To many of his followers in the National Baptist Convention USA, the troubles of the Rev. Henry Lyons have come as a terrible shock. How, they wonder, could such a gifted man go so wrong? The answers lie in the shadows of his past.
Story by Mike Wilson
he man Henry Lyons called Daddy was righteous and steady and God-fearing. Booker T. Lyons was his name, but most people called him Deacon.
And young Henry was there with him, Sunday after Sunday. The whoop of the preacher, the cry of the choir, the silent hour of prayer: This was Lyons inheritance.
Or part of it, anyway. The man Henry Lyons called Daddy was not his father but his grandfather. His father was something else entirely.
Lyons real daddy, Gene Lyons, was only 16 when Henry was born. Genial and smooth-talking, he drifted in and out of Lyons life, calling himself a father but never really doing the job. He shot dice, chased women and told extravagant lies.
He was a likable rogue but still a rogue. He had a good time and died young and probably wouldnt have seen a connection.
Lyons rarely mentions the prodigal Gene Lyons. Instead, he talks endlessly about humble, upstanding Booker, whose name he listed under Father on his marriage license applications.
Now Lyons is accused of using the presidency of the National Baptist Convention USA to steal millions of dollars. From corporations. From banks. From charities. He goes to trial on the state charges on Jan. 4. The federal trial is set for April.
To the people who have heard his unforgettable sermons, Lyons downfall seems unreal. How could such a gifted man be so deceitful?
But few of the Christians he inspired really knew him. For the longest of times, most people saw only the Booker in Henry Lyons, but Gene was part of him all along.
St. Petersburg Times
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