights because he caused his voice to be heard not only in the church but in high offices. He worked to sensitize the community to the needs of the less fortunate, both black and white. He soon became the voice of the black community.

In 1961, he convinced his college classmate and friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Seattle for a speaking engagement. Arrangements were made at the First Presbyterian Church, but at the last minute the church cancelled the agreement. The Eagles Auditorium was engaged, and Dr. King spoke there on November 10, 1961, during his only Seattle visit. A reception followed at the Plymouth Congregational Church.

During the 1960s, Reverend McKinney’s civil rights commitment grew even stronger. He marched in the streets of Seattle and, along with the leaders of CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League, pushed for equal job, housing, and educational opportunities. With other black church leaders, he was arrested when protesting apartheid in front of the South African consul’s house. He marched with Dr. King in Washington, D.C. in 1963 and in Selma and Montgomery in 1965. In 1966, Reverend McKinney co-founded the Seattle Opportunity Industrialization Center (SOIC), a private, nonprofit, community-based vocational training center, and served as its first president and chief executive officer.

During his 40 years of leadership at Mount Zion, a new African-inspired sanctuary was built (1975), the first black Protestant church credit union in the Pacific Northwest was founded, a day care center and kindergarten were established, and a scholarship fund which annually awards $20,000 in academic scholarships was instituted. Another legacy is the Samuel Berry McKinney Manor built in 1998, across the street from the church. The residence has 64 units, 40 of which are for low-income residents.

Reverend McKinney was a founder of Liberty Bank, the first black-owned bank in Seattle and was the first black president of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. He has served on the board of the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Washington Mutual Savings Bank. He is a 33rd degree Prince Hall Mason and a member of the Seattle Rotary, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and Sigma Pi Phi Graduate Fraternity.

Click here to read the full essay on Historylink.org.

Samuel B. McKinney (b. 1926)

Ferdinand DeLeon, "When King was in Town," The Seattle Times, January 16, 1994, p.L1, 4; Lily Eng, "Forty years of struggle." The Seattle Times, February 14,1998; Gordy Holt, "House is packed for McKinney's farewell," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 27, 1998, p. B1; Marge Lueders, "Distinguished Cleric to Retire," The Source, February 1998, p.1; Mount Zion Baptist Church, Pastoral Anniversary and 40th Retirement Celebration (Seattle: Mount Zion Baptist Church, 1998); "McKinney, Samuel Berry (1926- )," BlackPast.org website accessed September 19, 2012 (http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aaw/mckinney-samuel-berry-1926-0).
Note: This essay was corrected on August 14, 2006, to correctly state that Rev. McKinney was born in Flint, Michigan, and amended on September 19, 2012, to include his role in founding the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center.