Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot paid tribute to the late Reverend Clay Evans on Thursday, a day after the influential civil rights activist passed away at the age of 94.
Evans, who founded the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in 1950 and was the Founding National Board Chairman of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was honored by the mayor as a “giant among faith leaders” and a staunch supporter of the city’s South Side.
“Amy and I are very saddened by the passing of Rev. Clay Evans, a giant among Chicago’s faith leaders and a stalwart of our city’s South Side,” Lightfoot said in a social media post. “Over the course of his incredible five-decade career leading the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Evans tirelessly sought to uplift the lives of his parishioners and fellow residents through service and support.
“As Rev. Evans would often say, ‘it is no secret what God can do,’ and his life was proof of that. Our prayers are with his family, friends and the entire faith community mourning his loss,” she added.
Rep. Bobby Rush said in a statement that Evans' death "has left us all with yet another unimaginable loss."
“Although we may stumble about blindly, trying to center our balance in the midst of our hurt and pain, we are comforted by Scripture, which teaches us: ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,’” Rush said in a statement.
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Evans a "religious and civil rights leader who called for the best in our humanity."
"When he spoke, his voice was heard in Chicago & echoed across America, & we are a better city & nation for it," Emanuel wrote on Twitter. "My deepest condolences to his family and all those whom he loved & served."
Evans’ death comes in the same week as the death of retired Chicago priest and civil rights activist George Clements.