Mid-Michigan social justice pioneer John Duley dies at 100

John Duley
Posted at 6:09 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 18:09:33-04

LANSING, Mich. — On July 15th mid-Michigan lost a man who spent most of his 100 years making an impact for those who didn't have the same opportunities he did.

John S. Duley was a nationally renowned civil rights activist. He actually started his career planning to be a farmer, but ended up switching his focus because of his passion for helping others.

Duley severed two-and-a-half years as a medic in World War II and later became an ordained Presbyterian minister at Michigan State University.

In 2020, Duley spoke about his work, and the work of similar civil rights activists in two episodes of UNDER THE RADAR with Host Frank Fear.

"There are very few people I know in life who had a smaller ego than John Duley," Fear said in an interview with Fox 47. "What he really cared about, the only thing he really cared about, was making a difference."

During Duley's time at MSU, he pursued fair housing in East Lansing for non-white residents and started the Student Tutorial Education Program, which prepared students at Rust College, a historically black Mississippi school, for academic success.

"I think the reason why he made such contributions was the way in which he viewed leadership," Fear said. "John could lead a group. He could be a member of the group. He didn't have to have a position to feel good about himself or make an impact. He just wanted to make a difference."

Making a difference took Duley beyond MSU.

After his time at the university, he worked strenuously to help start the Michigan Peace and Justice Network, The Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, the Closing the Digital Gap Program, Edgewood Scholars Program and more.

"And he was involved in doing this work when he was in his 90s," Fear said.

Leaving behind a legacy of this magnitude, Duley's family says those who want to pay tribute to him can do so by making memorials in his name to Edgewood Village.

A celebration of John Duley's life will be held on Saturday, July 24, at 11 a.m. at Presbyterian Church of Okemos at 2258 Bennett Road in Okemos. Please find a link to Rev. John Duley's funeral on the Presbyterian Church of Okemos' YouTube channel.

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