Merry Johnson Byers adds Canyon High Hall of Fame to list of honors


Laura Smith

Merry Johnson Byers accepts her Canyon High Hall of Fame award during the homecoming ceremony.

The noise in the gym is deafening. The crowd of purple jumps up and down, stands rumbling in anticipation. However, the students quickly fall into silence as a woman walks up to the podium, folding her hands neatly in front of her, and begins to speak.

Merry Johnson Byers was inducted into the Canyon High School Hall of Fame during a ceremony preceding the Oct. 20 homecoming pep rally.

“I was so excited to think that where I grew up, those people thought enough of me to bring me into the Hall of Fame,” Byers said. “I was just elated. It’s a great honor. It supersedes even me trying out for the Olympics.”

Before graduating in 1978, Byers set the national record in the 440-yard dash and was a three time all-state basketball player.

“Every time an opportunity was presented to me from someone, I felt that if they felt that I could do it, then go for it,” Byers said. “If it was too much on my plate, someone would let me know.”

It’s a great honor. It supersedes even me trying out for the Olympics.”

— Merry Johnson Byers

Byers went on to compete in the Olympic Trials for track in 1984 and missed the USA team by a mere one-tenth of a second.

“It was heartbreaking,” Byers said. “I knew I had put a lot of work into it my whole life, and you want that so bad. It took me a whole year before I would even compete again after that.”

From there, Byers was inducted to West Texas State University Athletic Hall of Champions in 1990 and was recognized as a member of the 2000 Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.  In addition to her athletic achievements, Byers became a hostage negotiator for the SWAT team and a licensed ordained minister.

“I think I make a good role model through my church and through my work,” Byers said. “I work with kids that are at risk, and I’ve been able to guide them in a way that they’ve turned away from some of the bad things that they were doing.”

For the past nine years, Byers has worked as chief for the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“My goal now is just to finish out what I’m doing at the sheriff’s department, retire and go to nursing homes,” Byers said. “I want to be that minister that goes into nursing homes and encourage the elderly.”

Byers has three children and six grandchildren and has been married to Louis Byers for 33 years.

“It took a lot of support from family and putting God first because he is the one who gave me the strength and the ability,” Byers said. “Having a family, having a husband and children, that has filled my life so much.”

After looking back on her achievements, Byers said she wants students to never give up.

“You have to persevere through everything,” Byers said. “Just persevere. When the going gets tough, you have to dig your heels in and keep going.”