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Steve C.
Democrat TN 9

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  • Congratulating Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles on Receiving the 2014 Be the Dream Mlk Legacy Award

    by Representative Steve Cohen

    Posted on 2014-01-16

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    COHEN of tennessee in the house of representatives Thursday, January 16, 2014 Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles on receiving the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Award. This special award is given to those individuals whose lives have ``embodied the spirit and legacy of service, sacrifice and hope'' that characterized the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a revered pastor and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, it is fitting that this award be bestowed upon Rev. Kyles in recognition of his accomplishments and contributions.

    Samuel Kyles was born in Shelby, Mississippi in 1934. At age 17, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and in 1959, at age 25, he was installed as the first pastor of Monumental Baptist Church and to date, has served as its only pastor. Under his nearly 55 year leadership, Monumental has served the Memphis community well. The church strives to uplift young people and operates Monumental Pride Homes, which offers senior citizens affordable living. Rev. Kyles maintains his connection with the broader religious community through his membership with the World Baptist Alliance and his participation in the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC). He is also a former instructor at the National Training Congress of the PNBC and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Morehouse School of Religion.

    Rev. Kyles was an important leader during the Civil Rights Movement, helping to desegregate public institutions and businesses. As a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in 1961, he enrolled his five-year old daughter in the all white public school system, thereby helping Memphis to become the first city in the South to integrate elementary schools. Rev. Kyles, along with other prominent Memphis fighters for racial justice and equality, worked to integrate the city buses and end segregation in restaurants, movie theaters, department stores and workplaces. Rev. Kyles once referred to his work as, ``an extension of my ministry.'' In the early 1970s, Rev. Kyles became a founding national board member of People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH). He was also the executive director of Rainbow/PUSH-Memphis and the executive producer of Rainbow/PUSH WLOK Radio for over 30 years. During the Clinton Administration, he served on the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, investigating religious persecution throughout the world, and as a panelist at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes. In 1994, he traveled to South Africa as an election monitor in its first multi-racial election, which saw Nelson Mandela elected as South Africa's first black President.

    Reverend Kyles shares a unique connection with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as pastors, civil rights leaders and friends. He stood beside Dr. King while he delivered his famous ``Mountaintop'' speech at Mason Temple Church of God In Christ in Memphis. There is no doubt that Rev. Kyles' work is worthy of this award named after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Speaker, I ask all of my colleagues to join me in congratulating Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles on being awarded the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Award.


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