Elder John Hayes

John R. Hayes (1942-2021) Photo: Reggie Kilgore

Elder John R. Hayes: A Man for the People

Elder John Hayes
John R. Hayes (1942-2021) Photo: Reggie Kilgore

Elder John Hayes was a catalyst for change.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Elder John R. Hayes was a first-hand witness to some of the injustices that African Americans faced under T. E. “Bull” Connor, the city’s long-time Commissioner of Public Safety. Those actions by Connor to enforce racial segregation at any cost denied human rights to countless African Americans. They also helped propel John to become a catalyst for change during the American civil rights movement, leading him to western North Carolina in the mid-1970s.

One of his most noted living legacies was the 1977 creation, development, and growth of the renowned Hillcrest Enrichment Program, which he cofounded with fellow activist Sophie Dixon and the members of the Empowerment Resource Center. The program was established to build self-esteem and raise the academic and personal achievement levels of low-wealth children and families in the region. Out of this program John also created the Hillcrest High-Stepping Majorettes and Drum Corp for the youth, and other programs that were recognized as some of the nation’s best early intervention and prevention programs for families and communities.

Over the years, John Hayes received many awards and recognitions for his continuous work in civil rights and equality. He also served on the board of Mountain Housing Opportunities with a mission of bringing housing and home ownership opportunities to many people. Additionally, he served 16 years as president of the Asheville Branch NAACP, and as President/CEO of WRES FM 100.7, a small but powerful radio station that would help heal and transform the community through music and information. WRES currently reaches many listeners in Asheville and the surrounding region.

John was an ordained Elder of the Churches of God in Christ and a member of the Sycamore Temple COGIC, Asheville, NC. He and his wife Rebecca King Hayes are the parents of 11 children, as well as grandparents to 34 grandchildren and a number of great-grands.

John Hayes passed from this life on June 10, 2021 at the age of 79.

Scott Dedman
Scott Dedman, Mountain Housing Opportunities Executive Director

Statement from Scott Dedman on the Passing of Elder John Hayes

For forty years I have revered Elder John Hayes as Asheville’s foremost champion for people in need—for people who need justice, fairness, equity, financial strength and stability, and even encouragement and inspiration.

He founded and named The Empowerment Resource Center, which operates WRES FM-100.7, to give people the power to move up and ahead in life—with improved health, a better job, the opportunity for homeownership, the right to vote and have your vote counted, always motivating his listeners to create for themselves a full and fruitful life.

Elder Hayes was an early champion for affordable housing and Mountain Housing Opportunities, serving twelve years as a leader of the MHO Board of Directors, and he was always MHO’s most vocal champion.

Those who know John best know him as a loving and dedicated husband, father and grandfather, a tireless worker for churches and grass-roots organizations.

John Hayes gave and received more love with his family, friends and the entire community than anyone I have known.

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