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Week of 16 May 2002 · Vol. V, No. 33

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Roxbury minister Michael E. Haynes to deliver Baccalaureate sermon

By David J. Craig

From the pulpit of Roxbury's Twelfth Baptist Church and on the streets of the surrounding black neighborhoods, the Reverend Michael E. Haynes has for five decades dedicated himself to saving souls and inspiring young people to pull themselves out of poverty. An evangelist known for his social consciousness as well as for his fiery sermons, he has served as a bridge between evangelical Christians and more liberal church groups around the nation, often traveling to discuss with fellow clergy the hardships faced by people in other nations and leading international pilgrimages and study tours.

Rev. Michael E. Haynes Photo courtesy of Twelfth Baptist Church


Rev. Michael E. Haynes Photo courtesy of Twelfth Baptist Church


Haynes will bring his message of love, faith, and equality among races, ethnic groups, and economic classes to BU on May 19, when he delivers the Baccalaureate address at Marsh Chapel at 9 a.m. Later that morning, he will be presented with a doctor of humane letters, honoris causa, at the All-University Commencement exercises.

In his sermon, Haynes says he will discuss the need for those "who have been to the mountaintop spiritually" to return to "do the important work in the valley of life. There are a lot of people hurting, crying, and without the opportunity to prepare themselves effectively for life, and those of us who have the privilege of higher education and a good job have a moral obligation to respond to those people's needs."

Haynes earned a reputation as a tireless youth advocate counseling troubled teenage boys at the Massachusetts Division of Youth Services and at several Boston-area community centers beginning in the 1950s. He formed youth groups that encouraged hundreds of teenagers to stay in school, lured them off the streets with activities like sports, music, and arts and crafts, and arranged for them to meet successful black professionals.

"Haynes pulled at-risk men from the streets and became an integral part of their lives," the Boston Globe wrote in a 1992 profile. "They are now surgeons, presidents of school boards, high school principals, journalists, policemen, lawyers, political aides, FBI agents, former UN officials, bankers. They are everything young black men growing up in Roxbury are not expected to become. But Haynes worked a magic."

There was nothing magic about it, of course. What Haynes worked was himself, to the bone. He often visited teens late at night in pool halls and on basketball courts to make sure they were attending school, invited them to call him any time of day, and kept contact with them even when they left Roxbury -- whether for college or for jail -- to provide fatherly advice, money, or praise.

"I wanted to expose these kids to every positive influence I could think of -- political, religious, athletic, everything," Haynes told the Globe. "I wanted to surround them with light so that no matter which way they turned, there was a beacon."

Haynes, 75, a Roxbury native and a graduate of Boston English High School, earned a bachelor of arts in theology in 1949 from the New England School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. He then attended Shelton College in New York City, earning a graduate degree in mission and clinical services in 1950. For the next three years, he studied at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Mass.

Haynes joined the clergy of the Twelfth Baptist Church in 1951, serving as youth minister, associate minister, and from 1964 to the present, as senior minister. The 850-member parish is known for its youth programs, including an eight-week summer day camp, and features a food pantry that serves 100 people each week and a secondhand clothing store. The congregation offers for rent 14 units of affordable housing in Roxbury that it purchased and rehabbed more than two decades ago.

It was at the Twelfth Baptist Church in the early 1950s that Haynes met Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS'55, Hon.'59), who became a close friend and an inspiration to Haynes spiritually and in his social activism. King was a member of Twelfth Baptist when working toward his doctorate at BU's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and periodically delivered sermons there. "King made me realize that whatever sacrifices I've made to bring about positive change, they have been relatively small ones," says Haynes.

For three terms, beginning in 1965, Haynes represented Roxbury and the South End as a Democratic state representative, pushing to reduce crime and violence. He also served on the Massachusetts Parole Board from 1969 to 1985.

In addition, Haynes has been a member of the city of Boston Mayor's Committee on Violence and the Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Drug Addiction. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. His honors include the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society Award for Distinguished Achievement in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University, the Cambridge Branch NAACP Award, and several honorary degrees.

Haynes has two sons, Randy and Abdi, and is a grandfather.


16 May 2002
Boston University
Office of University Relations