Kyles to celebrate 50 years at Monumental Baptist - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Kyles to celebrate 50 years at Monumental Baptist

By Ben Watson - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - For 50 years, the Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles has been the first and only pastor at Monumental Baptist Church.

"So that makes me the best pastor they've ever had," Kyles laughed Wednesday.

The photos in his library tell the story, showing him with national leaders that span generations.  But had Kyles not became a preacher, he says he could have easily been a singer. 

"I traveled around the country with Roberta Martin, Mahalia Jackson and the Staple Singers as a teenager," he said.

But after meeting Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., Kyles devoted his life to the fight for civil rights. He was there on the balcony when Dr. King was assassinated.

"I got about five steps...KAPOW! The shot rang out," he said.

Over the past 50 years, Kyles and many of the members at Monumental Baptist have worked hard to bring positive change to Memphis.  Kyles and his church's long history will be honored with a 50th anniversary banquet this week. 

But when asked how he would like to be remembered, Kyles said as a simple servant whose strength was in his faith.

"That I was a caring and servant leader," he said. "Jesus says if you want to be great, be the servant. So my greatness will come through my service."

Jesse Jackson and others will celebrate with Kyles this Friday.  The banquet is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel.  For more information, call the church at 901-946-2529.

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