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Dr. Inez Mariesainte Myles

June 19, 1945 - May 16, 2022


Dr. Inez M. Myles, Trailblazing Advocate for the Elderly and Poor, Dies at 76

Dr. Inez M. Myles, who was regarded by many as one of the women trailblazers of advocacy for the poor and elderly in the Southeastern United States and who spent a lifetime dedicated to community action providing access, health care, and quality affordable housing for the elderly has departed her earthly life at 76. 

Born in Harlem, New York, on June 19, 1945, to the late Amoure Mariesainte and Katherine Clark, Inez spent the first few years of life in Staten Island, New York, living with her godparents – the late Lloyd and Cleo Mickles. Her life would take a turn that would impact her trajectory moving forward. She moved from New York to Raleigh, North Carolina, to live with her grandparents, the late Reverend Arthur Clifton and Reverend Ella Clark Yarborough. 

She attended Ligon High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She excelled in many subjects, including Spanish, chorus, and Mathematics, as she was a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor’s Society and YTeens. She listed her future career as a “nurse” in her high school yearbook. Even then, young Inez knew that she wanted a vocation that would allow her to help others.

 After graduation, she attended Shaw University, majoring in Business Administration. She later received two honorary doctorate degrees for her service to humanity. While at Shaw University, she met a fellow New Yorker, a young handsome football player by the name of Robert Leo Myles, who by the time she graduated from college would be her husband. She graduated in 1967, and in July of that year, she and Robert celebrated the birth of their only child – Arthur Clifton Myles. He was named after her grandfather, the late Reverend Arthur Clifton Yarborough.

 As was customary with many college graduates of the 1960s, Inez, a burgeoning activist, knew that she, too, wanted to impact community action and decided to focus on rights for the elderly and disenfranchised in the Black community. From 1970 to 1973, she worked for the North Carolina State Economic Opportunity Office. Immediately following that opportunity, from 1973 to 1974, Inez worked for the Franklin Vance Warren Opportunities office. Who would have known that the young woman from Harlem, NY, who grew up with her grandparents, would become the powerhouse that she was to become? With each job, she gained the skills to impact change at the highest level. 

In 1972, only five years after graduating college and having her son, Inez incorporated the North Carolina Senior Citizens Federation. By 1974, as its Executive Director, the organization she created in Henderson, North Carolina, was thriving and gaining local, state, and national attention. By 1977, Inez had gained the attention of many legislators across the state and the country. She was known by many as the young Black woman who could rile up a crowd and get support for the elderly. Armed with charisma, a powerful voice, and her love of God and biblical knowledge, having grown up in the home of two ministers, when Inez approached the podium and flashed that charismatic smile, she immediately won over the crowd, whether it was senior citizens or national legislators.

 Working tirelessly to advocate for the elderly, she would travel the state visiting churches, community centers, nursing homes, and anyone else who would listen. One of Inez’s slogans to collect funding in the early days was a “ten-cent campaign” where she asked the elderly to donate only a dime to assist with building the North Carolina Senior Citizens Federation. She knew that she needed their support but also knew that many of them were poor, and to ask for more would negate her cause. Once she had the financial support, she was then able to assemble a dynamic team of persons who, at various intervals, included, among others, Andrea Harris, Margaret Cooper, Judy Tolbert, Calvin Kearney, Erata McDougald, Harry Williams, and Julius Fritz. Together they built a foundation for the North Carolina Senior Citizens Federation that was so strong that it expanded from one county to one hundred counties in North Carolina. The Federation is still in existence today, fifty- years after its incorporation. At one point, according to an online government document, the North Carolina Senior Citizens Federation has boasted between twenty and thirty thousand members.

 By this time, Inez’s work for community action and the elderly had gained the attention of national and state legislators. Among those noticing her dynamism and vigor was Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., who simultaneously initiated an emphasis and programs and policies designed to benefit the older population. When he became aware of the young Inez Myles, the woman who had a silver tongue and was sought after across the region as a keynote speaker, he knew that he had to get her on his team to assist his agenda.

 Inez once wrote, “Our common bond is not the differences we have, but the common concerns of being poor and middle-income people.” This mantra shared across the Southeastern United States spoke to many, including the Governor. In 1977, Governor Hunt appointed Inez to a four-year term on the North Carolina Milk Commissioner, thus making her “the only African American woman on the Commission and one of only ten people in the state.” In 1982 the Carolina Times stated that “Inez Myles served on the White House Conference on Aging and the North Carolina Milk Commission and is the only black regulating the Dairy Industry in the United States.” 

Inez’s schedule was hectic. She was a divorcee mothering young Arthur and operating the Federation that had become a national model for senior citizen advocacy. Around this time, Inez and best friend Andrea Harris met Mr. William “Sonny” Walker, who was the Division Director for the US Department of Housing and Urban Renewal. According to both women, Sonny Walker mentored the two young mavericks and taught them the ropes on securing millions of dollars of grant funding they would use to support community action and urban renewal in North Carolina. Years later, Inez would gain grants as large as six million dollars for the NC Senior Citizens Federation, making her one of the only Blacks to receive such a large grant. She then worked to provide jobs to as many senior citizens as possible, providing various trainings to include fiscal management and even CPR certification. 

On Tuesday, July 3, 1979, Inez spoke in front of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging. The theme was The Impact of Federal Older American Programs at the State and Location Level. During this speech, Inez told the legislators at the end of her rebel-rousing oration, “We thank you for this opportunity to assure a voice for those who have and still do contribute invaluably to our society and yet experience poverty in the midst of plenty.” 

