The death of the Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney is a loss that reaches far beyond Mount Zion Baptist Church, where he was the historic church’s longest-serving pastor.

Share story

Seattle has lost a giant.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney, the longtime pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church and civil rights leader, died Saturday at age 91.

McKinney’s death is a loss for many more beyond the Mount Zion community, where he was the historic church’s longest serving pastor. He served more than the African-American community, which benefitted from his leadership in many ways, including launching the city’s first black-owned bank. Although he marched in protests from Seattle to Selma, Alabama, and brought his college friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Seattle in 1961, McKinney’s civil rights leadership was only part of his legacy.

He was simply a leader.

Most Read Opinion Stories

Unlimited Digital Access: $1 for 4 weeks

McKinney was a man of conscience and integrity, widely respected throughout the Greater Seattle area for his work in many realms, from civil rights to economic justice to education to interfaith relations.

He was one of the original members of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, was the first African-American president of the Church Council of Greater Seattle and served on the boards of many organizations including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

McKinney also was an enduring friend of the Greater Seattle Jewish community, speaking in favor of peace in the Middle East and encouraging partnerships between his church and local synagogues. In 2009, Temple B’nai Torah of Bellevue honored McKinney with its Hero of Faith Award.

Although he retired from Mount Zion in 1998, he never retired from his advocacy work. Less than a week before his death, McKinney helped commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination as the honorary chair of an event at Mount Zion.

McKinney will be remembered for generations to come as a leader who showed how to bring people together to make a difference for the good of the community.