By David Bruce, Staff Writer
Rev. Murray To Be Honored At Living Legacy Gala Rev. Alfred Walter Murray will be honored for his remarkable triumphs over diversity in the upcoming, second Annual Living Legacy Gala held by the Morgan County African American Musuem (MCAAM). Born in 1945, Murray and his generation have seen their share of racial conflict. When asked about his early life when schools were still segregated because of race, he recalled the times when he and the other African American students of several grades were all crammed into the single classroom of Smyrna Community School.
Murray said that he and the other students had to walk back and forth to school each day while the white kids were given the privilege of riding on the busses. One time when a school bus came by him and the others walking on the side of the road, the kids on the bus showered those on foot with trash as they passed by. As far as many folks were concerned in those days, those kids walking home were probably not going to be very successful in life compared to those riding the bus. Regarding that incident of his school being showered with trash from his white peers, Murray said, “Some of the black kids returned the favor by throwing rocks.” Rather than both groups of kids being corrected for throwing things at one another, it was Murray’s class who would then be forced to wait to leave School each day until the busses were all gone. At that point in time, the idea of African American kids growing up to be successful in education, business, or politics was rare, at best, and frowned upon by millions.
In many cases, those without white skin had to fight an uphill battle even for meager success. Some were obstructed by the conflict and bitterness of racism, but Murray is one of those who fearlessly dodged those obstacles by pressing on to do great things. According to the MCAAM, he graduating from Smyrna Community School as Valedictorian of his class in 1964. Four years later he had a college degree in History and Social Studies from Pain College in Augusta. Eventually he would also complete a Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from Atlanta University in Atlanta, but not before he would enter into ministry as the associate Pastor of Smyrna Baptist Church. Although he was very bright and successful, he never went too far from Morgan County for very long.
“Morgan County is a wonderful place to live,” he says, “and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” In 1975 Murray took on the responsibilities of the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist where he would serve and regularly preach the Word of God until his retirement in 2009. Among the many treasures of wisdom from the the Bible, he testifies that Jesus’ words, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” are what helped shape his thinking about diversity. “People are people regardless of what color of skin they are.” He said. “Not all people are resentful and hateful. But you have to learn to live with both.” While he is thankful for the improvement and healing between races since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and for the people who still live to make a difference, Murray acknowledges that there is still work to be done.
He suggests that the way to continue the progress of removing racial barriers is for people of different races to simply get to know each other and to be mindful about how powerful one’s attitude has to do with keeping the community peaceful or not. “So often the direction our life takes has to do with our attitude.” He said. “If you primarily hang onto the positive you can turn the negative around.” Betty Terrell, the office manager at the MCAAM, speaks very highly of Rev. Murray. “I’ve always known him to be a very humble man.” She said. “He didn’t let his achievements get in the way of encouraging others. He speaks in a way that you know he is a person with wisdom and knowledge.” Others who were chosen as honorees at the Gala alongside Rev Murray are Geraldine Belle, Rev W.J. Reid and Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Parks. The event will take place at Varierty Works, 274 West Washington Street in Madison at 5pm on September 19.