NEW YORK (Feb. 26)
This week’s arrest of the president of the National Baptist Convention on multiple charges of fraud has revived memories of a good deed gone awry.
Among the charges leveled against the Rev. Henry Lyons was the diversion of a $225,000 donation from the Anti-Defamation League.
Only approximately $31,000 of the gift was used by Lyons as intended: to rebuild vandalized black southern churches.
The balance has since been recovered and redistributed to the churches in need of repair, according to Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL.
Following news of Lyons’ arrest Wednesday, Foxman said, “We feel betrayed on the one hand, but since the missing money was returned, we are satisfied.”
Details on Lyons’ embezzlement came to light after Lyons’ wife, Deborah, was arrested Wednesday on charges of setting fire to a waterfront house he owned with colleague Bernice Edwards, who was also arrested on charges of racketeering.
At a 1996 news conference in New York, the ADL teamed up with the National Urban League to present the money to Lyons.
Weeks later, Lyons sent a letter to the ADL stating that six Alabama churches each received $35,000 and that a seventh was due to receive $15,000.
But an article in the Tampa Tribune reported three of those churches received checks for only $10,000 each, and a fourth for as little as $1000. The others received nothing.
After learning about the discrepancies between the amount given and the amount received by the churches, Foxman sent a letter to Lyons, asking “for a complete accounting.”
Soon after, the balance of the funds was returned to ADL and redistributed to the needy churches.