History of the Restoration Movement

Cleon Lyles


Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Cleon Lyles

Cleon Lyles was born in Rector, Arkansas July 1, 1914. He was baptized by J. Harvey Dykes in 1930. He married Neva Maxie Coats of Coal Hill, Arkansas in 1933. To their union was born two daughters, Janis Ann and Kerrie Sue. He received his training at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

He began preaching in Rector in 1931. He preached for different congregations of the Lord's Church through the years. He served the Central church in Muscogee, Oklahoma from 1937 to 1941. While there he had a daily radio program. Later he served the Lamar Avenue church in Paris, Texas from 1941 to 1945 where he also had a daily radio program. He moved to the Downtown church (Sixth & Izard, now Windsong) in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1945. While in the Little Rock area he had a weekly fifteen minute radio broadcast on KARK Sunday mornings, and a thirty minute program on the ABC affiliate KATV in Little Rock every Sunday. Through the years he also served as a staff writer for the 20th Century Christian. He was perhaps best known among churches by the book he wrote on leadership, Bigger Men For Better Churches in 1962. He also preached in gospel meetings in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan. He finished his career in the kingdom while preaching for the Morrilton church in Morrilton, Arkansas.

Cleon Lyles passed from this life on September 3, 1989. The funeral was held at the church in Morrilton, and the burial took place at Coal Hill, the home of his wife's family, in the Srygley Family Cemetery.

Obituary In Arkansas Christian Herald

(The following is from the September 1989 issue of the Arkansas Christian Herald.)

Arkansas gospel preacher, evangelist, lecturer, author and after dinner speaker, Cleon Lyles of Morrilton, died about 7:30 Sunday evening, September 3rd, after a valiant struggle with cancer. He is survived by his beloved wife, Maxie Coats Lyles, by two daughters, Janis Ann Perrin of Lubbock, Texas and Kerri Sue Goldsmith of Laguna Beach, California.

Other survivors include a brother, Robert Lyles, a gospel preacher, of Jonesboro, a sister, Ruby Lyles McNickle of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, three grandchildren and one nephew.

Cleon obeyed the gospel and was baptized by the late J. Harvey Dykes in 1930. He began preaching at Rector in 1931. He was persuaded to come to Fort Smith by Will Slater and James E. Laird and work at the children's home dairy, attend school and learn Bible preaching. He preached by Sunday appointment and gospel meetings primarily in west central Arkansas. This included Coal Hill where the Coats family lived and whose daughter was Neva Maxie Coats.

Brother Lyles entered Harding, in Morrilton, in the fall of 1933. He has often said of that experience, "All I remember is that I entered college, I was in love, and Maxie and I married." At the end of the fall quarter, he and Maxie moved to Talequah, Oklahoma where he preached for the church and they attended Northeastern State College.

In 1937 they moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma where he preached for the Central church. In 1941 they moved to Paris, Texas where he preached for the Lamar Avenue church. In 1945 they moved to Little Rock to work with the Fourth and State Streets church, which is now Sixth and Izard. He continued with them for twenty-three years. He
conducted a live fifteen minute radio program over KARK early Sunday mornings all those years. He developed a thirty minute television program on KATV at 12:30 on Sundays.

Brother Lyles was a popular evangelist and held many gospel meetings all over the continental United States. At the end of his tenure at Sixth and Izard he did full time evangelistic work for a few years. He was asked to come to Morrilton and preach for the Downtown church. He continued that ministry until he retired from full time preaching at the end of 1978. He served many years as a member of the board of directors of Southern Christian Home. He resigned that responsibility in December of 1978 when his son-in-law, Jerry Perrin was named superintendent of the Home.

Cleon was co-founder and co-editor of the PULASKI COUNTY CHRISTIAN (now ARKANSAS - CHRISTIAN HERALD). He resigned from that work when he entered full time
evangelistic service. In the late spring of 1979 he began preaching on Sundays for the Northside church (which meets at Southern Christian Home) in Morrilton. His love and concern for the spiritual nurture and growth of the boys and girls at the Home knew no bounds. He loved to bring the gospel to their troubled hearts. He often encouraged them by saying that he intended to go to heaven and he wanted them to go there, too.

Brother Lyles was the author of seven books: "Bigger Men For Better Churches," "God Knew He Needed Her," "Make Way For Happiness," "Rich Without Money," "Wish I'd Said That," and "Baseball, Baptism, and Apple Pie."

The last pulpit sermon brother Lyles preached was on Sunday, August 27 at the Northside church. He was making preparation to go on Sunday morning, September 3rd, when his strength failed and the ambulance rushed him to the hospital where he passed on that evening.

Funeral services were held at the Downtown church in Morrilton on Tuesday afternoon by John Gipson, Carroll Trent, Weldon Hatcher, Tom Chapin and singers from Sixth and Izard. Graveside service was conducted by Luther Hodge at Srygley Cemetery at Coal Hill.


On August 31, officials at Lubbock Christian University issued a Doctor-of-Laws degree for Cleon Lyles. President Steven Lemley planned to make the award in person at a dinner which the Board of Directors of Southern Christian Home scheduled to honor brother Lyles. The event was scheduled for September 29 in Morrilton. Dr. Lemley said that the diploma will be presented to Mrs. Lyles in Lubbock at a later date.

-World Evangelist, January, 1990, p.4,5

Remembrances Of Cleon Lyles

Cleon Lyles has gone to his reward, but the memories linger. Who can forget the deep, sometimes booming voice, with its rich, southern accent? For twenty-three years he preached for the Sixth and Izard Church of Christ in Little Rock. Arkansas. Through his work in the pulpit, over radio and television, his name became a household word. He was in demand throughout the brotherhood for gospel meetings, lectureships and after-dinner speeches.

Cleon knew how to hold an audience without a rope. I told him one time that he reminded me of a bird-dog. He gave me a look that demanded an explanation, so I told him that in my view a good birddog had an instinct for hunting and that I believed he was born with an instinct for preaching. That was not meant to discount all of the study and work he engaged in to make full-proof of his ministry, but to recognize a God-given ability. Cleon was a natural. Cleon possessed a number of admirable attributes. He was a man of wisdom and common sense, a man who believed in the work ethic, a man of wit and humor, a man who loved people, and one who loved proclaiming the word of God.

Part Indian, his early school friends called him "Chief." It was a name which stuck and became a term of endearment. The "Chief" is no longer with us, but his influence will be felt far into the future.

John Gipson, Evangelist
Sixth and hard
Church of Christ
Little Rock, AR 72203

-World Evangelist, January, 1990, p.5

For Location & Directions To Srygley Family Cemetery Click Here

Neva Maxie Lyles, Wife Of Cleon, Buried In The Same Cemetery, But Next To Her Parents

History Home

History Index Page