Floy Elizabeth Martin Hurst (1931-2005)

By Harold Graham

Floy Elizabeth Martin Hurst is remembered by most as a quiet individual, a keen organizer, a non-stop worker and a consummate genealogist who always carried a notebook in her hand prepared to record the next important information. To her family she was known as an endearing wife and mother. But there was more to her life.

Floy was born during the Depression in the hard-scrabble countryside near Meehan in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, a daughter of Charlie Alton Martin and Mary Alice Pittman. One of several children, there seldom seemed enough to go around. Times were hard and the chalky limestone outcroppings found in the Meehan area produced few vegetables or crops worth mentioning. It was an area where many of the men worked for the railroad, logged, or share-cropped. Her father Charlie Alton Martin worked at construction jobs which often sent him away from home.

Housing was always meager. There was a period of time when her family lived in a large frame house on Cow Creek that was built by her great-uncle Burbon Maxwell. Various members of the Maxwell family lived there at different times including Burbon’s sister Lucy Maxwell, second wife of James Henry (Jim) Little, Floy’s parents, her siblings, and her grandparents, Maggie (Maxwell) Pittman and Joe Pittman. When the rains came the creek would rise. Floy could remember waking up in the night to hear the flood water rustling past her bed. She reached out and was able to paddle in the water with her hands. When the water had receded, the family would all look for snakes in the house that had been washed up by the flood. Some times the flood waters would be so high that they would have to move in temporarily with their Ishee cousins at Chunky.

Maxwell house along Hwy 80But life could at times be entertaining. The Maxwell house was located along the new coast to coast federal highway known as Highway 80. An artesian well in the front yard caught the attention of many tourists who drove by, such to the extent that it became annoying to have them stop and refresh themselves in a stranger’s yard before moving on in their journey. It became a favorite game of Floy to hide beneath the porch with their German Shepard Jack.  Just when the tourist had finished with a drink of water, she would sic Jack on the stranger. You can imagine the scramble that followed.

Lose Floy?  Look first in the nearest tree. Always an avid reader, Floy would use this ploy to escape from work and reality with her favorite book. That was where she was lodged the day that the snake bit her. In the scramble that followed, Jack was also bitten. Jack got to go to the veterinarian while Floy stayed at home. They both survived.

Her first date was with James Parks (J. P.) Hurst and it was the beginning of an endearing relationship that would last a lifetime. They were married on April 1, Hurst, James Parks & Floy Elizabeth Martin1952 at Chunky. J. P. recalls that the minister, a Rev. Speed, thought that the marriage was an April Fool’s Day prank and did not send the marriage certificate into the courthouse for recording for more than a year after they were married.

In the years that followed Floy would become mother to two children, James Leonard Hurst and Karen Elizabeth Hurst Huey. She also completed business college and worked in several accounting and secretarial positions during that time. And as the wife of a teacher and coach, she often found herself keeping stats on the sidelines at the games or simply reading a book until the game was over.

Her interest in knowledge and learning was lifelong, and at the time of her death in 2005, she had acquired thousands of books that lined the walls in their home. There was also her genealogical collection which represented many years of research, most of which was on her intermediate family and that of her husband, but which included other surnames that caught her interest. Within that collection were the surnames of Hurst, Parks, Martin, Maxwell, Chaney, Graham, James, Elam, Giles, Grantham, McNeill, Robinson, Munn, Crocker, Harrison, Reynolds and Hallman. She collected marriage records from Scott, Clarke, Neshoba, and Newton Counties, and visited with her husband, according to J. P., every cemetery in Newton County “that we could find.”

With the opening of our Archives in Decatur Floy became an important member of the volunteer staff.  Single-handedly she organized the World War II records into a filing system and typed and collated a notebook showing the type and location of all WW II records, this along with other duties she performed. For her service to the county, the Chancery Clerk’s office has planned a surprise appreciation party for Floy and other volunteers just before she fell gravely ill from a sudden heart attack. It was a party that was never held. We continue, however, to celebrate her life and feel a deep appreciation for the good works that she left behind.


 [1] Special thanks to J. P. Hurst, Karen Hurst Huey, and Joyce Martin Barnette in the preparation of this story.


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