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.