For more than 50 years, Rev. Shelvin Jerome Hall shepherded his flock as pastor of Austin’s Friendship Baptist Church, 5200 W. Jackson. In less than a week after losing his wife Lucy, Rev. Hall died on Monday after suffering cardiac arrest. He was 91 years old.
Hall retired from the pulpit last November, preaching his final sermon at Friendship.
Hall was a prominent church leader in Chicago and during the civil rights era, brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Chicago to help in his fight for fair housing. King spoke at Hall’s church despite threats of violence.
Hall was also instrumental in helping the West Side survive the aftermath of the 1968 riots following King’s assassination.
“The work I did with Dr. King was certainly one of the highlights of my career at the church,” Hall would later say.
Hall died at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park just 20 days after the death of his wife of 62 years, Lucy, who was 89. She was known as the “first lady of Friendship. Mrs. Hall died from compilations of a stroke.
“She set the standard for ‘first ladies’ in the state,” said her daughter Shelvin Louis Hall, an Illinois Appellate judge, to local media after her mother’s death.
The Hall’s led Friendship Church for 51 years. They married in 1944, and a year later, Rev. Hall would paster his first church in Texas. The couple later settled in Chicago in 1955. Rev. Hall became pastor of Friendship that same year. Before taking over, the church, then located at Ada and State, was facing bankruptcy and on the verge of closing. Hall worked to improve the churches finances, which led the church to move to a new location near Damen and Washington before eventually relocating to Jackson and Laramie.
In 2005, members of his congregation threw a special 50th anniversary celebration for Hall. More than 200 family members, friends, congregation members and elected officials attended.
Congregation member Janet Jamieson said of Hall at the time, “He is very open-minded. He treats everyone he meets with such a level of respect and dignity that he makes all those who meet him want to be better people. That is the legacy he will forever have a Friendship Baptist.”
Hall was born May 3, 1916 in Yoakum, Texas, and graduated Magna cum Laude from Bishop College in Texas. He married Lucy in 1944. That same year, he obtained a degree in high school administration. He later received a divinity degree from Howard University.
Hall was also a founding chairman of Community Bank of Lawndale, a chairman of the Family Division of Chicago Area Boy Scouts and president of Local Redevelopment Authority of Lawndale. He was also president of the NAACP Westside Branch, president of the Midwest Community Council, and a founding board member of Operation Push.
Mrs. Hall was born Lucy Lewis in 1918 in Cuero, Texas. She graduated magna cum laude from Samuel Houston College and completed graduate study at Prairie View College.
The couple had three children: Shelvin Louise Hall, Priscilla Hall, a New York State Supreme Court justice, and Lewis Hall, a supervisor with the New York Department of Education. Priscilla and Shelvin Louise are the nation’s first African-American sister judges.
Funeral services for Rev. Hall is Saturday May 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Friendship, 5200 W. Jackson. Visitations take place Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10. A tribute takes place Friday from 6-8 p.m.
For more information call Mrs. Booker at 773/227-8478.
Delores McCain contributed to this article.