Henry Lyons

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Reverend Henry J. Lyons (born 1942) is a former President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc..

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Early life

Henry was raised by his grandfather, a Deacon named Booker T. Lyons. His own father, who was only 16 when Henry was born, played a minimal role in his childhood. He attended Gibbs Junior College in St. Petersburg, Florida (1960–62) and studied at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach (1962–64) and then entered the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.[1][2]

In 1970, he moved to Cincinnati and in 1972 he gained a more important position in St. Petersburg, Florida. He had married Deborah Lyons in the 1970s. In 1977 he became Vice President of the Florida Baptist Convention, and was then its President from 1981 to 1994.[3] In 1994, Lyons became President of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.

Presidency of the National Baptist Convention

Always a charismatic speaker, the Lyons tenure featured much activity. He established a Unified Program, reduced the debt on the Baptist World Center, and dissolved the debt on the Sunday School Publishing Board. In addition, many commissions were added to the convention. He pledged to "Raise a Standard" and overcome the difficulties caused by his predecessor T. J. Jemison's support of Mike Tyson in his rape case.[4] However in many respects he would exacerbate, rather than diminish, the difficulties of the organization.

Personal and legal difficulties

In February 1998 he was charged with one count of racketeering and two counts of grand theft,[5] and in summer 1998 he was indicted by federal prosecutors for fraud, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy and tax evasion.[6][7][8][9][10] He initially protested his innocence and claimed there was a racial motivation for the charges,[9] but the proceedings of his trial and his eventual plea bargaining agreement dampened the enthusiasm of those who maintained his innocence.[11] In 1999 Lyons was sentenced to a total of five and a half years in jail for misappropriating more than $4 million from the NBC while he was its President,[12] a post from which he had already resigned.[8] [13] In November 2003, he was released on probation and returned to preaching in St Petersburg.[14] He currently is the pastor of the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, FL.

In April 2007 Lyons was defeated in an attempt to be re-elected President of the Florida Baptist Convention.[15] Subsequently he and his supporters organized the General Baptist State Convention of Florida,[16] of which he is the President. In 2009, he was defeated in his bid to take presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA.[17]

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