Civil rights pioneer Wyatt dies at 88

Rev. Dr. Claude Wyatt, founding pastor of Vernon Park Church of God

April 15, 2010 9:08:27 PM PDT
Chicago civil rights pioneer Rev. Dr. Claude Wyatt, founding pastor of Vernon Park Church of God, died Sunday. He was 88.

A personal friend of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Wyatt served as Chicago director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) Ministerial Leadership Training Program. He was also a board memner of People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH) and an organizer of Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH.

Additionally, Wyatt was a constituent for urban ministries for the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, a former member of the Chicago Baptist Institute, and a member of the Chicago Urban League.

He served as a resource to many religious, community and business groups, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, Mayor Harold Washington, Senator Paul Simon, John Johnson, Cook County Board President John Stroger, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others.

DuSable High School classmate Timuel Black says his desire to serve was evident early on.

"He was always a very generous, soft spoken but a person who had a sense of direction and a spirituality helped inspire people," said Prof. Black.

In his political activities, Wyatt aided in the careers of various national figures including Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.

During his more than 40 years of service, Wyatt worked as an educator, counselor, activist and outreach worker. He lived on Chicago's "Skid Row" for a time as part of special training to become an urban pastor, and worked to take men and women off of the street and get them working, whether in the ministry or other professions.

"We will miss him. He was an example in every kind of way," said Rev. Willie Barrow, Rainbow Push chairperson emeritus.

Rev. Barrow says two days before Wyatts passing, they had just signed paperwork to begin the process of building a school and education center.

Wyatt is survived by Dr. Addie Wyatt, his wife of 69 years, his son Claude, and his three generations of grandchildren. A memorial service for Wyatt will be held Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. He will lie in state on Monday, April 19, 2010 from 10:00 am - 6:00 p.m. Funeral Services are scheduled or Monday, April 19th at 7:00 p.m. All services are being held at Vernon Park Church of God at 9011 South Stony Island Avenue in Chicago.