Father George Clements reflects on 60 years of service and activism

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Celebrating 60 years in the priesthood, Father George Clements has led a unique journey of faith, activism and philanthropy. (WLS)

Celebrating 60 years in the priesthood, Father George Clements has led a unique journey of faith, activism and philanthropy.

The 85-year-old priest was the first African-American graduate of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, the first black priest at Holy Angels Catholic Church and even had a movie made based on his life.

When asked what his greatest achievement over the last 60 years is, Clements gestured to the photo of his four sons hanging on the wall.

"I'm proud of the fact that I adopted those youngsters and none of them are in jail or on drugs or anything and they have really made me very, very proud," he said.

His adoptions are just one of many things that make his legacy unique.

He launched three programs: One Church, One Child; One Church, One Addict; and One Church, One Inmate.

Clements is also known for his activism during the Civil Rights Movement, but the memories of his time spent with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are not what you would expect.

The memories that really stand out the most with King are the ones that center on his personality.

"Very few people know that he was a pool shark. He was very good and talked trash and he would come into Chicago and wanted to know where the nearest pool hall was, so he really impressed me for being a man who really knew how to become involved with people and get into their concerns and so forth," he said.

Clements was also one of the first to welcome former President Barack Obama to Chicago, but he never imagined Obama would one day be the President of the United States.

"I thought how can somebody with a crazy name like that ever become popular!" he said. "And I just think you know Barack Obama wow! He defied all the odds he didn't let that stop him."

As he celebrates more than a half century in the priesthood, he said things in the church are changing for the better and he has no plans of slowing down.

"I have all eternity to rest. I'm not about to rest I'm going to keep on keeping on," he said.

There is a celebration Wednesday night in his honor at the Hilton Chicago starting at 6 p.m.

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Clements was also one of the first to welcome former President Barack Obama to Chicago, but he never imagined Obama would one day be the President of the United States.

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