In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Samuel W. Hylton, Jr.
The National Benevolent Association (NBA) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) celebrates the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Samuel W. Hylton, Jr. (February 14, 1927 – July 4, 2018). Dr. Hylton served as senior pastor for Centennial Christian Church in St. Louis, Missouri, for 36 years (October 1961 – June 1997) and was a recognized community leader and advocate for affordable housing, public schools, and social services for the economically poor.
With the NBA, Dr. Hylton was a partner and leader in the development and construction of two apartment communities, Hylton Point I (completed in 1996) and Hylton Point II (completed in 2000), which provided 132 affordable housing units for low-income older adults, built with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Former NBA staffperson Rev. Frank Hungerford fondly recalls walking the construction site with Dr. Hylton and talking through the many plans and steps of the project, one of which included being uncertain of how the wider community would respond and receive the apartments. “With his strong and gentle spirit, Dr. Hylton offered incredible reassurance to any challenges we faced and then went out and garnered letters of support from several community leaders and from the mayor’s office. When it came time to finally name what these apartments should be called, it was a no-brainer to name them after Dr. Hylton, who spearheaded our work every step of the way,” said Rev. Hungerford.
In addition to Hylton Point I and II apartments, Dr. Hylton collaborated with the NBA on securing critical funding for Centennial Plaza apartments, another income-based senior living community in St. Louis. As an organization, the NBA sought to work on issues of anti-racism and affirmative action, and Dr. Hylton volunteered to serve as the Chair for NBA’s Affirmative Action Committee, which resulted in the creation of new staff positions and intentional efforts to hire people of color throughout the national care-giving facilities operated by the NBA. The NBA awarded Dr. Hylton the Pioneer for Affirmative Action award.
Leon Whitney, former NBA CFO, reflects, “Dr. Hylton was an amazing advocate who emphasized how, as a ministry, we needed to care for and affirm all people. He led us in our efforts with racial equity and diversity on our national and local boards of NBA facilities. He was a blessing to the church, the NBA, and the St. Louis community.”
“The NBA would not be the ministry it is today – celebrating 131 years of compassion and care – without the prophetic leadership and commitment of faithful people like Rev. Dr. Hylton,” shares Ms. Jackie Compton Bunch, Chair of the NBA Board of Trustees. “His commitments made a positive difference for whole communities and for individual lives. We give thanks and honor this special saint of our church.”
About the National Benevolent Association: As the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Benevolent Association partners with congregations, regions, general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers to create communities of compassion and care. Founded in 1887 by six women responding to the needs of the day and on their doorsteps, for more than 130 years the NBA has continued to serve “the least of these.”