Funeral Mass Held For Father George Clements, Famed Chicago Priest

Jennifer Keiper
December 28, 2019 - 2:03 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Family and friends gathered Saturday at Holy Angels Catholic Church on the South Side to celebrate the life of Father George Clements, who led parishioners there for 22 years.  Clements, a civil rights activist who marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died on Nov. 25 at the age of 87.

A black Roman Catholic priest, Clements became famous when he adopted a black child and hoped his example would encourage others to adopt black children. He's the first Roman Catholic priest to adopt a child and would go on to adopt three more children. 

Clements' civil rights and social justice activism inspired a television movie about his career. "The Father George Clements Story," which starred Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. as Clements and Malcolm-Jamal Warner of "The Cosby Show" fame as his adopted son Joey, premiered on NBC in 1987.

Those who knew him, like Holy Angel parishioner Pierre Watkins, said goodbye during the service. 

"He was giving. He was loving. Anybody who knew him and was around him would say the same thing," Watkins said. 

Clements helped create programs to support African-Americans within the church and started programs to help drug addicts and incarcerated people and their families.

Funeral Mass held for Father George Clements.
Jennifer Keiper/ WBBM

"The biggest thing that I remember about Uncle George is that he was always giving. He would give his last dollar to anybody who needed it," said Gerald Clements, Clements' nephew. 

Last August, Clements was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1974. He denied the allegation, but Cardinal Blase Cupich asked him to step aside from the ministry while the charges were investigated.

"DCFS conducted an investigation and came back with results that the accusations were totally unfounded and, then, we're just waiting for the archdiocese to do their final report," said Chicago attorney Michael Joyce, who attended the mass.  

Clements is survived by his four sons, a sister, 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. 

Funeral Mass held for Father George Clements.
Jennifer Keiper/ WBBM