I had the chance to meet Kyles last summer when Jennifer and I traveled to Memphis to visit our dear friend Jessica. Jessica had raved about Kyles after having met him earlier that week. “What a privilege!” I thought. Imagine our joy when at the end of Jessica’s flawlessly executed tour of Memphis we find him standing there in the lobby of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Kyles is a spry and active 78. He still pastors a church in Memphis. He’s currently traveling across the country sharing what happened at the Lorraine. “A lying witness is dangerous. A witness who has information and won’t share it is of no consequence and so I’m thankful I’m able to be a truthful witness,” Kyles has said.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, Kyles had left his wife at home preparing fried chicken (King’s favorite dinner). He arrived at the Lorraine at 5:00. Dinner was to be served at 6:00. The shot rang out at 5:45 as two pastors, King, and several aides departed Room 306.
What has always impressed me most about the civil rights movement is the age of its leaders, the majority of whom were under 40. “To have all that accomplished in Martin Luther King’s lifetime and he was not even 40 years old, it shows young people that they can find something to do,” Kyles once said. “It doesn’t mean you sit by the river and come up with some great scheme. It simply means you do all the best you can do about what’s going on in your surroundings.”
"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines
of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.