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Wed, 06.21.1843

Thomas Henry Lyles, Businessman born

Thomas Henry Lyles

*The birth of Thomas Henry Lyles is celebrated on this date in 1843. He was a Black soldier, businessman, and activist. Born in Maryland, Lyles served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. 

Around 1870, Lyles married  Amanda Lyles, and the couple arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1874. The 1880 Census shows Lyles at age 37, Mrs. Lyles at age 25, and two children named Lola Matthews and Marshall Salter. Lyles was amongst the first generation of activists that helped to shape and define the Rondo community of St. Paul and neighboring Minneapolis' black communities in the late 1800s. He was a successful Barber, Real Estate Agent. 1875 Lyles became a charter member and the first Robert Banks Literary Society President. In 1881, Lyles convinced the Mayor of St. Paul that he should hire a black police officer and the introduction of an all-Black Fire Department in 1885.

In 1883 Lyles and Hilyard placed an article in the New York Globe, extolling the virtues and opportunities awaiting black society in St. Paul. Their efforts attracted John Q. Adams (of the Louisville Bulletin) and Fredrick McGhee (Minnesota's 1st Black Criminal Attorney). Lyles was also active in the Republican Political clubs of the 1880s. In June 1885, he was Co-Owner with J.K. Hilyard of the Western Appeal newspaper.

On August 16, 1894, Lyles became the 1st Grand Master of Minnesota's African Grand Lodge, now known as the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Minnesota. In 1906, as the first black Mortician in Minnesota, he opened the Lyles Funeral Home.  Thomas H. Lyles died on September 2, 1920.

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