Visionary Leader Dies at 94

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The Reverend Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, a revered pastor and civil rights leader in Los Angeles, California, died of natural causes Friday evening, April 5, at his home in the View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles County. He was 94. 

Murray’s death was confirmed by the University of Southern California Center for Religion & Civic Culture early Saturday, April 6 marking the end of an era for the community he served with dedication​​.

Born on September 26, 1929, in Lakeland, Florida, Murray had an illustrious career that spanned several decades, primarily known for his transformative leadership at the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church of Los Angeles. His tenure as a pastor for 27 years saw the congregation grow from a modest 250 to an 18,000-member megachurch, a testament to his impactful ministry and community engagement​​.

Murray’s legacy is noted for his response to the civil unrest following the Rodney King verdict in 1992. He became a beacon of hope and a unifying figure in the city, leveraging his relationships with city leaders and the community to foster reconciliation and rebuild the affected neighborhoods​​.

His efforts extended beyond spiritual leadership, with significant contributions to economic development through the establishment of FAME Renaissance, a non-profit organization that brought investment and support to minority and low-income neighborhoods. Murray’s work facilitated over $400 million in investments, showcasing his commitment to addressing systemic inequalities​.

Beyond the church, Murray was deeply involved in civic engagement, training over 1,000 leaders in community development through his role at USC after retiring from FAME. His influence extended to the entertainment industry, where he collaborated with celebrities for community aid, further highlighting his multifaceted impact on Los Angeles​​.

Murray’s life was marked by accolades and partnerships with high-profile figures, including presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, illustrating the widespread respect and admiration for his work​.

He is survived by his son Drew Murray, along with a niece, nephews, and grand-nieces and nephews, who all remember him for his dedication to service and community. Murray’s wife, Bernadine, preceded him in death in 2013​. She was his childhood pastor’s daughter and the date for his high school prom.

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