Tribute to former ABSW Board member Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney (1926-2018)

April 11, 2018 ~ Meagan Wood

Dr Samuel Berry McKinney

Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney, pastor, author, and civil rights leader in the Seattle, WA area, died on April 7, 2018, he was 91.

Dr. McKinney, born to and raised by Rev. Wade Hampton McKinney (himself an activist) and Ruth Berry McKinney in Flint, MI and Cleveland, OH went on to become a pre-eminent civil rights leader and pastor in Seattle, WA.  McKinney attended Morehouse College, where he was persuaded by then president, Benjamin Mays, to leave his original path toward civil rights law and shift to ministry.  From Morehouse he went on to study at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, where he studied with student colleague Martin Luther King, Jr.

McKinney served as pastor of Olney Street Baptist church in Providence, RI between 1955 and 1958, after which he became pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Seattle, WA.  McKinney pastored Mt. Zion Baptist Church for 40 years (1958-1998) during which he fostered numerous institutions and programs that assisted the black community, including: The Mt. Zion Baptist Church Credit Union, Liberty Bank, the Seattle Opportunity Industrialization Center, an elderly and working poor housing complex, a pre-school and kindergarten, and an ethnic school.

During the 1960s McKinney became one of the most influential voices for civil rights in the Seattle area participating in demonstrations for equality in housing, employment and education.  In 1965 he marched from Selma to Montgomery as part of the Voting Rights march that motivated the U.S. Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. His activism continued well into the 80s.  In 1985 McKinney was arrested for protesting apartheid at the South African consul’s home in Seattle.

From 1999-2007 Dr. McKinney served as a prominent member of the ABSW Board of Trustees.  In 2003 he was the ABSW graduation speaker.  The title of his sermon was “Mandate for Ministry in Century 21.”  As was expected, McKinney charged the class of 2003 to enact social justice ministries.

The ABSW community remembers Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney with great fondness and admiration for his service to church and community. His life and ministry serve as a model for the next generation of pastors and faith based community leaders.