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Jun 24, 2013

Musician, Urban Leader, Local Hero Rev. Edward V. Leftwich, Jr. Dead at 68

Ed Leftwich

Following a brief, intense illness, Rev. Edward Vernon Leftwich Jr. died at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Father's Day, June 16, 2013. He was attended in his journey to his next dimension by his children - Edward III; Tienne Leftwich Callender; Cathryn Perry; and Rebecca Perry-Glickstein- his grandsons, Avery, Hunter and James Edward; sister Delores Beck; a brother Robert Turnquest; his wife of 31 years, Dr. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich; niece Gypsy C. Gallardo and other close relatives.

Until his recent illness, "Rev. Ed" Leftwich served as Community Director for the Telesis-operated Bradenton Village, and as a Board Member of the Bradenton Community Renewal Agency (CCRA) in Florida. He also served as Associate Minister of the Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, and as Founding President and, recently, Chairman-Emeritus of the Center for Community and Economic Justice in St. Petersburg, which operated the Still Standing Recovery Ministry for 10 years and the Federally funded CCEJ- Quantum Opportunities program until March 2013. Over the twelve years of Rev. Ed's CCEJ leadership, 1000-plus adult residents seeking his inspiration and counsel passed through the protected residential facilities and program offices located on Central Avenue in Mid-Town St. Petersburg.

Numerous local high school students and their parents also benefited from academic and social enrichment and mentoring opportunities through Rev. Ed's CCEJ-Quantum Opportunities program which he operated with his wife , Dr. Scruggs-Leftwich and their CCEJ- Quantum staff.

A celebrated practitioner in the field of housing and community development, Rev, Leftwich pioneered water front- and mixed-income development in the 1970's when he directed the Rondout Community Development Corporation's Strand water front renewal along Kingston, New York's banks of the Hudson River. His civic work on that and other community projects earned him distinction, in 1980, as a Rotary Club Outstanding Young Man in America. Among his many other awards were the Special Service Award from Governor Hugh Carey (1980); and NYS Division of Housing's Commissioner's Award (1982).

During the 1980' and 1990's, Rev. Leftwich served as Regional Director of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) for mid-state projects; as Director of the New York State Assembly's Urban Revitalization Task Force located in Buffalo, when he was District Director for the New York legislature's Deputy Speaker, Arthur O. Eve; and as Special Projects Director for the Philadelphia , Pennsylvania Mayor's Office of Housing.

Leftwich was an entrepreneurial visionary who created a cutting edge non-depository banking system which provided free access, especially to New York States' low-income and working families, to direct payment of their utility and communications bills and wired money by electronic transfers (a new computerized technology.) He offered secure locations operated by respectable enterprises and staffed by neighborhood residents. Three of these companies were: the YEL Corporation ( Brooklyn); Harlem USA (Manhattan); and the Community Services Management Center ( Buffalo).

Later, he replicated many of these accomplishments through his work in St. Petersburg, Florida where, in 2008, he was designated a Freedom's Hero by Channel 8 (ABC Television) News. The Hero Award citation was for Rev. Ed's " as a catalyst for change and his dedication to helping others," through his CCEJ-Still Standing Recovery Ministry. As one of the Recovering residents stated in the television interview: "I don't want to say that I can't live without him, but I don't want to think about that happening."

In 2012, Rev Ed's leadership in the human community development field was recognized by the National Alliance of Resident Services in Affordable and Assisted Housing (NARSAAH) at their 10th Annual Convention held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The award, given to Rev. Ed as its first recipient, was called the Sustainability Through Partnership Award and recognized the tangents and collaboration which he facilitated between Bradenton Village housing development and local public and private agencies, including the CCRA, the Bradenton Public Housing Authority, City officials, State of Florida and Manatee County institutions.

Originally from Norwalk, Connecticut, Rev. Leftwich's early career successes were as a musician and lead singer with The Children of God, and Dreams R&B and Fusion Jazz groups. He was heralded on the cover of DOWN BEAT: The Bi-Weekly Music Magazine, as an " Exciting New Voice in Jazz and Rock" in 1970. While under contract with Columbia Records, he performed at New York's Apollo Theater in Harlem along with R & B vocal great Mabel Staples, and at a number of venues in Greenwich Village. He toured nationally as featured singer on several LP's, including "Dreams" and " Imagine My Surprise," which helped to also launch the careers of his collaborators, renowned musicians Michael and Randy Brecker and Billy Cobham. His life-long affiliation with music and musicians was celebrated in 2010 when he returned to Woodstock, New York, for 40-year anniversary reunion performances with the original Children of God artists, including Don Moore, Jerry Moore and Gil Herring.

A Celebration of Life ceremony for Rev. Edward V. Leftwich Jr. will be held on July 15, 2013, at the Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. His remains are being cremated and will be received by his wife and children.

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