(Editor’s Note): This week, the Community Journal kicks-off an ongoing, biweekly series profiling successful African Americans in our community. The series will be written by Michael Brox, an educator in the Milwaukee Public Schools and the founder of the first Afro Fest (now African World Festival).
This series attempts to counter the negative news we’re flooded with by the local mainstream news media by detailing the positive aspects and influences of Black people who give back to their community in various ways, whether it be volunteer service or owning businesses employing members of our community. Either way, the individuals we will profile are dedicated to bettering the lives of others who are less fortunate and only need an opportunity to succeed.
This week, we profile Robert Robert Pyles, a mininster who pastors at Abundant Faith of Integrity, and is the owner (along with his wife Betty) of 12 McDonald’s restaurants in the Milwaukee and Menomonee Falls areas. orn Bernard Ridley in 1964, Robert Pyles started his humble beginnings in Hobson City, Alabama. His mother, Magnolia P. Ridley, worked hard to support the family by taking on domestic jobs.
His father, Robert A. Pyles, a career military man, joined the U.S. Army in 1964. He later retired in 1976 and returned to Hobson City.
Robert (Bernard) was raised with his two brothers and six sisters in a three bedroom project. Robert, who learned the value of hard work at an early age, always wanted to help provide for his family, and at the age of seven he worked after school every day and every summer until he was 13 years old.
At age 14, Robert attended Oxford High School in Oxford, Alabama. Oxford High was a segregated high school with a 20% African American student population . Interestingly, the town where he lived was 100% African American.
Upon graduating high school in December of 1982, Robert went into the U.S. Air Force as a security police officer. While serving as a raw recruit in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Pyles was exposed to things in the military he had never experienced growing up in Alabama. Among those new experiences was snow, sub zero temperatures and whiteouts. His first roommate in the military was a Native American.
His roommate had never seen an African American until he enlisted in the military. Robert and his roommate began to realize their own social barriers. Through this time, beyond his own beliefs, Robert realized there was a much bigger world.
From Grand Forks, Robert’s military career took him to Texas where he continued his advanced training for his overseas duties at an American Air Force base in Kunsun, South Korea. While stationed in Korea, two very significant things occurred in his life. One, he met his future wife Betty. Their friendship continued at their next duty station in Cheyenne, WY. Robert and Betty’s lengthy friendship transitioned to courtship, and in 1986 they were married. Together, they have three lovely children; Anthony, Ebony, and Katrina Pyles, and five grandchildren. In addition, his retired father was stationed in Korea at the same time working with the U.S. Department of Defense. There they bonded, prompting Robert’s father to ask him to change his last name from Ridley to Pyles.
Upon his return from South Korea, Pyles continued helping his mother with his younger siblings. Mounting debts forced Robert to take on a part time job.
Little did Pyles know the career path he was taking. He began working at Long John Silver seafood restaurant. He was later hired as a crew person at the local McDonalds.
Not knowing his deepest call and purpose, he loved serving others and was quickly promoted to part-time swing manager working the afternoon and weekends.
During this time, Robert was balancing his career and family but was rapidly being promoted in the military.
As a Master Sergeant, he approached the owner to see if he could have a leave of absence from McDonald’s to receive additional training and schooling to continue his military career. That is when the owner, Jack Priess, suggested Robert consider becoming a McDonald’s owner. Jack, a white owner, saw something in Robert that was special. He took Robert to Denver, Colorado to meet African American owners/operators.
After meeting other owners and operators, Robert decided he wanted to become an owner/operator. He was later interviewed by the Franchising Manager for McDonald’s corporation and was accepted into the program to become an owner/operator.
In 1998 the Pyles family relocated to Milwaukee where they planned to raise their three children. Little did they know the profound impact their move to Milwaukee would have on the soon to become Pastor Robert and Lady Betty Pyles.
In February of 1998, Robert and Betty bought their first McDonald’s restaurant on 76th and Mill Road. When Robert and Betty moved to Milwaukee, they thought they were relocating to sell burgers; however, it was much more than that.
They have taught their employees how to dress, how to purchase cars, how to work with the public, how to change their mindsets, and become homeowners. Robert and Betty view their restaurants as ministry opportunities not only to their employees, but to their customers as well. Robert and Betty Pyles are currently the owners of 12 McDonald’s franchises. Eleven restaurants are located in the Milwaukee area, and one in Menomonee Falls. Overall, they employ roughly 700 people.
In addition to Robert’s many accomplishments, he is the first African American President of the Milwaukee co-op.
Pastor Pyles received his religious education under Bishop Milton Gannison. Pastor Pyles also acknowledges Pastor Walter Harvey, the pastor of Parklawn Assembly of God, as his trusted mentor, and Pastor Leroy Jackson as his spiritual father.
Pastor Pyles puts Christ first and center in everything he does. However, Pastor Pyles understands that in order to keep his ministries relevant to the community he must minister to the physical as well as the spiritual needs of others through the various services he offers such as The Life Course, The Men’s Fraternity, and additional ministries. Pastor Robert and Lady Betty Pyles have initiated new ways to improve the community by giving people hope through helping them to move from poverty to prosperity. This is what Pastor Pyles refers to as his “Up and Out” philosophy. Asked what three immediate goals he hopes to accomplish in the near future, Pastor Robert Pyleslisted three goals: “1) To acquire a Doctorate Degree in Theology, 2) To become debt free within the next five to seven years, and 3) Develop his “Up and Out” Ministry (help individuals move from hourly wages to ‘salaried careers’).”
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is people like the Pyles’ who have been blessed, and unselfishly give back to the community, provide hope and encouragement in our daily lives. This is their story, what is yours?
For more information on the ministries and opportunities available through Pastor and Mrs. Pyles, you may contact Abundant Faith of Integrity at 6737 N. Teutonia Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53209, (414) 464-5001.