SEATTLE - One of Seattle’s prominent civil right leaders, Reverend Doctor Samuel B. McKinney passed away at 91-years-old on Saturday.
He was a long-time pastor at Seattle’s historic Mount Zion Baptist Church. Sunday services at the church took a pause for the sounding of bells, 43 times in honor of the 43 years Rev. Dr. McKinney served at Mount Zion.
“He was a giant in this community,” said Juanita Riddick, a member of the congregation at Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Riddick joined the congregation in 1972. She says she’ll always remember the reverend’s sense of humor and how he had a way of making people feel like they belonged. “I would come sometimes and sometimes I wouldn’t, and when I would come back he would say ‘I missed you.’ And I thought, ‘you don’t even know me,’ but he’d say ‘I know where you sit.’”
McKinney came to Seattle from Flint, Michigan and to Mount Zion in 1958.
“He cared for so many people’s needs,” said Eddie Rye Jr. who was baptized by McKinney.
The church’s congregation more than tripled under the reverend’s leadership.
“I think I was in the first group he baptized,” said Rye.
He says he remembers McKinney standing up when a lot of people felt like they couldn’t.
"There’s a period of time in Seattle if a black person spoke up too vociferously you could lose your job, something could happen to their kids. That kind of covert racism was here,” said Rye.
Reverend McKinney’s leadership helped pass open house legislation in 1968. He was a tireless advocate for social justice and a proponent of economic development.
Q13 News talked with the reverend just two weeks ago.
“We did make progress, I think Seattle is a better place because of what we did,” said Rev. Dr. McKinney.
McKinney was a classmate of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior, and organized Dr. King’s only visit to Seattle in 1961.
"He always stood for righteousness, he did,” said Rye about McKinney.
Members of the church say the reverend leaves behind a legacy rooted in the devotion to the black community and passion for his work. McKinney told Q13 News his legacy isn’t one he thought much about.
“I’ve been so busy trying to do those things, I didn’t think of what my legacy would be,” said McKinney.