Describing his son Dwain Kyles -- now enmeshed in potentially serious legal problems as the co-owner of the Chicago night club E2 -- as a legitimate businessman, the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, an intimate of the late Dr. Martin Luther Kings and a civil rights pathfinder in his own right, defended the younger Kyles' right to dream his own dreams.
My son is a Georgetown law graduate. People have made up their minds that hes a bad guy and are after him, but hes operating a legitimate business which has just had a horrible, horrible accident, said Rev. Kyles in a telephone interview Thursday. He [Dwain] doesnt sell dope or anything like that. In business we want our children to succeed. I dont want to bust his dream. He was holding on to his dream.
The Rev. Kyles, the longtime pastor of Memphis Monumental Baptist Church, was standing alongside Dr. King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on that day in April 1968 when a shot rang out, fatally wounding the legendary civil rights leader, whose I Have a Dream speech of 1963 lives on in history. At the time of the tragedy Dr. King and a few friends were reportedly planning to depart for the home of Rev. Kyles, where they intended to have some home-cooked soul food.
Coincidentally, Rev., Kyles had been visiting his son in Chicago last weekend, one which would culminate early Monday morning in the death of 21 people, trampled to death at E2 when a panic started following someones use of pepper spray to quell a minor disturbance. The Memphis minister, preparing to leave Chicago for San Francisco, where he had several appearances scheduled in connection with Black History Month, learned of the tragic circumstances early Monday when the Rev. Jesse Jackson, another presence at the Lorraine that day in 1968, called his hotel room to inform him.
Jesse started calling some of the other ministers [in Chicago], asking them to come down and help, said Rev. Kyles. He was not there as a civil rights minister but as a minister, pure and simple. Professing gratitude for the intercession of Jackson, both as a consoler to the afflicted and as a source of aid and comfort to Dwain Kyles in particular, the Rev. Kyles, a co-founder with Jackson of the PUSH organization, said of Jackson, We helped raise each others children. But I dont have any doubt that, whoever might have owned the club, hed have been there.
The Rev. Kyles disputed much that the media and Chicago authorities have reported about the events at E2, saying, for example, that exits had not been chained up or otherwise locked. The problem was that people just attempted to leave in the same directions they had come in and got jammed up that way. They werent prevented from leaving by other exits. I guess when people dont have information they make it up.
Defending his sons involvement with E2, Rev. Kyles said the entertainment complex was not an unsavory establishment but one which contained a wonderful restaurant on the first floor and had night-club facilities on the second floor that were rented out for a variety of legitimate purposes, some of which involved famous singers like Stevie Wonder and Gerald Levert and drew celebrities and the sporting elite. He said the media had given a false impression that the club had been shut down, whereas, according to Rev. Kyles, the only section had had been ordered closed by the city was a second-floor mezzanine of sorts Ð a V.I.P. section that had been created for visiting celebrities -- and this, said Kyles, was shut down for strictly structural reasons and was not occupied on the night of the disaster.
Rev. Kyles acknowledged, without comment, that there had been a number of complaints to police concerning E2 -- 80-odd, according to various reports.
Rev. Kyles had left Chicago on Monday for San Francisco, where he was contracted for as a speaker on diversity themes at several Bay Area schools. Its been a busy schedule for me, and Im glad its been that way. I make sick calls all the time as a minister, and I remember when I visited my mother in the hospital one time and realized it was unlike any other kind of sick call Id been called upon to make. This is something like that. When I get home and have time to reflect, Im sure its all going to hit me.
When he is called upon to speak on civil rights themes, which is often, Rev. Kyles sometimes talks about his sense that it was predestined that he be with Dr. King at the time of the latters martyrdom, that it was a necessary part of his subsequent witness. Comparing the present circumstances to that one, Rev. Kyles noted, I didnt realize fully my mission to witness until a year or two after Dr. Kings death, and I havent had time to think about this situation in that light.
Professing no disappointment whatsoever with the career path pursued by son Dwain, one of five Kyles progeny, the minister paused. Parents would support children no matter what they do. Thank God it wasnt something illegal or shady.