James Lyons, a former labor leader, and civic volunteer died Wednesday at the age of 98.
Lyons died of natural causes after a lengthy illness at the War Veteran’s Home in Monroe.
Lyons was born in Monroe on December 24, 1919, and in the course of his life proved himself a strong leader in the local community and advocate for civil rights. In 1935 the police beat his father in a way that resulted in his death and it sparked a lifetime of activism for Lyons.
He enlisted in the United States Navy and after his discharge returned to Monroe. He served as a shop steward for the Federal Credit Union and served as a Cost Plus Analyst for the Selig Corporation. He became an outspoke advocate for worker’s rights and gained a reputation as a tough union negotiator who improved the pay and working conditions of the union members. He retired from Selig after 42 years on the job.
Lyons was often honored and recognized by the local community for his spirit of volunteerism and was recognized by The American Red Cross and the City of Monroe as a distinguished citizen. Among his acts of volunteerism that was highly praise was his regular practice of mowing and weeding the J.S. Clark Cemetery on Berg Jones Lane twice a month for twenty years with a hand mow; without pay.
He was a participant in the community’s fight to gain voter’s rights in the 1950’s and testified against the Registrar of Voter’s Mae Lucky in 1964 when most blacks in Monroe had been removed from the voting books.
He was the chairman of the deacon board of the Tabernacle Baptist Church when he died. There he distinguished himself as a Christian gentleman, bible scholar, and advocate for the poor.
In his memoir, written in 1992 he said, “I pray to God every night for my children and my loved ones. I pray for the ones that love me and the ones who hate me. I pray that maybe I’ll do something in people’s lives that will change them.”
Funeral services for Lyons were incomplete Wednesday.