Community Voices

Community to honor Freeman Wyche, retired pastor of Liberty City Church of Christ

Freeman Wyche at a community meeting in 1995.
Freeman Wyche at a community meeting in 1995. Miami Herald File

Freeman T. Wyche, an icon in Miami’s Christian community, has stepped down as the pastor of Liberty City Church of Christ, where he has been the spiritual leader for more than 38 years.

His time at the church will be celebrated at 5 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Miami Police B.A. Banquet Hall, 2300 NW 14th St. The program will include speakers and lots of music.

At 10 a.m. Feb. 12, there will be a special worship service followed by a fellowship luncheon at noon and the installation of Evangelist Eric Doss at the Liberty City Church of Christ, 1261 NW 67th St.

Speaking with Wyche, and listening to his story, it seems that while preaching was what he was destined to do, he could have also had a career in sports. Born in 1930 in Valdosta, Georgia, Wyche was only “weeks old” when his family moved to Miami and settled in Overtown (then called Colored Town or the Central Negro District).

He attended Fredrick Douglass and Phyllis Wheatley elementary schools, and later entered Booker T. Washington Junior and Senior High School. He has fond memories of his home in Overtown at Northwest Eighth Street.

“At the time, we attended the 12th Street Church of Christ that was next door to Douglass Elementary at the time,” Wyche said. “We lived a short distance away in a small house that we rented from the owner of the People’s Drug Store.”

In 1944, when he was 14, his parents sent him to the church school in Nashville — Nashville Christian Institute — where he later graduated as class valedictorian. “That’s when I started preaching,” Wyche said. He went on to finish high school in Nashville and entered Tennessee A&I State College but later dropped out for lack of funds, and entered the U.S. Air Force.

After he was discharged from the Air Force, Wyche went back to Tennessee State and was there a year when a friend invited him to preach at a small church just outside of Knoxville.

“At first, I didn’t want to go. Then my friend told me the story of Maryville College, near Knoxville, that had once been integrated, then segregated by law, and was being reintegrated. That was in 1954, and the school was being reintegrated with six black students. I was one of the six,” Wyche said.

At Maryville, Wyche excelled in academics and also in track. At the time, a lot of the white schools wouldn’t compete against Maryville because of him. “One of the schools was Georgia Tech,” Wyche said. It was also while in college that he met Anna McCleskey, now his wife of 61 years, and went back into the Air Force. They are the parents of three: Freeman II, Zoe Terriann and Kermit; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Wyche was the first African American to letter in inter-collegiate sports in the South after integration. “It isn’t well-known,” he said, “and the only thing written in the college yearbook is, in 1954 six black students were admitted to the college. That’s all.” Years later, at the urging of one of his classmates, a plaque was placed in the student union building with the names of the six students who integrated Maryville College.

He later would earn his bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Houston in Texas; a master’s degree from New York Theological Seminary; and doctorate degrees from Faith College in Birmingham, Alabama.

Before coming to the Liberty City Church of Christ, Wyche had served as minister for the Third Ward Church of Christ in Houston; Bueltone Church of Christ in Lompoc, California; and has preached to thousands over the world including Germany, France, North Africa, England, the Caribbean, Korea, Israel and throughout the United States.

Wyche is one of the unsung heroes of the Miami community. He has chaired and served on the boards of many civic and educational organizations, including The Alliance for Aging, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties; John H. Peavy Adolescent Health Center, Miami Northwestern High School; Grandparents Raising Grandchildren; State of Florida Department of Elder Affairs Advisory Council; Urban League of Greater Miami; Carver YMCA, Family Christian Association of America; and Pastoral Services Jackson Memorial Hospital, to name a few.

He spent 30 years in the Air Force and is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Air Traffic Control School and served 12 years as an air traffic controller. He also trained and served 18 years in hospital administration. Wyche formally retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant at Homestead Air Force Base in 1990, three days before Desert Storm.

A man who loves life, Wyche enjoys fishing, reading, bowling, golf and solving word puzzles and games. And although now retired, he will continue to preach in his role as minister emeritus at the Liberty City Church of Christ, and lecture whenever he is called. And he still enjoys a nighttime bowl of ice cream.

He also has a bucket list. “In my 30 years in the Air Force, I never rode with the Blue Angels, so I want to get a ride in one of those supersonic jets and maybe jump out of a plane,” he said. And if time allows, he wants to write his memoirs.

“I also want to spend some time to visit the churches that I never had the opportunity to visit while I was the minister here. I’m talking about the churches that don’t get any headlines — the small churches, mostly in Florida. I plan to assist them in any way I can. I also would like to visit with as many of my old preaching buddies as I can. Most are not in as good health as I am and can’t travel as I can. I’m thankful that I don’t have any real health issues.”

Church celebrates 75th anniversary

Congratulations to the Rev. Juan Sosa and the congregation of The Church of St. Joseph on the church’s 75th anniversary.

The church will celebrate with special services on Feb. 1, when Archbishop Emeritus John Favalora will lead a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. at the church.

At 11 a.m. Feb. 12, Archbishop Thomas Wenski will lead an outdoor Mass of Thanksgiving at the church at 8670 Byron Ave. in Miami Beach.

Tracing her Jewish roots

The community is invited to hear author Genie Milgrom lecture on the topic “From the Spanish Inquisition to the Present: A Search for Jewish Roots” at 7 p.m. Sunday at Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables, 1827 Ponce de Leon Blvd.

Born to a Catholic Cuban family, Milgrom embarked on a journey to find her true ancestral roots that began 22 generations ago with the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal. She traced her Jewish roots by fully documenting her unbroken maternal lineage going back as far as 1410 to pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal.

She is now the president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami and has documented her experiences in the books “My 15 Grandmothers” and “How I Found My 15 Grandmothers: A Step-by-Step Guide.”

Admission is $12, with advance online reservation at $8. To reserve online, visit www.ChabadGables.com/milgrom or call 305-490-7572.

Archbishop’s Motorcycle Ride

Archbishop Thomas Wenski will get back on his motorcycle Sunday, joined by hundreds of other bike riders from across the state as a part of the 2017 Archbishop’s Motorcycle Ride.

The bikers will meet at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 11691 NW 25th St., Doral, at 8:30 a.m. for Mass, followed by the blessing of the bikes. “Kickstands up” is at 10 a.m. The ride will end at the Peterson’s Harley-Davidson North with a barbecue and entertainment.

The entry cost is $20. All proceeds will benefit the Archdiocese of Miami Catholic Charities’ St. Luke Center, which offers treatment for people struggling with addictions.

To register and for more information, visit www.adomdevelopment.org/2017ride/.

Winter Indoor Yard Sale

It’s time for the Winter Indoor Yard Sale sponsored by Palm Springs United Methodist Church,5700 W. 12th Ave., Hialeah.

The event will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 3-4 and Feb. 10-11.

I am told that there will be an “overabundance” of items to choose from, including clothing for the entire family, shoes, craft supplies, linens, records, videos, toys, small furniture, small electrical appliances, electronics, luggage, lamps, pictures, books and holiday items and decorations.

Lunch and snacks will also be for sale. Money raised is used for church work and missions. Call 305-821-3232, 305-821-2073 or email the church at office@palmspringsumc.com.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email bea.hines@gmail.com. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.

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