Obituary: Melvin Dillard Sr.

CHICAGO (April 6, 2020) – Retired minister Melvin Dillard Sr., who along with his wife, Vergie, were the first African American commissioned missionaries in the Covenant, died Friday. He was 85.

Melvin was born February 27, 1935, in Chicago, to Mulbe and Edna Dillard.

He graduated from Purdue University, where he was a football standout, with a bachelor’s degree in education, earned a certificate from Moody Bible Institute, a master’s of education from Governors State University, and master of divinity degree from North Park Theological Seminary.

Melvin married Vergie Chatmon on July 29, 1955.

He taught in the Chicago Public School District from 1961 to 1981. He served Hope Covenant Church in Waukegan, Ill., which he planted; Palmetto Covenant Church in Miami, Fla.; Oakdale Covenant Church and Atonement Covenant Church, both in Chicago. Melvin also ministered to incarcerated men.

He and Vergie were commissioned in 1996 to serve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) and served there for six months until they had to be evacuated amid violence.

Melvin had a passion for missions and encouraged Sharon Davis, the third African American Covenant missionary, to serve in Cameroon. “I never would have served as a missionary if it weren’t for him,” Davis said. “He was my mentor. He was my teacher.”

Although Melvin served only briefly in Congo, people he led to the Lord and trained became long-term pastors and leaders in the Congo Covenant Church. “His legacy will live on,” Davis said. “He was always saying, ‘Go and find some from there to be your replacement.’”

In addition to Vergie, survivors include Jeffery Dillard, Melvin Dillard Jr., Valerie Leatherberry,  and Kim Smith.

Services are pending.

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  1. Ruth and I first met Mel and Vergie when we joined Oakdale Covenant in the fall of 1968. The church was beginning a remarkable journey towards embracing and serving its community on the Southside of Chicago. The Dillard’s welcomed us with open arms. We worshipped together and served together particularly in ministry to youth. Mel, Ray Leafgren and I even played on a church Men’s basketball team. Mel was very competitive- and always a gracious and generous man. We are so blessed to have spent those years with the Dillard’s. Mel’s witness as a public school educator, pastor and quality person was profound. Thank you Mel. God’s grace and peace to your family.

  2. Ruth and I became acquainted with Mel and Vergie when we joined Oakdale Covenant in 1968. The little church on 88th and Normal was intentionally seeking to become a thriving congregation for its Southside Community. The Dillards were a key part of that process and welcomed us with open arms. I have fond memories of playing on a church basketball team with Mel and Ray Leafgren. Mel was very competitive as well as very gracious and generous of spirit. We were so grateful for him and his ministry both as a public school teacher and in his Pastoral ministry. He certainly touched us and was a true blessing to us and to the Covenant.

  3. Prayers for strength love and wisdom for the Dillard family who are and always will be a part of the RYDER/87th Street family the entire family is praying with you in spirit and virtual we celebrate the life of a great God Man we will remember again when we come out the house Love to all the Dillard Family from your RYDER FAMILY

  4. Rev. Dillard, was first my Sunday school teacher and later my late father’s best friend. His humility made him a great man and role model for all the young men whose life he touched especially mine. I am a better man because of the influence Rev Dillard had on me. God above is welcoming a truly great Christian man into heaven.

  5. I’m happy I come from a family that loves God! Melvin is my late great grandmother Ruth Anne’s (Esther) brother. Blessings 😇

  6. Rev. Dillard was a wonderful leader who embodied joy. He could make you feel as if you knew him forever in just a few minutes. I am so thankful to have known him. A passionate disciple who served the Lord passionately. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him.

  7. It was a privilege to know him and to serve with him on the then Board of Ministry.

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