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Community Impact

Remembering Reverend Kyles: A Voice for Change

Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, founding pastor of Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis and witness to the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., passed away last week at age 81. Rev. Kyles is featured prominently in Comcast's Voices of the Civil Rights Movement.

An important figure in the civil rights movement, Rev. Kyles fought to desegregate schools, hospitals, and restaurants in Memphis. "Everything in Memphis was segregated – everything," he recalled in an interview for Comcast’s Voices of the Civil Rights Movement online video collection. Rev. Kyles was the last living witness to Dr. King’s assassination on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. He shared his memories of the horrific event in a second video interview, The Assassination of Dr. King: A First Hand Account.

Voices of the Civil Rights Movement is an interactive exhibit that bring the civil rights movement to life through firsthand stories. It houses more than 200 video spotlights and testimonials from civil rights leaders and participants, including the late Rev. Kyles.

Since the 1960s, Rev. Kyles has fought for racial equality and religious freedom, both in Memphis and across the country. He was a founding member of Operation PUSH (now Rainbow PUSH Coalition) and served on the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad during the Clinton Administration. Rev. Kyles also served as pastor of Monumental Baptist Church for 55 years, until his retirement in 2014. Several memorial and funeral services are scheduled this week to honor his legacy at Monumental Baptist Church and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Click here to view more videos from the Voices of the Civil Rights Movement project.