Willard Ray Richardson, who at the age of 88, lives alone, but stays actively interested in church work, especially revivals. He has served in revivals and church work from Michigan to Texas, as well as in Tennessee and has been a member of Stringtown Pentecostal Church since 1939. His church work is his life.
Ray was born January 12, 1910 in Carroll County west of Lavinia on the John Brooks farm. He started school at the age of 4, and was some times taken for a girl, being small and wearing clothes like a girl with long stockings. His 1st school was Hopehill-West Station School and he remembers his first teacher was Mrs. Hazel Dennison. Later the family moved to his grandfathers home near Union Cross. It was a log cabin near the old Douglas Cemetery.
Ray remembers going to school at Union Cross in 1907 with Cecil Fesmire as his teacher, a strong disciplinarian. When WW 1 broke out many young men in the community were called up and went overseas. Ray remembers the Armistice and soldiers returning home. When moving time came again, it was a a farm of 110 acres near Poplar Springs. Part of it is known today as the Joe V. Holmes farm. Ray went to a 1 teacher school in the community and remembers his teachers through those years; Chester Holmes, Herthat Hopper, Obie Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Howell, Oscar Douglas, Dorsey and Lela Stanfill, Eula Mae Ringold, Jessie Oakley and Clara Gibson.
He walked to and from school regardless of the weather conditions. Ray remembers that they had chapel every day with Nelle Jackson as pianist and the song they sang most often was Battle Hymn of the Republic. Bible verses were memorized too. When rival time came to the community, the teachers would line up the children, march them over to the church for the service, returning to school when church was dismissed.
School began early dat at 8 and went on until 4 in the afternoon. At Poplar Springs grades 9, 10 and 11 were taught with the following teachers; Tillman Stewart, Omera Winslow, Louise Oakley, Oren Threadgill and Mildred Reed. Ray finished there in 1929 and started to Lexington High School in 1930 but continued to work on teh farm in truck patches with many kinds of vegetables plus the large cotton and corn crops.
Ray walked 3 miles and then rode 7 miles with Fielder Jordan to school, missing only 1 day. He remembers having as his teachers, Luther Bobbitt, Griff Dodds, Paul Caywood, Tillman Stewart, Alice Hills and Pearl Davis. Upon finishing high school in 1931, Mr. Alvin Holmes gave him a school to teach at Independence but a new law was passed requiring 2 months of college which Ray did not have. Money was scarce and a loan was not possible, so teaching was out of the question. This was during the depression and with an extra dry year, crops were poor.
In 1932, Ray began to work for Salant and Salant, the only factory in Lexington at that time. The pay was $7.50 per week. The National Relations Act passed in 1936 and Social Security went to 40 cents an hour for a 48 hour week. He was married to Lela Viola Seaton and he began working for Ledbetter Construction Caterpillar Factory in Illinois. Later, Public Shirt Co. in Huntingdon; dress factories in Jackson, Scotts Hill, Decaturville, then back to Jackson in a factory as a cloth cutter until his retirement. He says that during "slow hours" he picked and weighed cotton. He and his wife had truck patches of vegetables and raised their own meat. Mrs. Richardson died in 1986. All his brothers and sisters are deceased too. Their parents were John William Richardson and Nancy Ellen Douglas.
Ray is the father of three children, eight grandchildren adn 15 great-grandchilden. His daughter Mary Nell is married to Vernon Rogers. She is a cashier at E.W. James Grocery and sectiary of the Lexington Lions Club. Her husband is Meat Dept. Mgr. at Piggley Wiggley. His son Larry, and his wife live at Cedar Grove and he works at Bendix in Jackson. His wife is Mgr. of Popeyes in Channing Way in Jackson. His other son Wayne, travels with his work. He and his wife Judy own the business Judy's Fun and Fashions.
Though Ray lives alone, his children live nearby. He still attends church regularly and thanks God for his health, having seen a doctor only three times since 1937. He encourages people to work hard, live right, always putting God firt in yoru life. "Let's make each moment county for time is swiftly passing by. Let's speak kind words to those we love and count our blessings." he concludes.
Lexington Progress - Interesting Persons by Doris Jarrett