In Memoriam: Inez Killingsworth

Inez Killingsworth

It was with great sadness that we learned that Purpose Prize winner Inez Killingsworth died January 17 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Killingsworth was an indefatigable advocate for the collective power of people acting together to make change in their communities. As the founder of Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (ESOP), she led a fight against foreclosures and predatory lending practices that has only become more important with the passing years.

After retiring from the Cleveland public school system as a janitor in 2001, ESOP became Killingsworth’s encore career. She took the organization statewide, and today ESOP has nine offices throughout Ohio. When Killingsworth received The Purpose Prize in 2010, upwards of 15,000 homeowners – people from every county in Ohio and more than 30 other states including Hawaii – had participated ESOP’s programs. Thousands of homeowners are still in their homes today due to her work.

Killingsworth was the consummate community activist, serving on several local community boards and national organizing boards, working with Cleveland police and serving as a trustee of her church. Over the last 30 years, she led campaigns on education reform, the Community Reinvestment Act, Federal Housing Authority reform, predatory lending, and safety and day labor abuses.

Her passion for social justice rings out in her words on receiving The Purpose Prize:

“Our work is unlikely to end soon, as there is never an end to those who, motivated by greed, run roughshod over the rights of the rest of us. ... We can say we found the enemy, and the enemy is not us. The enemy is not your racism. It’s not my wealth. The new enemy is greed.”

Inez Killingsworth will be sorely missed by those of us who knew and admired her.

Donations in her memory can be sent to:

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People
3631 Perkins Ave., Suite 4C-S
Cleveland, OH 44114