Lyons named Atmore's Citizen of the Year
By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
Bishop Lyons pinched himself on the leg just to make sure he was awake – and that they were talking about him.
He knew his name had been placed in nomination for the Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. When Mary Grissett, Eldred Pritchett, David Swift and Joyce Bolden stood together to make the announcement, he had a pretty good idea he had been selected.
Then Grissett talked about working with the nominee in the teachers association – and his quiet dignity. Pritchett talked about working with him in the school system. Swift talked about working with him on the Atmore Utilities Board. Swift said there was so much to tell, it took four people to tell it. Then Bolden said there was nothing left to say and she announced Lyons' name.
As he received his award, Lyons thought of his mother and her wisdom.
Lyons speaks of his mother fondly and not without a little awe. She had a third grade education, but read the Bible through several times and even insisted on gathering her children around and reading the Bible to them – much to their chagrin. Other children were out playing while the Lyons children were involved in Bible study.
Lyons credits his parents, Fred and Hattie Lyons, for his work ethic. At the age of eight, he stayed home and kept two younger sisters while the rest of the family went to the fields to work. He cooked dinner which he and his sisters took to the family in the field. When they came home from the fields, he had supper on the table for them.
Grissett said Lyons is a man of "quiet dignity." And that too may be attributed to his parents – particularly his mother.
Lyons has made of point of "doing" and being involved – always quietly.
He received an associate degree from Alabama A&M University and a masters degree from Tuskegee University in agriculture education. Following a two-stint in the Army during the Korean War, he started the first vocational agriculture program at Escambia County Training School. He later transferred to Escambia County High School where he taught agribusiness until he retired in June 1986.
His community and civic involvement is broad and copious:
member of the AEA, NEA, NRTA AND ARTA retired teachers associations
charter member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity on the Alabama A&M University campus
member of the Atmore Area Male Chorus, which he organized in 1970
first black to be appointed to the Atmore Utilities Board, June 1989; secretary-treasurer from August 1990 to April 1995
member of the United Fund Board of Directors
member of the West Escambia Chapter of the American Red Cross Board of Directors
member of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, assistant on the Agriculture Committee, vice president under President Sarah Fayard in 1975
member of the Atmore Public Library Board since 1977, chairman since 1994
president of the Escambia County Teachers Association during the early years of merger
23 years of service to the Escambia Educators Federal Credit Union, serving as secretary-treasurer and as president
vice-president of the Southwest District Association for the Alabama Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association
chosen by the State Department to train student teachers in vocational agriculture (now known as agribusiness education); trained students from Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University.
Throughout his teaching career and residence in Atmore, Lyons has received many honors and awards:
Teacher of the Year, 1966 and 1972, by the Escambia County Teachers Association
Award for Service as a board member of the C.A.C., 1971-76
Certificate of Merit through the Research Center for Better Farm Living, 1966
State F.F.A. State Farmer's Degree, 1972
Teacher of Teachers, 1978, by the Vocational Agribusiness Association
Father of the Year, 1972, by the Progressive Civic and Recreational Club
Outstanding Member of the Year, 1969, by the Atmore Community Male Chorus
Appreciation Award, 1986, from Alabama A&M University for recruitment and retention program
National Alumni Normalite Award, 1952, for outstanding achievement
Service pins for 20, 25 and 30 years of service in Vocational Agribusiness Education
Citizen of the Year, 1990, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
awards and certificates from the State Department for assistance given to Future Farmers of America in 1982 and a plaque from Escambia County.
And now Lyons can add a proclamation that was presented to him Tuesday evening from the Escambia County Commission, congratulating him on being selected as the Chamber's Citizen of the Year. The commission also recognized Lyons for his valued and dedicated service as an educator and community leader.
Lyons is a member of Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church, where he serves as chairman of the Deacon Board. He is very active in all phases of his church, including teaching the Senior Boys' Sunday School class.
Lyons is married to Tessie H. Lyons, a retired teacher of the Escambia County school system. They are the parents of two children, Felecia L. Drake and Bishop E. Lyons Jr. They have five grandchildren. Their son and daughter and their spouses have earned college degrees and are very successful in their chosen professions.
Mrs. Lyons, who knew ahead of time that her husband would be named Citizen of the Year, had wanted to tell their son and daughter, but every time they called, Mr. Lyons got on the extension and she couldn't say anything.
No doubt, they'll still see his broad smile when they see him again.