Charleston, W.Va. – On Friday, friends and family of Kelvin “KJ” Taylor gathered for his memorial service at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. Taylor was fatally shot by an unknown suspect on April 7 on the West Side of Charleston.
Taylor was 18 years old and on track to graduate from Capital High School in May. During the service, members of Taylor’s family, his friends and mentors shared their memories of him.
Rev. Matthew J. Watts, pastor of Grace Bible Church, reflected on Taylor’s talents and his personality. Taylor was a hard-working student athlete who excelled in football and basketball. Watts described Taylor as funny and unique.
Watts said, “I remember telling him after watching him play basketball and football he’s one of the fastest things I ever saw on two feet, and I said, ‘KJ, I wanna know this – Can you take a hit?’ To which he responded, ‘Not if I can help it.’ So, [KJ] had style, he had class, and he had originality.”
Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin first met Taylor on the court before a basketball game. Goodwin said Taylor was a superior athlete, kind person and good friend.
“Yeah, he was a superior athlete, he was, but most important, he was a good, good kid with a really kind heart, … ” Goodwin said. “ … KJ’s friends told me this past week that, ‘KJ was my brother. He was my best friend. He was the one in the group that would lighten up any room just by walking through the door.’ They told me it was more than his smile, which was so big and so beautiful. They told me it was the way he treated people. They said, ‘Miss Amy, you always knew he had our backs, and man, he loved Hot Cheetos a lot.’”
Turan Rush, a cousin and close friend, reflected on how Taylor looked out for him.
“I’m four years older than him, and I looked up to him like he was my older brother,” Rush said. “He had changed my life so much, and I should’ve been checking on him, and he was checking on me even though I’m the older one. … That was a grown man in little man’s body.”
Rev. Jeff Biddle, pastor of New Hope Community Church, said Taylor was loyal to his friends and always rooted for them.
“He played basketball for Capital High School, but a lot of his friends played church ball – and if Capital didn’t have a game, he would show up on the sidelines,” Biddle said. “He wanted to be there to see his friends succeed.”
City council member Jennifer Pharr read a letter of condolence from the New Life Fellowship Church. Pharr spoke about the positive impact Taylor made on the youth of the West Side.
“KJ spent several years at the Second Avenue Center, and his quiet, polite spirit was a model for all of the children and a blessing to all the facilitators, … ” Pharr said. “ … He was just a joy to be around and talk with. His innate leadership skills will be sorely missed.”
Mayor Goodwin said Taylor also tried to help his peers at Capital High School. Goodwin reflected on a story that Capital teacher Larry Moore told about Taylor’s character.
“[Larry] told us that every day, every day, you could see KJ helping the kids at the school who needed extra help – those who needed a little bit more support to make it through the day,” Goodwin said. “He would make sure they had everything they needed, or he would just say something nice to them.”
Rev. Biddle also spoke about the love Taylor had for his community, family and friends.
“He was born and raised on the West Side of Charleston, and he loved being from where he was from,” Biddle said. “He loved being a West Sider, and he would easily let you know that any way he could. He loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved his neighbors, he loved his home.”
The West Side community has come together to honor Taylor in several ways since his passing.
On April 9, West Side residents held a vigil on the corner Glenwood Avenue and Central Avenue where Taylor was fatally shot. Family and friends have honored Taylor by laying balloons, pictures and letters at the corner.
On April 12, the administration, staff and students of West Side Middle School honored Taylor by wearing royal blue (Capital High colors) and forming lines to spell out “KJ.”
The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation (TGKVF) announced that the Charleston community established a scholarship fund in memory of Taylor. The scholarship will benefit Capital High School students who live on the West Side and maintain a 2.0 grade point average or above.
Dr. Michelle Foster, President and CEO of TGKVF, said “KJ’s untimely death is heart-wrenching and I extend my deepest condolences to his parents and loved ones. The Foundation is here to facilitate contributions to the KJ Taylor Scholarship Fund in honor of KJ. We are here, lighting a candle in the darkness, to give hope to young people interested in pursuing post-secondary education.”
Following Taylor’s funeral on Friday, the Charleston community gathered at Laidley Field for a ceremony to honor Taylor and look back on his life and accomplishments.
Rev. Biddle remarked at the funeral service that Taylor hoped to make an impact in the future. Biddle said Taylor’s legacy will be carried on by the people he inspired.
Biddle said, “We were out at dinner after practice taking some intentional time to talk about the future, and I was watching him and his friends sitting there planning and dreaming about the positive impact that they wanted to make. So many of those plans have already come true, and they will continue to come true because KJ surrounded himself with people who were working hard to be a light to the world and make a positive contribution. He knew that he was gifted, and he wanted his success to be everyone’s success – and it was, constantly. And through so many of the friends that he impacted – and y’all are here today sitting all over this place – his legacy will live on for years to come because y’all are going to make that happen. Aren’t you?”
Police are still seeking the suspect who shot and killed 18-year-old Taylor on April 7. Last week, the Charleston Police Department announced they located the vehicle of interest in Taylor’s homicide: a gray, early 2000s model Ford f-150 truck.
CPD is asking for individuals with any information on the case to contact the Criminal Investigation Division at 304-348-6480.