A long­time political power player, S. Side pas­tor hon­ored for work in com­mu­nity de­spite al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY STE­FANO ESPOSITO AND RACHEL HINTON Staff Re­porters

Ja­cob Blake pleaded not guilty Fri­day to charges filed in a do­mes­tic in­ci­dent that al­legedly took place nearly two months be­fore he was shot by a Kenosha po­lice of­fi­cer, lead­ing to protests and civil un­rest.

An ar­rest war­rant for Blake was is­sued July 7 on a felony count of third-de­gree sex­ual as­sault as well as mis­de­meanor charges of dis­or­derly con­duct and tres­pass­ing.

There is no in­di­ca­tion the war­rant has any­thing to do with the in­ci­dent on Aug. 23, when po­lice shot Blake in the back at least seven times.

Blake, who re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized and ap­peared at the hear­ing via Zoom, was re­leased on his own re­cog­ni­zance. Kenosha County Court Com­mis­sioner Loren Keat­ing or­dered Blake to have no vi­o­lent con­tact with the al­leged vic­tim or her chil­dren. Keat­ing also or­dered that Blake not pos­sess a vi­o­lent weapon and that he stay

in Wis­con­sin un­less seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment out­side the state. Clare Proc­tor Charges filed against man shot by Cook County Sher­iff’s po­lice

Durell Foster, 28, who was shot by Cook County Sher­iff ’s po­lice while run­ning from a traf­fic stop Wednes­day on the South­west Side, faces mul­ti­ple felony charges.

He was charged with ag­gra­vated as­sault of a peace of­fi­cer, un­law­ful use of a weapon and pos­ses­sion of a sub­stance, Chicago po­lice said Fri­day.

Af­ter au­thor­i­ties pulled over Foster’s ve­hi­cle near Stick­ney, he al­legedly drove off, aban­doned his car in an al­ley and ran. One of­fi­cer saw him grab a gun, and an­other fired shots, the sher­iff ’s of­fice said.

Foster was struck twice and was hos­pi­tal­ized in good con­di­tion.

The Rev. Leon Fin­ney Jr., “an or­ga­nizer’s or­ga­nizer” lauded for be­ing “on the front line of change through­out the land,” died Fri­day morn­ing. He was 82.

A long­time power player in Chicago pol­i­tics, Dr., Rev. Fin­ney died at the Univer­sity of Chicago Med­i­cal Cen­ter af­ter a “long-term ill­ness,” N’DIGO pub­lisher Hermene Hart­man, a close friend, con­firmed to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., called Rev. Fin­ney “an or­ga­nizer’s or­ga­nizer who was on the front line of change through­out the land.” The pas­tor’s fin­ger­prints were “on the throt­tle of change in our city,” Rush said.

“He was my close con­fi­dant, col­league, and con­fed­er­ate, and was also my pro­fes­sor at the McCormick The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, where he founded the African Amer­i­can Lead­er­ship Pro­gram, which was re­spon­si­ble for the train­ing of in­nu­mer­able African Amer­i­can pas­tors in re­ceiv­ing their mas­ter de­grees,” Rush said in a state­ment. “We have re­mained very close through­out the years and in re­cent times, espe­cially as he was un­der­go­ing these health chal­lenges. He was an ab­so­lute friend and an in­spi­ra­tion.”

Last year, a spokesman for Rev. Fin­ney said the rev­erend suf­fered “crit­i­cal car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease” in 2016. He had open-heart surgery in June 2017. He had a “health care emer­gency” in

Oc­to­ber 2018 and was ad­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of Chicago for a “crit­i­cal life-threat­en­ing [in­fec­tion],” the spokesman said at the time.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jack­son lauded Rev. Fin­ney’s work in The Wood­lawn Or­ga­ni­za­tion, of­ten ab­bre­vi­ated as TWO, which “brought new houses, big de­vel­op­ments and busi­nesses to the area.”

“A tall tree in the for­est has fallen,” Jack­son said. “He was an or­ga­nizer for my 1988 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and for Carol Mose­ley Braun and Barack Obama. Leon also had an en­trepreneur­ial spirit, fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps.”

Born in Louise, Mis­sis­sippi, Rev. Fin­ney is the son of Leon Fin­ney Sr., cre­ator of the famed Leon’s Bar-B-Q.

Leon Fin­ney Jr. fol­lowed a dif­fer­ent path. He joined TWO in the 1960s un­der the men­tor­ship of the leg­endary or­ga­nizer Saul Alin­sky — revered as the fa­ther of modern com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing — and Bishop Arthur Bra­zier, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and built the Apos­tolic Church of God in Wood­lawn.

Rev. Fin­ney founded Christ Apos­tolic Church and served as its pas­tor un­til that church merged with Metropoli­tan Apos­tolic Com­mu­nity Church, 4100 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., where he served as se­nior pas­tor, ac­cord­ing to a post on the church’s Face­book page an­nounc­ing his death.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, se­nior pas­tor of St. Sabina Church, said Rev. Fin­ney was “one of the few pas­tors who still un­der­stood that jus­tice was the DNA of the gospel.”

“Dr. Fin­ney’s rich his­tory with TWO and the Wood­lawn area, along with Bishop Bra­zier left a deep im­print in that area,” Pfleger said. “He tried to be vo­cal about is­sues that af­fected the South Side and poor peo­ple.”

