We pause to note the passing at age 77 in Texas, USA of Yancy Peters Flah, a distinguished Liberian, a son of Grand Gedeh County, a youth advocate and an educator. No doubt many of his generation will remember him for many different things that marked his sojourn among us. For me, he was first and foremost a molder of the character of Liberian youth through the National YMCA and in many classrooms in our country and abroad.
Born in Bangloh, Konobo District, Grand Gedeh County on March 15, 1937, he was sent at an early age to Zwedru where he began his education at the Assemblies of God Mission schools. Monrovia and CWA followed in the early 1950s. He received a high school diploma from CWA in 1957, enrolled at the University of Liberia the following year, graduating subsequently with a BA degree in History. He was certified with a diploma at Teachers’ College of the University and embarked on secondary school teaching before moving on in 1964 to graduate studies at the prestigious Syracuse University in New York. In 1966 he obtained a Masters degree in History.
Yancy soon returned home to the University of Liberia where he served variously as chairperson of the Business Department, Instructor of History, Dean of Students’ Affairs, Assistant Professor of History and Chairman of the Department of History. He left the University only in 1977 when appointed by President William R. Tolbert, Jr. as Principal of the then newly established Zwedru Multilateral High School in Grand Gedeh County. He would serve in that capacity through 1980 when the circumstances of the Military Coup d’état of that year would bring him back to Monrovia and to largely uneventful political appointments including Deputy Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, 1983 to the end in 1990 of the regime of President Samuel K. Doe.
But it was Yancy Peters Flah the youth leader that may remain his greatest legacy. Shortly upon his arrival in Monrovia for school, he was instrumental in the formation of the Krahn Youth Association (KYA) devoted to assisting fellow youths from Grand Gedeh navigate the challenges of life in the Capital city. A fortuitous introduction to the African-American Secretary General of the YMCA of Liberia, David N. Howell (1906-1984) ensued. This was his opening, an opportunity he would use to maximum benefit. Employed initially as a messenger by the YMCA, a popular Christian philanthropic organization, he and David Howell worked together so well that before long Yancy Peters Flah and David Howell became synonymous with YMCA/Liberia, as the “Y” impacted the lives of scores if not hundreds of high school and college students in Monrovia and beyond.
This is how I met Yancy Peters Flah when I arrived from Grand Bassa County as a freshman student at the University of Liberia in 1961. As he had a decade earlier learned his way around Monrovia through the KYA and the YMCA, my introduction to Monrovia society was the YMCA and the National Student Christian Council (NSCC). The learning experience was spectacular. There was more. It was my good fortune to be a part of the Liberian delegation to the First All-Africa Christian Youth Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya in 1962. A delegation led by the late Rev. Canon Burgess Carr (1935-2012) included Yancy Peters Flah, Kenneth Y. Best, Gladys Kiawon Johnson, Henry Reed Cooper, and Charles Minor. What an opportunity!
Early in his career, Yancy was called upon by President Tolbert to serve as the National Orator for July 26, 1974. Then serving as chair of the History Department at the University, his 15-page oration delivered in Zwedru where the national celebrations were held was titled “The Dynamism of our Times: Speedy Evolution.” In it he brought the historian’s mind to major turning points in the country’s history, punctuating the evolutionary rise toward a more inclusive national society. And then he spoke of the Liberian youth: “I believe in youth. I know any one who does has the present and the future on his side, for adults are leaders of yesterday and today, and youth are leaders of today and tomorrow. Unless we lead them now they may lead us in the direction of their choice.” These are indeed prescient words to ponder in our times of crisis and of opportunity!
Our condolences to his widow Violet Harron Flah, children, and his entire family. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace!