By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Visitation services for Henry L. English, founder, president & CEO of the Black United Fund Inc. (BUFI), will be held on Tuesday, March 15, from 6-9 p.m. at the Leak and Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove.
English’s wake will be held on Wednesday, March 16 at 10 a.m, followed by the funeral service at 11a.m. at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester. All services will be held in Chicago.
The Cook County Examiner’s office stated the cause of his death is “pending.” English was taken to Northwestern Hospital where he was pronounced dead last weekend after a car accident on Lake Shore Drive and 63rd Street. He was killed while on his way to do campaign work for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on March 5.
His untimely death was a shock to family, friends and civil rights partners like Fr. Michael L. Pfleger, pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, who has marched with English many times and called him a “giant, uncompromising man.”
Justen Chatonda, 36, stated English was headed to State Rep. Ken Dunkin’s office, 2907 S. Wabash, where Clinton workers were waiting for him. “I came into the office about 8:30 a.m. Saturday. They told us Mr. English had passed away around 8 a.m.
“I am devastated because he did a lot for my family. He was a mentor to me and changed my life in a lot of ways. I am hurt about it, but I know he would want us to keep our spirits high and continue his work, his legacy. He was a father figure to me, and I will miss him a lot.”
Justin’s mother, Rosita Chatonda, who was also at last year’s budget protest, said, “He taught us all what we need to know. He worked with our children, and we will carry forth his legacy. He was a dear friend. He will be missed, but he did all he could do. They don’t make men like that anymore.”
Professor Dr. Conrad Worrill, director of the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University, was shaken by the sudden death of his friend and fellow activist.
“He was a life-long friend and fellow movement colleague, and we worked together in the movement for over 50 years,” Worrill said. “We were working on a GOTV strategy for this weekend. We were doing some work for the Clinton campaign for this weekend. He was in the movement right to the very end.”
Worrill said English’s death “is a tremendous loss. I have not felt this way since Fred Hampton was assassinated, and Fred Hampton, Henry and Bobby Rush were all friends. This is quite a loss.”
Another long-time friend of English, Professor Robert Starks, said, “English is the founder and anchor of the Black United Fund of Illinois. He was a great person; a technician…had an MBA. He was quite a gentleman, a scholar and a great leader.”
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. issued a statement saying, “Chicago has lost a giant and champion of social justice with the death of Henry English, president and CEO of the Black United Fund of Illinois.
“This huge and sudden loss of a man who has given so much to the people of Chicago puts a tremendous burden on the living to continue his work of philanthropy and community building,” said Jackson. “But the work must continue. I want to express my profound condolences to his family and many, many friends. Henry will be deeply missed and forever remembered.”
Pfleger, who on February 3, 2015 marched with English at the Thompson Center protesting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget cuts, said, “Henry is one of Chicago’s giants.” Both Pfleger and English’s youth summer programs were cut by Rauner.
“Mr. English,” said Pfleger, “has been a consistent voice for justice, fairness and equity. His loss is a loss for all Chicago…a loss for the vulnerable communities he fought for and for those who he continued to be a conscience for. He was consistent and uncompromising in his quest for justice.”
Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) said she will miss English, especially his trips to Springfield to support her summer youth program.
“He would apply extra pressure on me because he was one of the few people who inquired about it and rolled up his sleeves to get it done.” Hunter said
She went on to say she will introduce a $20 million summer program bill that will be named after English. “It would employ 10,000 youth.” Hunter said this was an idea of Jack Wuest, executive director of the Alternative Schools Network.
Former Alderman Dorothy Tillman said English’s death “is painful. There is a great hole in the Black community. He dedicated his life to Black people. I am so hurt. Our Black community has lost someone who gave so much of himself, always fighting on behalf of our community. I will miss him.”
Phil Jackson, president and CEO of the Black Star Project, said he knew English for more than 20 years. “There weren’t enough people like him in the city of Chicago who were willing to work and help with other people.”
Having known English for 30 years, Florence Cox, president of the WE CAN, Inc. Committee and former president of the Chicago Board of Education, said, “I’ve always known him to be someone who cared about the plight of the people and the children; a person who was always ready to do something to make it better for everybody.”
Michael Ivy, CEO of Camel Walk Productions, said, “I have known Mr. English since 1991. He was a fantastic guy. I was brought up to respect my elders. I was working on my master’s at UIC when I met him. He was so approachable and very open-minded.”
Spencer Leak, Jr., vice president of Leak and Sons Funeral Home, said, “I knew him. My dad and I were the first recipients of the ‘Passing of the Torch’ award in 2002 held at the DuSable Museum. Our hearts and prayers are with his family.”
English was born on May 27, 1942 in West Point, Mississippi to Flozell and Julie Pearl (Smith) English. As head of BUFI, English fought numerous community battles and played a key role in saving and transforming the South Shore Country Club into the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive.
He also helped reorganize the South Shore High School into four small schools. At the time of his death, he was working on developing the new South Shore International College Prep High School. His motto was “help people help themselves.”
Before coming to BUFI, English was a leader of the National Black United Fund movement in America. He was also assistant director of development at the Kittrell College in North Carolina from 1974 to 1975. From 1975-77, he served as assistant administrator at Jackson Park Hospital in Chicago and was director of planning and marketing at the South Chicago Hospital from 1977-85. From 1977-79, he served as co-chair of the United Black Voters of Illinois.
English is survived by his wife, Denise Tulloch English, and children: Nkrumah, Kenya, Jumaane, and Kalmilah. Following the funeral service, he will be buried at Oakridge Cemetery in Hillside, IL.