Carey, Archibald J., Jr.

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Archibald J. Carey, Jr.

Activist, orator, speechwriter, politician, judge

Archibald James Carey Jr. enjoyed an illustrious and influential career that spanned many spheres of public life. Following in the footsteps of his father, Archibald James Carey Sr., he began his public service in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), where he became a prominent African American leader and advocate for social justice in Chicago. A talented speaker and speechwriter, Carey Jr. made both legal and political contributions. He served in political positions at the state, national, and international levels, including becoming the first African American to chair a White House committee. Continuing the family legacy, Carey Jr. used his influence, from the pulpit to the bench, to advocate for civil rights.

Archibald James Carey Jr. was born in Chicago to Archibald J. Carey Sr. and Elizabeth Hill Davis Carey. Archibald Jr. was the youngest of five children; his siblings were Eloise, Annabell, Madison, and Dorothy. The Carey family had a rich tradition of public service both religiously and politically. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather were prominent figures in the AME Church and his mother's side of the family also boasted influential figures in American politics. Carey Jr. demon-strated his intellectual promise at a young age. In 1924 at age sixteen, Carey Jr. won first prize in the National Oratorical Contest, beating out eighteen thousand other competitors. Fittingly, the subject of the contest was the American Constitution, and Carey's success was celebrated in the Chicago Daily News. The win foretold the impact Carey would have in his professional life.

Religious Career Flourishes

Carey Jr. attended Wendell Phillips High School and then attended the Lewis Institute in Chicago, where he completed his bachelor of science degree in 1928. He continued his education at Northwestern University, where he received his bachelor of divinity degree in 1932. He went on to Kent College of Law, Chicago, where he completed his law degree in 1935. While still in college, Carey Jr. officially began his religious career. He was licensed to preach in 1927 at Institutional Church, Chicago. His father performed the ceremony, as he was to do again in 1929 when Carey Jr. was ordained as a deacon. Carey Jr. became an elder of the AME Church in 1931; Bishop Henry B. Parks presided over the service. In addition to the church services that promoted his professional career, Carey also participated in a service of a more personal nature: he married Hazel Harper, with whom he had a daughter, Carolyn Eloise Carey.

In 1930, Carey was appointed pastor for the Woodlawn AME Church in Chicago, a position he held until 1949. Woodlawn AME Church experienced great growth during Carey's tenure, particularly during the depression of the 1930s. Beginning with a congregation of approximately fifty members, the church expanded to a membership of well over seventeen hundred. Carey drew people to the church by giving powerful sermons. Moreover, he was a staunch advocate for social justice and one of Chicago's most militant black preachers. Leading his congregation in support of civil rights, Carey participated in and supported political protests that sought to address the inequalities plaguing Chicago's black community. Carey frequently spoke at rallies; he lobbied for better facilities on behalf of the Lilydale community against the school board; he fought for fair housing policies and often spoke at events conducted by other community leaders.

Always advancing his career and influence, Carey Jr. was selected as an alternate delegate to the General Conference in 1940 and as the official delegate in 1944. Carey was also recognized for his scholarship. He published a number of articles in religious periodicals such as the Christian Recorder and the Negro Journal of Religion. In 1949, Carey was appointed to Quinn Chapel AME Church, where his father had been the minister at the turn of the century.


Born in Chicago, Illinois on February 29
Wins National Oratorical Contest
Receives license to preach
Graduates from Lewis Institute, Chicago with a B.S.
Appointed to Woodlawn AME Church in Chicago
Becomes an elder in Chicago, Illinois
Graduates from Northwestern University, with a B.D.
Graduates from Kent College of Law, Chicago, with an LLB.
Elected to the Third Ward alderman seat on Chicago's city council
Appointed to Quinn Chapel AME Church in Chicago
Selected as the delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations
Receives a Citizen's Award from the University of Chicago and the Abraham Schwartz Award for Human Relations; included on Ebony's list of the nation's ten best black preachers
Delivers speech at second anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott; appointed chair of the president's committee on government employment policy
Becomes a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois
Dies in Chicago, Illinois on April 20

Fights for Justice and Equality

Despite the success he enjoyed as a religious leader, Carey Jr. continued to pursue a career in the legal profes-sion. After his graduation from Kent College of Law, Carey was admitted into the Illinois Bar in 1936. He began a private practice and ultimately became a partner in the law firm of Prescott, Taylor, Carey and Cooper. Carey was admitted into the United States district court in Illinois in 1942. Having established his legal credentials and his reputation as a community leader, Carey made a bid for the position of the Third Ward alderman's seat on Chicago's city council in 1947. Carey was elected and served as alderman until 1955, during which time he continued to increase his political influence.

