Chicago Pastor James A. Murphy Sr. Dies at 87

One of the city’s longest-standing pastors served Chicago’s West Side for more than 62 years

Pastor James A. Murphy

James A. Murphy Sr., pastor of Chicago’s Rose of Sharon Community Church, has died after complications from respiratory failure. He is best known as the founder and pastor of Rose of Sharon Community church, where he served as pastor for more than 62 years until his death.

“Pastor Murphy was an institution almost by himself,” said Congressman Danny Davis. “The first gospel radio show I ever listened to in Chicago was Pastor Murphy’s. I turned on the radio and there he was. I and all kinds of other people know his theme song, ‘The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow.’ He was civically engaged and involved and I definitely enjoyed knowing him. Chicago has lost a great citizen.”

Born in Grenada, Mississippi on June 11, 1930, Pastor Murphy’s family moved to the west side of Chicago in 1938, where he built the remainder of his life. He married his wife of 66 years, Lady Clementine Murphy, in 1952 and together they raised five children. He became a successful businessman, owning a number of businesses on the west side of Chicago including: R.O.S. Cleaners, a chain of dry cleaners with 13 locations; The Turning Point Supper Club; Murph’s Place Restaurant and his most notable venture, Century 21 Murphy Real Estate where he was a successful Broker. Many people on the west side would tell you that Pastor Murphy gave them their first jobs.

Most important to him was the founding of Rose of Sharon Mission, eventually becoming Rose of Sharon Community Church, on December 11, 1955 at 3007 W. 5th Avenue. Over the years, the church moved to different locations around the west side of Chicago:

  • 1303 S. Christiana
  • 1333 S. Harding
  • 2950 W. Warren
  • 4256 W. Walton

The church’s reach expanded well beyond the walls of the sanctuary as Rose of Sharon’s live services were broadcast over Chicago’s airwaves for more than 50 years from radio stations WOPA, WVON , V103 and WGCI AM 1390.  In the mid-90s, Pastor Murphy expanded the outreach ministry to include Chicago cable television with the launch of The Lord Will Make A Way telecast. His powerful baritone voice made his theme song a favorite of hundreds, who looked forward to 10:30 a.m. each Sunday morning, to hear him sing  “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.”

It was a priority for Pastor Murphy that his church conducted outreach for the community it served. Each year, Rose of Sharon donates Thanksgiving baskets to members of the community filled with food for their families. It also hosts a Back-to-School picnic each summer where they provide food, health screens and donate backpacks full of school supplies to the adults and children in the community.

Pastor Murphy and Rose of Sharon Church hosted a number of local dignitaries and politicians over the years, including: Congressman Danny Davis, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Alderman Emma Mitts, Mayor Richard J. Daley Jr, State Representative Camille Lily, the late Alderman Bill Henry, the late Alderman Walter Shumpert and the late Sheriff Richard Elrod.

Pastor Murphy is survived by his wife, Clementine Murphy, his five children: Michelle Collins, Sheila Stennis, James Murphy Jr., Andre Murphy and LaShaunn Stoddart; nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life service was held on Sunday April 15 at Kingsword International Church, 4256 W. Walton Street, Chicago, IL.

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