The Rev. Henry Lyons
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Rev. Lyons' statement from news conference
©St. Petersburg Times, published July 12, 1997
Thank you very kindly, my brothers and sisters for coming today. I really do appreciate your presence, and before I get started, I want to acknowledge today that we have so many national officers from the National Baptist Convention and the general secretary is here of the National Baptist Convention, Dr. Roscoe Cooper, the chairman of the Evangelistic Department Late Night, Dr. E. J. Jones, and the vice president at large is here today, Dr. S. C. Cureton.
All of the national officers, the secretary of the board of directors Dr. (H. DeVoe) Chapman, I want to thank all the pastors that are here and I don't want to omit anybody. I want to thank the director of public relations as it relates to media, Dr. Williams, is here. I want to thank all the preachers that are here. The show of support, I had no idea there would be so many, but I really do appreciate it. The deacons of our church, they are all here, the whole board is here, many of the members are here. I see many of the folk from the city. Thank you so much.
My wife, family and I would like to begin by expressing our sincere gratitude for the outpouring of prayers and support for our family. We want to thank this church and many other churches in the city of St. Petersburg and this nation for the overwhelming support at this time.
I do want to specifically address some of the allegations that have been lodged against me at this time. I want to point out, today, that much of the reporting that has taken place has been obtained and reviewed from public records, which itself would seem to dispel any plan of secrecy or deception on my part.
It is a tragedy that a close friend of our family for several years and a business partner of mine has been falsely misrepresented as a mistress of mine. I want to state straight out that I categorically deny that Ms. Bernice Edwards and I were carrying on an affair.
This misunderstanding has been the catalyst for this unfortunate confusion. Any business arrangements between Ms. Edwards and myself, my wife has been made or were aware of. There are no hidden secrets between my wife and myself. Ms. Edwards serves as the public relations director of corporate affairs. Dr. Williams serves as public relations of media. Ms. Edwards serves as public relations of corporate affairs only. She also serves as the executive secretary for the National African American Church Council, a corporation that works with the sale of cemetery plots.
I have and always will be a strong supporter of family values. This crisis drives home the need for all of us to appreciate and to hold the family as a strong institution.
I want to talk now, just a minute, about the mortgage loan. I want it thoroughly understood that I absolutely deny that the mortgage loan for the property was obtained for any other reason than as a guest house for developing corporate relationships and receiving national and international visitors in a private setting. This is nothing new. I want to state straight out that I do not live there. I claim no residence at the Tierra Verde house. Ms. Edwards and I have never shared any public relationship in that house or anywhere else.
There has never been any money taken from this church or from the National Baptist Convention to secure the loan on the house. I do not own a yacht. I do not own a 10 unit multifamily apartment building. But I have always owned a lot of property in this city and in this state.
I am proud that I have enjoyed some financial success in the past few years. But I am disappointed that the media has used this to cast my character in an unfavorable light. I am proud of my accomplishments as a pastor of this church and president of the National Baptist Convention United States Inc. However, many of my accomplishments of these positions have been ignored or the media have simply chose not to report on them.
The problem is, and African Americans need to understand this, and all poor people, the problem is, that you, like me, do not own television stations. We don't own big time newspapers like the St. Petersburg Times. And, none of us in here have the ability to buy newspapers by the column. They are in the business of selling papers. So they think nothing about throwing me and my wife and family under the bus.
It is unfortunate that after more than 26 years as the pastor of this church, 37 years in the preaching ministry and 55 years of prudent money management down to the point of sacrifice at a point that there's not a citizen in this city who doesn't know I drove one car for 17 years.
I am now being questioned for living well. My problem, to affluent society, my problem to big business -- and the St. Petersburg Times and other institutions are big business -- what is your problem? And what are you trying to imply? That blacks in this country can not be successful and live well? I have never yet met many that understood that you can have a little money in this country and not push or sell drugs.
My brothers and sisters, I am here today because I wanted you to hear directly from me and Sister Lyons and my family regarding these allegations. I have been traveling, trying to get here for two days. I stayed in my one clothes and all that I had on for two days and nights trying to get here, calling my wife every stop that I could. And I would hate for any of you all in here to see my telephone bill. It is horrendous. But I am concerned about my reputation, and I want to say here that I have been slandered, and make no mistake about it, I will work through counsel to repair my reputation and me and my wife's good name. And we're going to stay with this, as long as it takes, and how much ever it takes to get it done. We will deal with that. Now, as the head of my family, the head of this church, and the president of the National Baptist Convention, I will work to continue to raise the standard for African American people throughout this city.
I ask now, earnestly, for your prayers and I'm asking you to pray for me and Sister Lyons. I'm asking you to pray for Derek, Stephanie and Vonda, and pray for this church and churches everywhere because I know that all of us are hurting. The National Baptist Convention is hurting. I know you all are sick of the reporters on your door steps and calling you. It's a lot of hurt here. And I am anxious to get back to the healing process.
My immediate concern as husband and father is to work on the healing with my family. We face some serious charges that has to be dealt with. And so in the immediate future we will be working on those charges and I will be giving full attention, right now, to my wife and myself and those charges. I just want you to bear with us, pray with us, be a little understanding with us, and know that I love you and I appreciate your strong outpouring of love for me. I'm going to meet with my church tonight. That will not be a public meeting, that's just for the members of the church and I'm sorry I don't have time to open the doors of the church, and take any of you all in. Next week I will meet with my entire board of directors of the National Baptist Convention because it is my full intention to give the church and the National Baptist Convention a detailed report because I owe it to them. I owe this church. When that meeting starts tonight at 6:30 I don't care if they question me 'til the sun comes up in the morning. I will answer every question. I owe it to the National Baptist Convention to answer every question. But as far as the media is concerned, I'm through with that.
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