SSA Remembers Bishop Arthur Brazier

Published in the Fall 2010 issue of SSA Magazine

Bishop Arthur M. Brazier, a powerful force for change in the Woodlawn community and a partner with the University of Chicago and SSA, died on October 22, 2010. He was 89.

A prominent leader on civil rights, education, housing and urban development issues, Brazier's influence reached across the South Side, including a long and complex history of relations with the University of Chicago. After serving as a U.S. Army staff sergeant in India and Burma during World War II, he began training for the ministry in 1955, while still a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. In 1960 he became pastor at the Apostolic Church of God, where he eventually became bishop and built a congregation of 22,000. Expressing his condolences, President Barack Obama called Brazier a "dear friend, a stalwart of the city of Chicago and one of our nation's leading moral lights."

Working with legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky, Brazier successfully limited the University's building plans in Woodlawn in the 1960s. But his commitment to the community ultimately led to an array of fruitful partnerships with the University, especially on issues of education, job creation, security and affordable housing. Brazier served as a consultant in the design of the University of Chicago Charter School's Woodlawn campus, which opened in 2006, and recently served as chair of the Woodlawn Children's Promise Community, an effort to improve the quality of children's lives in the Woodlawn community, from birth through college and into their early careers.

"Bishop Brazier is literally among the folks who created community organizing in this country, and he's been a towering civic figure in Chicago," said Charles M. Payne, SSA's Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor and the Woodlawn Children's Promise Community's acting director. "The Woodlawn Organization was a model for a community and a generation."