Bennie Whiten Jr.

Rev. Bennie E. Whiten Jr., an Oak Park resident from 1976 to 1991, and again from 2016 to 2022, died peacefully on Dec. 3 at the Memory Care Center at The Sheridan of River Forest. Born in Louisiana on June 26, 1933, he earned degrees from Texas College and Howard University School of Divinity, graduating Magna Cum Laude from both. Ordained in the newly-formed United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957, he pastored the First Reformed Church in Cincinnati until the early 1960s before taking a series of leadership roles in the UCC.

As a Life Member of the NAACP, he was involved in the struggle for civil rights and justice wherever he lived. He and his family moved from New York to Oak Park in 1976 after he became associate executive director of the Community Renewal Society, a faith-based community organization committed to social justice. He was active in Oak Park civic affairs, serving on the Community Relations Commission from 1979 to 1984, including participation in the Racial Diversity Task Force. He subsequently served as one of three members of the Fire and Police Board starting in 1984.

A role leading the 437 churches of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC took him to the Boston area in 1991, returning to Chicago after his retirement in 2000. In retirement he served on the boards of Interfaith Worker Justice and Protestants for the Common Good. In addition, he served briefly as interim executive director of Wider Church Ministries UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and as acting executive director of the UCC Insurance Board.

He and his wife, Sue Sporte, have been active members at Pilgrim Congregational Church UCC, in Oak Park since 2002. He was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in 2008 and moved to the Memory Care Unit at The Sheridan of River Forest in 2021.

Bennie is survived by his wife, Sue Sporte; his sister, Dr. Joycelyn Whiten; his daughter, Leslie M. Whiten; his son, Bennie E. Whiten III; his stepchildren, Scott Sporte and Lisa Sporte; seven grand- and step-grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and one niece.

A memorial service will be held at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St., Oak Park, on Dec. 31 at 10 a.m. The service will be livestreamed, and it can be viewed on the church website (at https://pilgrimcongregationalchurch.livecontrol.tv/515be108) or the church YouTube channel (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIwMEL7WIPc), where it will also be available for later viewing.

Peterson-Bassi Funeral Chapels of Chicago (petersonfuneralhome.com) is handling arrangements. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Pilgrim Congregational Church UCC (PilgrimOakPark.org) or JointheMovementUCC.org, which expands racial justice ministries of the UCC.

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