VOL. 111 | NO. 133 | Friday, July 18, 1997
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
Joseph Kyles, newly elected president of Tennessee Young Democrats,
is excited about helping the party grow and prosper
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
When Joseph Kyles leaves Memphis headed for the National Young Democrats of Americas national convention, he will be accompanied by the largest group of Tennesseans ever to attend.
Kyles, 28, is the newly elected president of the Tennessee Young Democrats. He said the group of 50 young Democrats will travel to Miami for the convention, which is from Aug. 13-20. Although membership is open to people between the ages of 13 and 41, the group going to the convention consists of 20 members between the ages of 13 and 16.
"In the past, that age group has been overlooked," Kyles said.
Kyles said he believes that targeting people that age should be what the mission of the Tennessee Young Democrats is all about.
"What we find is that when the kids get excited about something, so do the parents," he said.
And exciting those parents and their children will help Tennessee Democrats support Vice President Al Gore when he makes a run for the White House, Kyles said.
"If we want to carry this state for Vice President Al Gore when he runs for president, then weve got to do our work now," he said.
One of the goals of the group, Kyles said, is to try to bring the National Young Democrats national convention to Tennessee in two years.
"Were really trying to bring this thing together," Kyles said of his ongoing work with officials at the Young Democrats of America.
Kyles said the Tennessee Young Democrats will set out to Miami loaded with Memphis memorabilia, including, of course, barbecue and plenty of down-home sauce to go with it.
The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau has been instrumental in supplying the group with items touting Memphis, such as recordings by Memphis artists and other marketing items, Kyles said.
"Were asking other corporation, if theyd like to assist us, to please give us a call," he said.
Being in the limelight is nothing new to Kyles, who was 6 or 7 when he attended his first press conference with his stepfather, musician Al Green and his mother, Shirley, also an entertainer.
Kyles credits his mother for engendering him with love for politics and diplomacy.
"I had to learn to be proactive, not reactive," Kyles said of his days traveling on the road with his family. Kyles said he frequently attended banquets and awards ceremonies, and it was then that he learned the "art of diplomacy."
Kyles moved to Memphis from his birthplace of Chicago about 18 years ago.
A graduate of Whitehaven High School, Kyles attended Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. He later transferred to the University of Tennessee-Martin to finish his undergraduate studies.
A football player, Kyles said he had hoped to play pro ball, but a neck injury before his senior year at UT changed those plans.
During a phone call with his mother, who urged him to re-focus his energies, she suggested that he become involved with the Student Government Association.
Kyles ran for SGA president and won the primary, becoming the first African-American to do so. But in the final election, Kyles lost.
Still, he said, that experience lit a political fire in him that still burns today.
Kyles graduated from UT Martin in 1991 with a bachelor of arts in political science. He then worked at Rhodes College as assistant director of residence life.
"I loved that job, working with young people," Kyles said.
Kyles now is able to channel that love for working with young people into the Tennessee Young Democrats.
In December 1996, Kyles joined the faculty at Shelby State Community College, where he is an assistant professor of education. He said he gets excited about his job because it gives him a chance to share his enthusiasm for education with others.
"In order to be a strong community, we have to be informed," Kyles said.
name: Joseph B. Kyles
date of birth: March 29, 1969
education: University of Tennessee-Martin
Bachelor of Arts, 1991
marital status: single
children: Taylor Christian Kyles, 3
hobbies: racquetball, horseback riding
reading, weight lifting