Boston has lost one of its longstanding community leaders. The Reverend Michael Haynes passed away at 92 last week. For 40 years, he was the pastor of one of Roxbury's most prominent churches, Twelfth Baptists Church. He was also a social worker, a state representative, and a member of the Parole Board. Haynes met Martin Luther King Jr. when King was doing graduate work at Boston University and Haynes was a youth minister at Twelfth Baptist. WGBH Senior Editor Ken Cooper talked about Haynes' life and legacy with Rupa Shenoy. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Shenoy: So these two men, Michael Haynes and Martin Luther King — when they first met, what did they have in common?
Cooper: They had a lot in common. They were, first of all, two young, black Baptist preachers. Beyond that, they were also both very community spirited. There were some differences, though, one of which was Dr. King had essentially grown up in a middle class family. His father was a pastor. Michael Haynes had come up the hard way, in Lower Roxbury. His immigrant parents were basically labor-type people, they weren't professionals.
Shenoy: One man went on a local path and one man went on a national path, it seems like.
Cooper: Yeah, it's interesting. I read that when King left Boston to take up a pulpit at a church in Montgomery, Ala., from which he became famous, he actually invited Michael Haynes to go along with him. But Haynes' reponse was along the lines of, "I'm a Boston boy. This is who I am and this is where I belong." So he stayed.
Shenoy: What were his most significant contributions to the city of Boston?
Cooper: In 2014, I interviewed Michael Haynes for about an hour and a half. It was for a profile I wrote for a photobook called "Portraits of Purpose," which was about social change agents in Boston since the 1980s. In deciding how underneath his name I would describe Michael Haynes, I thought the most apt and accurate description, first, is what he told me about his own contributions. So I labeled him a "community mentor" before I noted his 40-year pastorship of Twelfth Baptist.
And I think that's where his greatest impact was. As a social worker, as a minister, even as a parole board member, he mentored so many young people. I've met black man after black man after black man, now in their 60s and early 70s, who go on and on about how much Michael Haynes helped them when they were young and trying to find a direction in life. One, Charlie Titus, who's a vice-chancellor at UMass Boston, at his age still refers to Haynes as "Uncle Mike." That's how profound the impact was.
Shenoy: How is he being remembered?
Cooper: This being the 21st century, I learned of Michael Haynes' passing from posts on Facebook. They were posts from men I know who he had mentored. They were telling stories about what "Uncle Mike" did for them. One who I know very well talked about how he accomplished something in the 1960s and he got a letter from State Rep. Michael Haynes, complimenting him on his achievement.
When he was on the parole board — every phase of his life he did the same thing — there was a young man who Michael Haynes knew, and Michael Haynes also knew that he had used drugs, and he was in prison on drug charges. Michael Haynes used his influence on the parole board to get that young man out of prison. But Michael Haynes confessed to me that after the guy got out, he was still using drugs. And finally Michael Haynes was able to persuade him to stop. That man now is a substance abuse counselor who is working to help younger people, other people, get off of drugs. So his lasting impact is these people who he helped, who are helping other people.