WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - One of Wilmington’s most prominent African American leaders has died. Bishop James Utley, Jr. passed away Tuesday from pancreatic cancer.
Utley, the pastor at the Love Center Church and Family Worship Center was at the forefront of many issues facing the black community for close to four decades. As the former president of the Wilmington Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, he would address ways to find racial harmony. Utley would often meet with local black ministers to discuss solutions for problems such as gang violence.
“Wilmington has lost a very important leader who really brought the youth and the community together,” said Herbert Harris, author, former director of the Community Action Group and longtime friend of Utley’s. “He was the go-to person whenever there were problems with people in the community.”
In 2010, Utley made a run for the North Carolina House of Representatives for District 18. He narrowly lost to Susi Hamilton in the Democratic primary by 61 votes. He maintained his focus, however, on black youth, improving educational opportunities, and care for senior citizens.
Utley was also the owner of radio station WWIL Gospel Joy 1490 AM.