Retired Catholic priest, civil rights advocate Father George Clements dies at 87

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CHICAGO — Retired Catholic priest George Clements has died. He was 87 years old.

He died at a hospital in Hammond Monday after suffering a stroke and a heart attack in the past month.

Clements was a longtime advocate for civil rights and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Father Clements shocked the world when he adopted a 12-year-old boy in 1980 after an appeal to get others to adopt homeless children fell on deaf ears.

Joey Clements was the first to be adopted, followed by Friday, Stuart and Saint.

“He decided if you guys are going to do it, I will.” Clements said. “Since then, over 400,000 homeless children have been adopted through the program of One Church, One Child.”

Fr. Clements went on to start One Church, One Addict and One Church, One Inmate to help end recidivism. But his activism began long before that.

He worked in the Civil Rights Movement mentoring another young activist priest, Fr. Michael Pfleger.

“We got a lot of criticism for what we did because it’s not the typical priest,” Pfleger said.

Pfleger said he made black catholics proud when they felt excluded and ignored. 

He always had an open door, even back in 1969 when police raided the Black Panther’s headquarters, killing leader Fred Hampton.

He was the pastor of Holy Angels Parish for many years, but the Chicago Archdiocese had him step away from the ministry in August following an allegation of sexual abuse back in 1974.

His son believes Clements will be exonerated.

“The truth will eventually come out,” Clements said. “I do believe my father will be exonerated  on all these charges.”

DCFS said it closed the investigation, noting that the agency can only investigate a current child victim and cannot look into past claims of abuse.

Fr. Clements’ body will be donated to science. A memorial service for Clements will be held at St. Sabina Church on Jan. 26.

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