The 1980s saw highs and lows for Inez. In 1981, Inez served as the chair of the Elderly Committee for the National Community Action Agency Executive Director’s Association. Again, she presented before the United States Congress; this time, she spoke to encourage Congress for the reauthorization and extension of its older Americans Act of 1965 - House Committee on Education and Labor Sub Committee on Human Resources. In 1984, in another speech to national legislators, she stated, “It is morally reprehensible for the richest nations to balance its books at the expense of the poor while providing for the rich.” As she was traveling all over the country spreading her message of advocacy for the elderly and the poor, just as her son Arthur was preparing to graduate from North Carolina A & T State University, Inez was hit with a breast cancer diagnosis. In true Inez Myles form, she slowed down but never quit. She managed her chemotherapy, visited her aging grandmother, who was ministering at a church in Zebulon, NC, and continued her work until she was given a diagnosis that her cancer was in remission. 

In 1989, a dream of realizing affordable housing for the elderly was fulfilled with the formation of the Scott Mitchell Senior Living Apartments Phases I and II. 

Inez continued her work with the North Carolina Senior Citizens Federation but began considering other options for affordable housing and care for the elderly. Having developed economic housing, with her team of dynamic supporters, who by this time included her god-daughter – Karen Clark was a contributor to the creation and operation of the centers, Inez began her quest to open an assisted living facility to support her passion of equity for seniors. One of her proudest moments occurred on January 1, 2007, when the Floyd B. McKissick, Sr. Assisted Living Center was established. Initially slated to be named after Eva Clayton, once she went to Congress, Inez and the Board chose to honor Floyd B. McKissick, Sr., who had financed a trip to Maryland in 1992 for Inez to attend the multi-Institute to garner ideas for the creation of the assisted living facility in Soul City, NC. 

Inez had become so adept with state regulations she was appointed to the NC Penalty Board and became the “goto person” for many seeking to enter the Assisted Living enterprise, especially African Americans. Inez freely donated her time to assist them, especially the younger African Americans entering the field. 

Inez later worked to develop and/or consult with several facilities housing the elderly to include YarboroughOneal Villas (named in honor of her grandmother), Forsyth Village in Winston, Salem, NC; Louisburg Gardens in Louisburg, NC; the Riverstone Assisted Living Center, the Highlands Gardens Assisted Living Center of Clarkton, and the Highland Garden Assisted Living Center of Red springs. As an African American woman who owned several assisted living facilities in North Carolina, she was confronted with hostile takeovers and plots to destroy her mission to provide quality health care and affordable living for residents in North Carolina. Being a fighter, she was up for the challenge, but she was not the same woman she had been forty years prior. This work led to several health challenges and eventually to her official retirement. Even as her health challenges began, she still created and/or operated family care homes in Red Springs, NC and Newbern, NC. 

Inez was indeed a “people’s person.” She enjoyed family gatherings, playing cards, traveling, and visiting casinos with friends and relatives, and watching the zest of life in her young relatives. She truly enjoyed speaking and sharing the message of advocacy, community action, and the word of God across the Southeastern United States. Her grandmother Rev. Ella Yarborough and members of the United Holly Church planted seeds early in her life that rooted her understanding of the Lord. She honored her relationship with God above all things. She believed sincerely in the word, and it was a part of her being every day. Her greatest joy was when she was able to make an impact in her community, and that is why she dedicated her life to community action.

 Inez, affectionately referred to as Snookie and Nezzie, was preceded in death by her grandmother the late Reverend Ella Yarborough (who she referred to as her mother), her grandfather the late Reverend Arthur Clifton Yarborough, her god-parents the late Lloyd and Cleo Mickles, her biological mother – the late Catherine Clark, and her biological father – the late Amoure Mariesainte, and her sister-in-Christ – Willie Marion Chappell.

After several decades of service to the government and private industry, Inez retired and moved to South Boston, VA, with her god-daughter Karen Clark, who took great care of her during her final years. She leaves to cherish her memory her pride and joy, her son – Dr. A. Clifton Myles of Columbia, SC; a devoted god-daughter – Karen Clark of South Boston, VA; a grandson – DaiShawn Clark of Raleigh, NC; one aunt – Geneva Cooper of Newark, NJ; extended family – one sister – Victoria Jackson of South Boston, VA; one daughter – Kim Chappell (who referred to her as Ma Myles) of South Boston, VA; one devoted granddaughter – Ebonie Chappell of South Boston, VA; four godchildren (Teresa Parson, Tracey Chappell, Da`Karia Ballou, and Da`Marion Chappell); nine grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, a devoted cousin – Jermaine Vaughan of Columbus, OH; a devoted caregiver – Hazel Thaxton of South Boston, VA; five devoted friends (Harry Williams of Carey, NC; Sandra Darensburg of Henderson, NC; Barbara Parson of Henderson, NC; Val Matthews of Raleigh, NC; and Marjorie Young of Zebulon, NC), and a host of other relatives and friends.

Funeral services for Ms. Inez Mariesainte Myles will be Saturday, May 21st at 11:00 a.m. at Jeter Chapel Baptist Church with Bishop Dr. Clifton Buckrham, eulogist and Dr. William E. Purvis officiating.

A public viewing for family and friends will be Friday, May 20th from noon until 6 p.m. at Jeffress Funeral Home, South Boston, VA.  The family will receive friends at the residence, 1107 Dan River Church Road, Halifax, VA.

Funeral services are provided by Jeffress Funeral Home, South Boston, VA. 

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