Skip to contents
Bronzeville, Near South Side

Leon Finney, Pastor, Housing Advocate And Controversial Woodlawn Developer, Dies At 82

Finney was pastor of the Bronzeville church for 20 years and a major figure in Woodlawn. Legal and financial issues plagued him in recent years.

The Rev. Leon Finney Jr. at a news conference in support of the Obama Library in 2015.
Sam Cholke/DNAinfo
  • Credibility:

BRONZEVILLE — Rev. Leon Finney Jr., founder of Bronzeville’s Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church and former vice-chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, died Friday morning at the age of 82.

Church leaders announced Finney’s passing in a Facebook post Friday. He served as Metropolitan’s pastor for 20 years.

Finney is well known for his work with The Woodlawn Organization, which battled against The University of Chicago’s efforts to expand its campus south. The group also fought against “substandard, segregated housing; bad business practices; high unemployment; community health concerns; inadequate city services; and other persistent social problems,” according to WTTW.

But as one of the city’s biggest landlords, Finney also became a notorious figure. A 2012 story in The Chicago Reporter exposed the questionable financial practices of his nonprofit, the Woodlawn Community Development Corp., and how he landed in the city’s crosshairs for the poor condition of buildings his organization managed.

A 2019 Chicago Sun-Times story detailed how the nonprofit filed for bankruptcy and Finney was accused of fraud, at once point admitting to not paying payroll taxes. He was ousted from the organization and lawsuits sought to foreclose on his homes and the church he founded.

Finney grew up in Woodlawn and graduated from Hyde Park High School, according to the Reporter. He earned multiple degrees from Goddard College, McCormick Theological Seminary and Nova University, according to church leaders.

He served as CHA’s vice-chairman in the 1980’s and once was a trustee at Chicago State University.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.