Lion of Zion remembered

Leon Sullivan: His roaring voice promoted equality in the United States and in South Africa.

April 28, 2001

PHILADELPHIANS called him the Lion of Zion.

The Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, who died Tuesday at age 78, earned that title. His voice against injustice roared in his adopted city's downtown office buildings. His roar shook South Africa's apartheid establishment.

Mr. Sullivan served as pastor of the large and politically active Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, where the 6-foot-5-inch preacher delivered booming sermons. But it was his work away from the pulpit that moved America and the world.

He and other pastors launched a successful "selective patronage" campaign in Philadelphia, boycotting businesses that failed to hire minorities. When challenged to present qualified employees, he started Opportunities Industrialization Center in 1964, a job-training program that became nationwide. Mr. Sullivan also was General Motors Corp.'s first African-American board member.

But the world best knows Mr. Sullivan for his Sullivan Principles, a code of conduct introduced in 1977 for American companies operating in South Africa. The principles tore at the fabric of apartheid, promoting fair-employment practices and management opportunities for blacks.

After apartheid ended, he worked with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to apply his principles globally. About 100 U.S. companies accept them. That helps make it certain the Lion of Zion's roar will continue to resonate.

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