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Christopher Seward, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: SCLC leader Howard Creecy Jr. remembered as ‘brother, friend’

SCLC leader Howard Creecy Jr. remembered as ‘brother, friend’ 
by Christopher Seward, August 6, 2011

“Creecy’s priorities were education, voting rights and HIV/AIDS awareness”

SCLC President Howard Creecy Jr., 57, was remembered Saturday as a “spiritual giant” during a funeral that attracted civil rights leaders and dignitaries from across the nation.

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young urged mourners at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church in northwest Atlanta to “celebrate the wonderful spirit of this spiritual giant that we all love.”

“Howard Creecy is not gone,” said Young, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “He will be with you when you need him. You will hear his voice.”

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s seventh president, who took over leadership in January, died at his home in Atlanta on July 28. His family believes the Rev. Creecy, pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church in Fayetteville, suffered a heart attack.

An overflow of mourners packed Saturday’s funeral at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church on Fairburn Road.

“You see folks from all walks of life here, right now, saying goodbye and farewell and honoring a guy who touched many, many people in very dynamic ways,” said Maynard Eaton of the SCLC.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) called Creecy “an unbelievable brother, a friend, a neighbor.”

The Rev. Gregory Sutton, a lifelong friend and pastor at Jackson Memorial, said Saturday’s service was a celebration of the Rev. Creecy’s life as a minister, civil rights leader and family man.

“He’s had an impact on so many people from so many places,” the Rev. Sutton said. “He was a preacher’s preacher.”

For 26 years, the Rev. Creecy, a third-generation preacher, was senior pastor at St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta before joining his father, Howard W. Creecy Sr., at Olivet Baptist Church in 2002. He became pastor at Olivet when the elder Creecy died in 2008.

The Morehouse College graduate was already SCLC interim president when he took over permanently on Jan. 30. The organization was founded in 1957, in the aftermath of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and others.

The Rev. Creecy stepped in after King’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, declined the top post. After months of turmoil over leadership and finances within the organization, the Rev. Creecy was seen as a stabilizing force who could take the 54-year-old organization forward and put it on sounder footing.

Damien Conners, who is in charge of programming for SCLC, said the Rev. Creecy’s priorities were education, voting rights and HIV/AIDS awareness. He also wanted to make the group relevant to young people.

After the Rev. Creecy’s death, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., a nephew of Martin Luther King Jr. and the son of his only surviving sibling, Christine King Farris, was named interim president, the SCLC said.

At Saturday’s funeral, Farris said the Rev. Creecy “made you happier while asking for nothing in return.”

The SCLC is continuing to make plans for its annual convention Aug. 14-16 in Atlanta.

The eulogy was delivered by the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta. Burial followed Saturday’s service at Westview Cemetery on Martin Luther King Drive.

The Rev. Creecy is survived by his wife, Yolanda Grier Creecy, and two daughters, Teresa and Kennedy.

— Channel 2 Action News contributed to this report.

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