James Cornelius Lyons, Sr. was born on July 17, 1924 in Pensacola, Florida and was the last of three children from the union of Sadie Leola Moultrie and Jim (John Wesley) Lyons. His parents, siblings Elizabeth Lyons Simmons, Samuel Lyons and half-siblings Alexander Reynolds, Mary (Frank) Jones and William Reynolds all proceeded him in death.
At nine years old, James joined Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee. In his adult life, he was a member of First AME and Trinity AME churches in Kansas City, Kansas and Bethel AME in New Haven, Connecticut. He was a member of the men’s chorus for many years and a Sunday school teacher and Superintendent. James was known to say often that “God has blessed me to live a long life and I give him thanks and praise”.
James served in the US Army during World War II and returned on the GI Bill to finish his education. James “Jimmy” met Maxine Blagburn “Doll” at Tennessee State where she was working at the information booth and married her in Nashville on December 16, 1949. James and Maxine moved to Kansas City, Kansas in the early 1950s and purchased a home in Brentwood, an African American Housing Development and Community. They lived in Kansas City, Kansas until 1968, moved to Hamden, Connecticut and returned in 1988. They were married for 50 years and enjoyed traveling, bridge and being part of The Group, retired friends who socialized often, prior to Maxine’s passing. Both James and Maxine worked with Kiddie Kollege where their children, grandchild and great grandchild attended at one time or another.
James was a graduate of Tennessee A&I State University with a degree in Industrial Education. He later attended Pittsburg State University (Kansas) earning a Master’s in Education and the University of Bridgeport (Connecticut) earning his sixth-year degree in school administration. James taught math and industrial education at Northeast Junior High School in Kansas City, Kansas as well as working as a debt collector, bartender and contracting for janitorial service to supplement his teacher’s salary and support his family while Maxine stayed at home and became a “neighborhood” mom. He was a Scout Master for Troop 224 in Kansas City, Kansas and helped mold the lives of many young men.
He advanced into school administration at Wyandotte High School and was recruited to become a Vice Principal at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, Connecticut in 1969. He was an excellent administrator and when he retired in 1988, the district hired four administrators to replace him! “Mr. Lyons” had a way of getting along with kids, earning and commanding their respect and he tutored math before and after retirement. Later in life he was known to sit and discuss various subjects and his opinions with his neighbors and friends who visited.
James was a loving Dad and generous provider. He is survived by children, Norma Jane (Alfred) of Gladstone, Missouri, James Cornelius, Jr. (Marta) of Hollywood, Florida, Clarice Cecelia (Neil) of Skokie, Illinois and Portia Mitchell, Nashville, Tennessee; grandchildren, Danielle (Andre) Sidney, Christina (Joshua) Wassink, Catherine Davidson and Braxton Lyons; great-grandchildren, Khal-El Walker (who was Grandpa’s care giver along with his grandmother), Alexander Sidney and many nieces, nephews other relatives and friends.
James Lyons, P.G.E.R. was a dedicated member of the I.B.P.O. Elks of the World where he served in the Education Department and worked with the Oratorical contest. He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
James had a wonderful outlook on life. When questioned about how he was doing, he responded, “Never better” and he was vital, mobile, enjoyed life and was a smooth talker to the end.
Although for us his passing was sudden, on August 3, 2018, he went to sit in the sun, nodded off and woke up in the gentle hands of the Son. We believe that the Lord looked down and said
“Well done thy good and faithful servant, it’s time to come home”
On any given day, James could fully quote William Ernest Henley's poem, INVICTUS, one of his favorites which begins:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul...
In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to
Kiddie Kollege Nursery School & Kindergarten
2400 Maxine Williams Dr. ~ Kansas City, KS 66101