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Jerome Nelson, former Bank Executive and ECC leader, dies at 75

Jerome Otis Nelson, a prominent figure in banking, ministry, and community service, passed away on Sunday, May 19, 2024, at the age of 75.

Nelson, a Gary, Indiana native, was a notable leader in various professional fields. After graduating from Froebel High School in Gary, he served honorably in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam Era. He furthered his education at Purdue University, where he played a pivotal role in establishing the first Black Student Union. Nelson held a Business and Finance degree from the American Institute of Banking and earned numerous certifications in project management, race relations, leadership development, and other areas.

His certificates from the Albany Institute include Project Management, Race Relations, Crisis Management, Conflict Resolution, Leadership Development, Civility Training, Public Relations, Motivational Speaking, Strategic Planning, Cultural Sensitivity, Operational Efficiency, and Diversity in the workplace.

His professional career included a decade-long tenure as Vice President at Trans World Bank in California from 1975 to 1985. Following his banking career, Nelson dedicated 40 years to ministry. He served as Associate Pastor of the Church of Gary (1987-1999) and was actively involved in the Youth For Christ Ministry. He later co-pastored at Cuyler Covenant Church in Chicago (2000-2004). His theological education was extensive, with certificates from the Moody Institute in Chicago, graduation from Covenant Faith Center in Northridge, CA, and a Master’s Degree from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. Nelson was ordained with the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), where he made significant contributions.

Nelson’s tenure with the ECC Central Conference spanned fifteen years, culminating in his role as the first Black Superintendent of the denomination. From 2002 to 2004, he was the Director of Church and Society Ministries before becoming Superintendent in 2004. In this role, he oversaw 120 churches and over 400 ministers across a five-state region, focusing on mission, pastoral care, congregational support, executive operations, and church planting. He retired from this role in 2017. Nelson was also involved in numerous ECC initiatives, including leading the first Sankofa Journey in 1999, chairing the African American Ministerial Association, leading the Church & Society Commission, being on the board for Wellspring Center for Hope, reviving the Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP) and working with Covenant World Relief and Development (CWRD), and helping shape the Churches Planting Ministries initiative.

In addition to his ministry and denominational leadership, Nelson was a successful entrepreneur. He co-founded the Renaissance Group Consulting Firm, led the non-profit Transforming Lives and Communities, and owned Nelson Insurance Agency and Anchor Linen Service in Gary, IN, for over a decade. He was a steadfast advocate for justice and equality, serving as President of the NAACP in Gary and participating in various community projects like the “One Church One School Project.”

He also held leadership roles in the Gary Chamber of Commerce. In remembrance of Nelson, the Gary Chamber of Commerce closed its office on May 31, 2024.

Jerome Nelson is survived by his wife of 47 years, Joanne Linton Nelson; sons Patrick Burley, Jason Burley, and Sean Nelson (Jennifer); sister Betty Nelson; brother Bryant “Rickie” Nelson (Lynn); and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bernice Nelson and T.O. Nelson, and sisters Darien “Cookie” Nelson Parker, Marlene “Sweetie” Nelson Gant, and Bonita Nelson Shipp.

A service to celebrate Nelson’s life and legacy was held on May 31, 2024, at New Life Missionary Baptist Church in Merrillville, IN, honoring his numerous contributions to his community, his faith, and his family.

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