Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles-(Sept. 26, 1934-Apr. 26, 2016) a longtime civil rights leader who was present when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on a hotel balcony, has died in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 81.
Rev. Kyles was born in Shelby, Mississippi, on Sept. 26, 1934. He took the position as pastor of Monumental Baptist Church in 1959 and resigned in October 2014 because of declining health. He was credited with helping integrate schools in Memphis and founding the Memphis chapter of People United to Save Humanity (PUSH).
Dr. King arrived in Memphis in 1968 to help striking sanitation workers, who were protesting for better working conditions and wages. Around 6 p.m. on April 4, Dr. King, Kyles, and others prepared to leave the Lorraine Motel to go to dinner; they never made it, Dr. King was killed on the balcony.
Rev. Kyles was the subject of a 2008 documentary short film about the assassination, “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306.” The film was nominated for an Academy Award. He was also among the civil rights figures honored at the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the National Civil Rights Museum located on the site of the Lorraine Motel. Rev. Kyles remained on the frontline for justice and equality until his death.