John Steedman Lyles ’50

John Steedman Lyles '50The Rev. Dr. John Steedman Lyles, 88, of Davidson, died peacefully Saturday morning, May 23, 2015 at the Pines at Davidson. He was born Oct. 2, 1926, in Great Falls, SC, to the late Arromanus Coleman and Ella Cross Lyles.

He began high school at Dreher in Columbia, SC, and graduated from Chester High. He received an A.B. degree from Davidson College in 1950 and served as General Secretary of the Davidson College YMCA following graduation.

He continued his education at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA earning a B.D. in 1954 and a Th. M. in 1958. He attended the University of Aberdeen, Scotland on a Fulbright Scholarship from 1954-55. In 1981 he earned a D.Min, degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Lyles had a keen mind and a deep love of learning, powered by an insatiable curiosity about every subject imaginable—from Shakespeare to sports to theology, he wanted to know and appreciate them. He relished living to the fullest, and was blessed over his entire life with an energy level uncharacteristic of his age.
As a pastor, he had a gift of relating to people from all walks of life and loved getting to know them and their passions.

He was a man of depth and integrity and was a courageous preacher without regard to popular trends or opinion. He was a stalwart promoter of social justice and was an advocate for the civil rights movement in SC.

In 1957, he helped produce South Carolinians Speak; A Moderate Approach to Race Relations. He was asked to leave his church after attempting the difficult and unpopular mission of standing “as a pastor, within the culture of the South, while, at the same time, allowing the biblical message to call the culture into question.”

Perhaps most admirable was his ability to be a pastor’s pastor — always making time and finding the good words of grace for both colleagues and parishioners. He served as pastor of churches in Marion, SC, Dunbar, WV, Virginia Beach, VA, Tampa, FL, and Lake City, FL. He also served as the first Executive Presbyter of the Central Florida Presbytery.

He was a leader in the greater Presbyterian Church, serving on the General Assembly Council when it was created after the merging of the Northern and Southern Presbyterian churches. He also served on the Boards of Columbia Theological Seminary and Eckerd College.

After retiring he served as interim pastor at churches in Marion, VA, Lancaster, SC, and Cornelius. He also served as Parish Associate at Sardis Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC and was the first Parish Associate at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Lyles served the churches and communities where he lived with enthusiasm and was the epitome of a servant leader. During retirement, he loved volunteering with Crisis Assistance Ministry, The Ada Jenkins Center, and Habitat for Humanity. He was an avid gardener and beautiful roses were his specialty. He also loved cheering for his alma mater at Wildcat basketball and soccer games.

His legacy includes many a slowly enjoyed meal, tales of “Inspector Razzle Dazzle” and “The Little Raccoon” which were told to multiple generations on every family vacation, beautifully-crafted prayers for even the most insignificant occasions, prophetic wisdom, and an infectious discipleship.

Survivors include his two sons, J. Steedman Lyles Jr. and wife Cissi of Davidson and the Rev. W. Patterson Lyles and wife Terri of Charleston, WV; his beloved companion, Beverly K. Rosengren of Davidson; five grandchildren, J.S. III, Joshua, Betsy, Zachary, and George; a brother, Dr. Clarence Cross Lyles of Spartanburg, SC; and numerous nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Carter P. Lyles and two brothers, A.C. and DuPre Lyles.

A celebration of his Christian life and faith will be held at Davidson College Presbyterian Church on Friday, May 29, 2015 at 2:00 PM. A time of greeting the family will follow at the Congregation House. The family wishes to express gratitude and appreciation to Drs. Ron Beamon and Joseph Trask, and the Pines Health Care Staff for their skillful and compassionate care.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Davidson College Presbyterian Church, PO Box 337, Davidson, NC 28036 or The Ada Jenkins Center, 212 Gamble St., Davidson, NC 28036.

Arrangements made by Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home, Huntersville, NC,