Obituary

Dr. Melvin Eugene Banks, Sr. was born on October 15, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, to the union of Jerry and Survilla Banks. Dr. Banks was the youngest of two children born to this union. Dr. Banks was raised in a blended household with his mother, Aunt Zerlean Jackson; sister Margaret Banks; and cousins, Gilbert Williams, Walter Williams, and Martye Jackson.


Dr. Banks was educated in the Birmingham Public School System and graduated from Parker High School in 1952. In 1955, he graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.


While attending Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Banks was encouraged by his mentor Dr. B. M. Nottage, to find a congregation of Black Christians. At South Side Gospel Chapel, he met Beverly and LeRoy Yates. Mrs. Yates suggested he write to her sister Olive. After many letters, he met Olive at a dinner at the Yates' home. When he walked in, he said, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I see what I want." November 5, 1955, Dr. Banks married his beautiful wife, Olive Perkins. To this union, they were blessed with three adorable children, Melvin Eugene, Jr.; Patrice Janene; and Reginald Scott.


Dr. Banks then attended Wheaton College and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. He was later awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Wheaton College and served for many years as a board member. He was also the Alumnus of the Year in 2008 at Moody Bible Institute.


After graduation, Dr. Banks was employed by Scripture Press Publications, Inc. He left Scripture Press with a blessing and a little financial backing that helped him and his wife, Olive, start Urban Ministries, Inc. in 1970. For the first twelve years, Urban Ministries, Inc. (UMI) operated out of the basement of their home on the South Side of Chicago.


Over the fifty years of leadership of Dr. Banks, UMI has grown to be the largest independent African American -owned and -operated religious publishing company in the nation.


Dr. Banks, along with LeRoy Yates, Sr., and Harvey Rollerson, Jr., were sent to establish Westlawn Gospel Chapel on the west side of Chicago by the elders of Southside Gospel Chapel. He faithfully served as elder, Sunday School Teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, and Bible Study Leader. Dr. Banks remained in leadership for more than sixty years.


Dr. Banks was involved in the founding of Circle Y Ranch Bible Camp, a Christian camp in Bangor, Michigan, in 1964. He faithfully served in the camp ministry as a counselor, camp director, and board member. Circle Y Ranch has touched more than tens of thousands of urban youth through its teaching and other ministries.


Dr. Banks was awarded the Kenneth N. Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He has also received many other commendations for his work.


Dr. Banks is remembered by his children and grandchildren for making sure family dinners were a time of togetherness. At the dinner table was where he would love to tell Bible stories, and he would make them so interesting with his dramatic storytelling.


Dr. Banks made his transition home on February 13, 2021. His parents, Jerry and Survilla, and sister, Margaret, preceded him in death. He leaves to cherish his memory, his loving wife, Olive, of 65 years; three children; Melvin E. Banks, Jr.; Patrice Lee (Tony); and Reginald Banks; two grandchildren, Regis Banks; and Antoinette Johnson; two great-grandchildren, Cameron Johnson; Dallas Rogers; Sisters-in-law Beverly Yates; Sara Hennings; Marianne "Kit" Perkins; Brother-in-law, William Pannell (Hazel); and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and spiritually adopted children.