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Lyons' friend puts her house on the market

Times staff writer

©St. Petersburg Times, published December 10, 1997


The meeting planner for the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. -- a woman who once introduced the Rev. Henry Lyons as her fiance -- has offered her Nashville-area home for sale.

But Brenda Harris has no plans to quit the convention, according to the board member who oversees her work.

"She has no dreams of leaving," said the Rev. F. Brannon Jackson, adding that he spoke to Harris on Tuesday about her future. Harris did not return a reporter's calls. Lyons' office said Tuesday that Harris is still with the convention.

Her five-bedroom house in Brentwood, Tenn., has received attention because a National Baptist Convention resolution once promised to guarantee a $300,000 loan so she could buy a home.

The resolution bore the signature of the Rev. Roscoe Cooper, the convention's general secretary, but Cooper later said the signature wasn't his. Federal officials have called him to testify as part of their investigation into Lyons' financial dealings.

Lyons and Harris have said the resolution was never used to get Harris a mortgage.

Harris -- who also has denied that she was romantically involved with Lyons -- has priced the house at $429,000, $89,900 more than she paid for it 19 months ago.

"Appreciation up here in property has been extreme," said Emil Mongeon, the listing agent.

Jackson said Harris told him she plans to take the house off the market if it isn't sold by Dec. 31.

In another development, Lyons' wife, Deborah, has given an interview criticizing the media and saying her husband never intended to defraud "the government or anyone else."

Calling her husband of 25 years "the man I love and respect," Deborah Lyons said she and her children do not recognize "the person they are portraying in the media."

In July, Deborah Lyons ransacked and set several small fires in a $700,000 waterfront home her husband owned with Bernice Edwards, a convicted embezzler who worked for the convention. Deborah Lyons told police she suspected her husband was having an affair with Edwards.

In the interview with the Sentinel-Bulletin, Deborah Lyons insisted that her husband "was never a womanizer" and that her actions in July "were purely from an alcoholic state."

Her interview last week came shortly after Henry Lyons announced that he will remain president of the convention and pastor at Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church, though he expects to be charged with crimes for his handling of convention finances.

"As a couple we have forgiven each other," she said. "Because he was so used to dealing above-board when all of this horror began, he thought nothing of it, knowing people would soon see it was all a mistake. But we all know how this has to be a personal vendetta by someone behind or associated with the St. Petersburg Times."

Deborah Lyons portrayed her husband as a man who became entangled in questionable deals by his own generosity.

"Cars and homes were something my husband signed his signature on for numerous people," she said. "He thinks nothing of using his established credit to help others. He feels this is why God has placed him in such a position."


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