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Spencer Leak, Sr. to Receive Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award at Chicago Urban League’s Golden Fellowship Dinner


For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

Chelsea Whittington

Sr. Manager, External Affairs

(773) 451-3524


Spencer Leak, Sr. to Receive Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award at

Chicago Urban League’s Golden Fellowship Dinner

Benefit Gala, Themed “Building on Our Legacy,” set for November 19

CHICAGO (September 21, 2016)—The Chicago Urban League is pleased to announce its Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award winner for the Golden Fellowship Dinner-Centennial Edition benefit gala. The highly anticipated event will take place Saturday, November 19, 2016 at the Hilton Chicago located at 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.  In commemoration of the League’s 100 years of service, this year’s Golden Fellowship Dinner will award its renowned “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award to Spencer Leak Sr., noted activist, entrepreneur, and businessman of Leak & Sons Funeral Homes.

Named for Bill Berry, who led the Chicago Urban League from 1956-1969 and was a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement, the award is given annually to leaders who make a mark locally and nationally through hard work, perseverance and creativity.

“The Golden Fellowship Dinner helps us fulfill our mission to strengthen individuals, families, neighborhoods and the city of Chicago,” said Shari Runner, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “The presentation of the Bill Berry Award is one of the highlights of the event, and we are excited that Mr. Leak is this year’s recipient.”

Spencer Leak Sr. is owner and president of Leak & Sons Funeral Homes. Originally opened in 1933 by his father Rev. A.R. Leak, the impetus behind its creation was to ensure that African Americans were granted the opportunity to bury their loved ones in a respectable and affordable manner. With two locations in the Chicagoland area, the legacy of the Leak family business is known for its involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Spencer Leak Sr. joined his father in the march to desegregate Chicago’s Oakwood cemetery. Leak has also served as the Consumer Affairs Chief for the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Executive Director of Cook County Department of Corrections and Commissioner of the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Previous Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Award winners include noted Chicago historian, activist, and philanthropist Timuel Black, legendary opera diva Jessye Norman, civil rights activists Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Rev. Willie T. Barrow, Hank R. Schwab, and Rev. Addie L. Wyatt; legendary actors Louis Gossett, Jr., Phylicia Rashad and Cicely Tyson; and James W. Compton, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League from 1972-2006.

This year’s gala, themed Building on Our Legacy, pays homage to the community-based, economic empowerment organization’s founding 100 years ago to assist southern Blacks who migrated north to find housing and employment. It will be headlined by one of the most iconic entertainers of all time, Diana Ross, and is chaired by Anne R. Pramaggiore, President and Chief Executive Officer, ComEd and Frederick H. Waddell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Northern Trust Company. Lead Sponsors of the dinner include ComEd, Northern Trust, Boeing, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Abbott, BMO Harris Bank, Comcast/NBC 5 Chicago, GCM Grosvenor, Hilton Chicago, ITW, Loop Capital, McDonald’s, Nicor Gas, PNC Bank, PwC, Dona and Sam Scott, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and affiliates, United, Wintrust, and Tyson Foods.

For more information about the Chicago Urban League’s Golden Fellowship Dinner – Centennial Edition, call Tawanna Streater at 773-624-8820 or visit

About the Chicago Urban League

Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League works for economic, educational and social progress for African Americans and promotes strong sustainable communities through advocacy, collaboration and innovation. For more information, visit Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.