Carey's role in mainstream politics never compromised his commitment to the African American community he served. He served as an intermediary between whites and blacks, being able to reach both communities through his professional and grass-roots affiliations. Not surprisingly, then, Carey played a critical role in the founding and support of the Committee (later Congress) of Racial Equality (CORE). CORE's founders were a multicultural group of Christians who advocated social justice and fought for civil rights. Carey used his own influence and the resources he could acquire through his position as minister to assist CORE. Carey raised money through his congregation, which was, at the time, politically astute and a recognized socially active entity in the Chicago community. He also allowed CORE access to rooms in the church basement for meetings to plan and organize activities. Carey remained a confidant and political ally of CORE's founding members in their collective struggle for civil rights.

Carey also played a supporting role in the political and civil upheaval that was taking place on a national level. In 1955 he went to Alabama State College to address a citizenship rally. Martin Luther King Jr., the newly appointed minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, was emerging on the national scene as a leader of the African American community; King was the spokesman for the Montgomery bus boycott. Carey became one of the people Martin Luther King Jr. sought out for advice on politics and strategies. In 1957, King invited Carey to Montgomery to speak at the second anniversary of the bus boycott held at the Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change. The speech was a resounding success.

Emerges on the Political Scene as a Major Player

During the 1950s Carey's political significance reached a national scale. In 1952 he got involved in electoral politics and campaigned on behalf of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. That same year he was a speaker at the Republican National Convention. Carey spoke so movingly and eloquently that some of his fellow ministers called for him to be vice president of the party. That never materialized, however, Carey was appointed as an alternate delegate for the United States to the eighth General Assembly of the United Nations. Thus Carey was able to demonstrate his commitment to equality on an international level, serving as an ambassador for his country. In 1954, his diplomatic contributions earned him recognition: That year he received a Citizen's Award from the University of Chicago and the Abraham Schwartz Award for Human Relations. The same year Ebony listed him as one of the nation's ten best black preachers.

Carey also found time to teach. He lectured at Roosevelt University in Chicago and taught legal ethics at John Marshall Law School, also in Chicago. Moreover, he served as a lifetime trustee of Garrett Theological Seminary and trustee emeritus of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

From 1955 to 1961 Carey served as a member of the president's committee on government employment policy. In 1957 he was appointed chair of the committee, becoming the first African American to chair a White House committee. In addition, Carey became the president of the board of directors of the Illinois Federal Savings and Loan Association. He held the position from 1957 to 1966. In 1966 he became a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Given the extent to which he was involved in political and legal life, Carey was no longer able to maintain his position as minister of Quinn Chapel AME Church. He left the church but was honored for his contributions to it by being named pastor emeritus. Carey served as a judge in Cook County until 1980. After a dynamic and influential career in public life, Carey Jr. died on April 20, 1981, at the age of seventy-three.



Farmer, James. Lay Bare the Heart. New York: Arbor House, 1985.

Murphy, Larry G., Gordon J. Melton, and Gary L. Ward, eds. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1993.

Williams, Ethel L., ed. Biographical Directory of Negro Ministries. 3rd ed. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1975.


Dickerson, Dennis C. "Pulpit Review: Ringing the Bell of Freedom: Archibald J. Carey Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., & the Transformation of African American Leadership." The AME Church Review 117 (January-March 2001):93-99.

―――――. "History: Archibald J. Carey Jr. and the Founders of CORE." The AME Church Review 118 (July-September 2002): 39-50.

                                   Gabriella Beckles

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Carey, Archibald J., Jr.

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