He also built a real es­tate em­pire on Chicago’s South Side and amassed political power while hob­nob­bing with politi­cians like Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Richard M. Da­ley and Toni Preck­win­kle.

He cut his teeth fight­ing slum­lords and the Univer­sity of Chicago’s ex­pan­sion plans in the 1960s.

He once gar­nered praise from politi­cians and ap­point­ments to pow­er­ful govern­ment boards, in­clud­ing spots on the Chicago Plan Com­mis­sion, Chicago State Univer­sity and the CHA.

Sec­re­tary of State Jesse White called Rev. Fin­ney a “good man who made a great con­tri­bu­tion to making Chicago a bet­ter place.

“He was a strong voice for the dis­ad­van­taged and I am sorry to hear of his pass­ing. It is a ma­jor loss for the peo­ple of Chicago,” White said in a state­ment.

Though Rev. Fin­ney gained the re­spect of some peers, he had also been dogged for decades by in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing and mis­man­age­ment.

His non­profit, the Wood­lawn Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Corp, filed for bank­ruptcy two years ago.

Last year, the judge in that bank­ruptcy case said she was “ap­palled” by Rev. Fin­ney’s con­duct at Wood­lawn as she be­gan to un­ravel its tan­gled fi­nances and what Rev. Fin­ney knew about them. At a hear­ing in Fe­bru­ary 2019, U.S. Bank­ruptcy Judge Carol A. Doyle ac­cused the or­ga­ni­za­tion in one in­stance of “at least malfea­sance.”

“He was one of the stal­warts of the com­mu­nity. He was al­ways there to help peo­ple out, and not just as a min­is­ter,” political com­men­ta­tor Cliff Kelley said.

“I worked with Leon for years, po­lit­i­cally. He was one of the great­est folks at re­solv­ing prob­lems,” Kelley added. “We used to have meet­ings long be­fore he had the church, and he wanted to put things to­gether for the bet­ter­ment of ev­ery­one. I was sur­prised he be­came a min­is­ter; he was al­ways a busi­ness­man and po­lit­i­cally ac­tive. And don’t for­get when you’re talk­ing about busi­ness, the new Leon’s on 63rd was very suc­cess­ful. At times you couldn’t get in be­cause the lines were out the door.”

The Rev. Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Bi­ble Church and Lead­ers Net­work of Chicago, said: “It’s a tall oak in the for­est that has fallen. There’s a side to Pas­tor Leon Fin­ney that many peo­ple don’t know; he was a great men­tor. There was a time in the ’90s when he pulled to­gether a plethora of pas­tors he per­son­ally men­tored and got them more the­o­log­i­cal train­ing. Some­one now must step up to the plate and try to con­tinue men­tor­ing oth­ers.”

Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., called Rev. Fin­ney “a main­stay in African Amer­i­can Life in Chicago and through­out Amer­ica for the past 50 years” and “a bril­liant or­ga­nizer who helped to build The Wood­lawn Or­ga­ni­za­tion into a Com­mu­nity Pow­er­house.”

Davis added that Rev. Fin­ney “ex­celled in many ca­reers: he was a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, stud­ied the­ol­ogy and be­came a min­is­ter, or­ga­nized and de­vel­oped a suc­cess­ful church, and taught the­ol­ogy at the McCormick The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. He was po­lit­i­cally ac­tive and in­volved and could al­ways be counted on to bring crowds to a rally or meet­ing.”

Otis Mon­roe, of The Mon­roe Foun­da­tion, called him a “great friend.”

“I’ll miss phys­i­cally talk­ing to him, but [he] will con­tinue in my heart and in spirit. He was a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer who kept our con­ver­sa­tions raw and real, and made sure I was get­ting the mes­sage,” Kelley said.

“Dur­ing a talk we had a month ago about the demon­stra­tions go­ing on, he asked, ‘What’s the strat­egy go­ing for­ward? Is a voter regis­trar march­ing with you next time?’ He was also look­ing ahead and wanted oth­ers to see that it’s not just about march­ing.”

The Rev. Mar­shall Hatch, se­nior pas­tor of New Mount Pil­grim Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church, at­trib­uted much of his suc­cess to the African Amer­i­can Lead­er­ship Part­ner­ship, a the­o­log­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram cre­ated by Rev. Fin­ney.

“Truly, Dr. Fin­ney’s im­pact will be on­go­ing,” Hatch said in a state­ment.

“We are well aware that Dr. Fin­ney had fault lines along the way. Very few of our longdis­tance run­ners in com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and so­cial jus­tice make it through life with­out scars and de­trac­tors . ... A great man has fallen in­deed, but we as his liv­ing legacy are left with the task to carry on the work.”

Sur­vivors in­clude: daugh­ter and son-in­law, Kristin Fin­ney-Cooke and Dr. Ger­ald Cooke; three grand­chil­dren. Ar­range­ments are pend­ing.

Ja­cob Blake


The Rev. Leon Fin­ney Jr. at­tended the Rain­bow PUSH Coali­tion’s 30th an­nual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Schol­ar­ship Break­fast in Jan­uary.

The Rev. Leon Fin­ney Jr. was se­nior pas­tor of Metropoli­tan Apos­tolic Com­mu­nity Church in Bronzevill­e.


Fin­ney’s fa­ther opened the famed Leon’s Bar-B-Q.


The Rev. Leon Fin­ney Jr. lis­tens as then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks in De­cem­ber 2017.

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