George Garnett: a gentle giant and passionate advocate for the community

DSC_0087_George GarnettGeorge Garnett was passionate about civil rights and social action, economic empowerment, education and alleviating poverty. The state of Minnesota has lost a key contributor and advocate for all that is meant to be good in society.

George A. Garnett passed away unexpectedly on May 15, 2016 while spending cherished time with his mother Willa Mae Garnett, wife Sheilda Garnett and son Alex Garnett (daughter Charisma McGee resides in Tennessee).

George had nearly unparalleled knowledge of, and experience in, the community development field in Minnesota, working extensively in Duluth and the Twin Cities on workforce development, employment and housing-related opportunities and policies throughout his career. He was instrumental in establishing community development organizations throughout Minneapolis.

Prior to coming to Minnesota in 1986, George worked for the governor of Nebraska and the mayor of Omaha, as well as several community and city boards, in a variety of housing and economic development appointments. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science that he earned from Yale University in 1978.

Since 2009, George has been the director of strategic development at Summit Academy OIC, an accredited, nonprofit vocational training and education center in North Minneapolis dedicated to helping low-income individuals gain the skills and support they need to become contributing citizens in their communities. There he continued his leadership legacy, alongside Summit Academy’s Founder and President Louis King, working to extend employment opportunities to disadvantaged people of color and women in the construction and healthcare workforces, as well as recently creating and helping launch an innovative contextualized GED training program. George worked tirelessly with legislators, philanthropists and local community leaders to design and provide solutions and pathways to economic and social justice and sustainability.

Over the past several years, George has been serving on several boards, including the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership, and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. He also served on the Metropolitan Council and the Minneapolis Library Board.

Amongst his accomplishments during these appointments, he helped develop and stabilize hundreds of units of affordable housing. He has expanded homeownership opportunities for the African American community and has operated community-based housing programs in both the Twin Cities’ metro area and Greater Minnesota.

George will be most remembered for his mentorship. Those who had the opportunity to work with George over the years will say that he had tremendous vision and heart, and had the ability to draw the best out of everyone around him. This is what he would be most honored by, the fact that others were directly and personally impacted by his presence and leadership.

George was a brilliant strategist and a tireless worker. He engaged the highest hopes of others, and brought many dreams of a better life to reality. We have lost a good friend and ally in George Garnett.

Funeral services are open to the public and will be held at 11 am on Monday, May 23rd at Progressive Baptist Church, 1505 Burns Avenue in St. Paul, with a luncheon to immediately follow.

2 Comments on “George Garnett: a gentle giant and passionate advocate for the community”

  1. I’ve just learned of George’s passing with deep sadness. He was an inspiration and a real gift to our community. I’m grateful for having crossed paths with him. We can be collectively grateful for the many contributions he made to the success of our communities. He will be deeply missed!

  2. George Garnett was my father. He was such a smart man, who knew alot about everything (in my eyes). My father was the first man I ever loved and taught me the importance of forgiveness, even if others around me didn’t understand why I did it. He had a booming presence, but a heart of gold. The neighborhood used to call him “St. George” because during Christmas, he would do for all the kids on the block every single year. He will be missed terribly. I love him so much and before May 15th, I couldn’t have imagined life without him. I guess I’ll have to try. This will be hard, but he would want me to keep going. I love you, Dad!!

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