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Retired Chicago Priest Known for Civil Rights Activism Dies

Clements, who earlier this year was the target of an investigation on abuse allegations, had suffered a stroke within the last month and his health has since been declining, a spokesperson said

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NBC Chicago

Retired Chicago priest Father George Clements — famous for marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and being the first Catholic priest to adopt a child – passed away Monday, according to a family spokesperson.

Clements, who earlier this year was the target of an investigation on abuse allegations, had suffered a stroke within the last month and his health has since been declining, the spokesperson said. He was 87 years old.

Clements served as pastor of Holy Angels from 1969 until 1991. He retired in 2006. Clements also worked in the ministries at St. Ambrose Parish in Kenwood, St. Dorothy Parish in Greater Grand Crossing, St. Sabina Parish in Auburn Gresham, as well as ministries in Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas.

In August, he was accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970s and was asked by Cardinal Blasé Cupich “to step aside from ministry” pending the outcome of an investigation into the claim. Clements said at the time the accusation was “totally unfounded.”

Clements had a knack for making news throughout much of his career.

Active in the civil rights movement, Clements marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi and was arrested.

In 1980, Clements became the first Catholic priest to adopt a child. He would adopt three more.

His career inspired a made-for-TV movie in 1987, “The Father Clements Story,” starring Louis Gossett Jr. as Clements.

At Holy Angels, he suspended 200 students after their parents reneged on promises to attend Mass, and he led protest marches against drug paraphernalia shops that led to another arrest.

In 1945, Clements became the first African American graduate of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary.

"Father Clements was a great product of the Catholic Church. He was a friend of the rejected, the dispossessed and those whose backs were against the wall," Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a statement. "Father Clements marched for jobs, healthcare and justice. Our loss is heaven’s gain." 

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