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  • Report: Rev. Lyons abused his first wife

    Associated Press
    ©St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 1997


    ATLANTA -- The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, who has been fighting allegations about his financial dealings and personal life, now has another one to face -- that he beat his first wife.

    In an interview published Thursday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Patricia Tiggler, Lyons' first wife, now remarried and living in Griffin, about 30 miles south of Atlanta, said she "couldn't be the subservient wife that he wanted."

    Lyons married his current wife, Deborah, in 1972. Although their marriage license states that it was a first marriage for both, it was actually his third.

    Lyons' marriage to Tiggler ended after she claimed that Lyons continually abused her for three years in the late 1960s, court records show. During that time, he was pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Thomaston, about 70 miles south of Atlanta.

    The court records say Patricia Demons Lyons left her husband in December 1968 after he knocked her down with a punch, twisted her arm and leg and then beat her repeatedly with a belt, severely bruising her arms, legs and back.

    She said Lyons often slapped her, vowed to kill her on "numerous occasions" and threatened to do "great bodily harm" to his father-in-law.

    Six weeks after the divorce was granted on Feb. 14, 1969, Lyons married Camilla Smith, a member of his church's youth group. Lyons filed for divorce three years later, and that marriage was dissolved.

    Asked about the abuse allegations, Lyons' attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., told the Journal-Constitution: "You're talking about events that allegedly happened 30 years ago. Those are just allegations."

    Mrs. Tiggler, a school librarian with two daughters, said she is part of a prayer group that prays regularly for Lyons.

    The couple lived apart for the first year of marriage, seeing each other only on weekends, while Lyons finished his education at the Interdenominational Theological Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

    "He was quite handsome and charming, and you knew he was really going places," she said. "When you're marrying a minister, you think you're getting a good husband."

    The union grew unhappy when the two finally lived together all the time, she said.

    "He had two personalities, one public, one when he was alone," she said, adding she "went to church and smiled and let on like everything was fine."

    "I tried to be the submissive wife that he wanted," she said.

    She was reluctant to discuss the alleged beatings until a reporter read her the court records. "He has so much going against him," she said. "I didn't want to add to that." 


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