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Maria McAlister Pyles

Maria McAlister Pyles, age 77, of 105 Stagecoach Rd, Laurens, S.C., passed away Sunday, October 1, 2017, at the McCall Hospice House in Simpsonville, S.C..

Mrs. Pyles was born in Florence County, S.C., and was a daughter of the late General James and Sarah Timmons McAlister.

She received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Benedict College; a Master’s of Arts degree in Black Studies from Southern University; and a Specialist degree in Southern History from Louisiana State University. Mrs. Pyles also completed the course work for the Ph.D from Louisiana State University. Additionally, she has been the recipient of more than 20 Institutes and fellowships from various Colleges and Universities, including certification in Islam and Middle East Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and a 1984 Travel and Study Fellowship to Egypt and Israel. Maria Pyles spent 30 years as a public school teacher in the schools of Clinton and Greenwood. She has also taught part-time for Lander University, Limestone College, Piedmont Technical College, Spartanburg Technical College, and Upstate U.S.C. Throughout her teaching career, Mrs. Pyles has received numerous awards and honors. These have included The South Carolina Teacher of the Year in 1990; one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year in 1990; South Carolina’s Woman of Achievement for 1990; South Carolina’s Gifted Teacher of the Year 1990; Social Studies Teacher of the Year in South Carolina and the Southeast Region for 1990; and Benedict College’s most Prestigious Alumni Award for 1990. She was also honored by Lander University with an Honorary Doctorate in 1990, invited twice to New York to appear on the CBS Early Morning Show in 1990, and chosen to represent South Carolina at the First Japanese-American Forum on Education in Japan in 1991.

Mrs. Pyles was active and held membership in many civic, social and religious organizations. To mention a few, she was a member of the NAACP, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Phi Delta Kappa Fraternity, and the National Council of Negro Women.

An avid Church worker, Mrs. Pyles was a member of St. Paul First Baptist Church where she served as Sunday School Superintendent, Missionary President, Church Secretary, Senior Choir Member, Chairperson of the Benevolent Committee, and a member of the Service and Volunteer clubs.

Funeral services will be conducted on Saturday, October 7, at 1 p.m., in the Gray Funeral Home Chapel in Laurens, with burial at Calvary Cemetery in Laurens. The family will receive friends Friday evening, October 6, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Gray Funeral Home in Laurens.

Condolences may be expressed online at

Gray Funeral Home of Laurens

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