Rocky Strickland's Genealogy Lucy Cole Durham Strickland

Biographical Sketch

Lucy Durham in costume for a school playLucy Cole Durham was born on July 30, 1925, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the only child of Lucy Cole Durham and Plato Tracy Durham. Her mother was an accomplished pianist who worked as a school teacher. Dean of the Candler School of Theology at Emory, her father had assumed a prominent role in the politics of desegregation and civil rights. Following his death when Lucy was just four years old, she moved with her mother to Richmond, Virginia, where she grew up in the embrace of an extensive circle of cousins and uncles and aunts.

Disappointed by kindergarten, young Lucy did not hesitate to protest, "I want to learn some hard knowledge." She attended St. Catherine's School in Richmond, and then enrolled in Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She majored in mathematics, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1946 at the top of her class.

While pursuing graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lucy enlisted Roscoe L. Strickland, Jr., to tutor her in Russian. Soon thereafter she abandoned academic ambitions to marry Roscoe, and their daughter Alice was born in 1948. Roscoe accepted a faculty appointment at Middle Tennessee State College, and the young family moved to Murfreesboro in 1949. Here Lucy gave birth to three more children, taught mathematics for a time at MTSU, and invested herself wholeheartedly in community affairs. She was the first President of the Murfreesboro League of Women Voters, acted as Secretary/Treasurer of the state League of Women Voters, served as an officer of Citizens for Court Modernization in Nashville, and was instrumental in the instigation of a lawsuit for reapportionment of the Rutherford County School Board, requiring equal representation and education opportunities for all citizens.

In 1972, Roscoe accepted an offer to become President of Southern Seminary Junior College, and the family moved to Buena Vista, Virginia. During that interlude Lucy enrolled in the Law School of Washington & Lee University. She received a law degree in 1976 at the age of 50, and was honored with the United States Law Week Award. She and Roscoe moved again to Hillsborough, North Carolina, with the mission of restoring Hardscrabble Plantation, and there Lucy opened a law practice. In 1980 she co-authored The Law and the Elderly in North Carolina.

Throughout the years in Virginia and North Carolina, Lucy yearned for those friendships and culture that had shaped her life in Murfreesboro. In 1988 she and Roscoe made a joyful return. Here she practiced law at Kidwell, South & Beasley until her retirement in 2004. She served as Trustee and Member of the Executive Committee of the MTSU Foundation from 1996 to 2002.

Lucy Durham Strickland, 1950Lucy was an avid reader, a prodigious correspondent, an enthusiastic ornithologist and amateur astronomer. She knew the name of every tree and flower and bird in her proximate landscape. After dark, she turned to identifying those stars and planets that migrated across the sky. Lucy belonged to the same book club for more than 55 years, and she expressed her wisdom as an octogenarian on the editorial board of The Daily News Journal. Cooking, sewing, and philosophy were pursuits that she undertook with flair. She took pleasure in piano playing and singing with the choir, and her appetite for classical music was inexhaustible. As a sports fan, Lucy manifested a particular affinity for basketball, and she frequently attended games at MTSU. She was a member of St. Mark's United Methodist Church.

Lucy died peacefully at age 83 on Thursday, December 18, 2008, at Middle Tennessee Medical Center, four weeks and 6 days after sustaining a debilitating stroke. Her funeral service was held at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, and she was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro. She was predeceased by her husband, Roscoe L. Strickland, Jr. (1917-1997), and two daughters, Alice M. Strickland (1948-1956) and Tracy D. Strickland (1963-1972). She was survived by a daughter, Rachel M. Strickland of San Francisco; a son, Roscoe L. "Rocky" Strickland III of Raleigh, North Carolina; and a granddaughter, Tracy A. Strickland, of Raleigh.

Lucy wrote of herself, in an entry for the 50th reunion of her Randolph-Macon class:

"Like most, I imagine, I can report that my adult life has not been what my mother (class of '03) would have expected or what I expected. Still I think I remain to a large extent the product of my 'genteel' Southern upbringing, with most of my basic values acquired early on still intact. What a change in women's lives we have seen in this 50 years! Our feet were never bound, but we still suffered girdles and submitted to some mindless feminine stereotypes; even Gillie Larew, an outstandingly independent woman, once told us our greatest influence in the world would be through our children.

". . . I do not define myself as a wife, or as a mother, or as a lawyer or as a volunteer or committee person or whatever. Perhaps I should start by thinking of myself as a woman, not limited by but enriched by womanhood. If something could best describe me, I hope it would be my friendships, some going back more than these 50 years. Many of these friends are far distant or dead but it does not change the, to me, sustaining power of the relationships.

". . . I am sure that each of us has made some tangible or intangible contributions that may be characterized as leaves detached from our respective trees and I hope that we all have good and wise friends who value our trees, even in fall and winter."


Middle Tennessee Oral History Project

The Middle Tennessee Oral History Project seeks to record the memories of people who live in or have roots in the region. Lucy's interviews from 2005 and 2007 are available for listening courtesy of the Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU. Each MP3 audio file is approximately 30 minutes in length. Please contact me if you would like to hear them.


Serenade for Lucy

In memory of Lucy, the MTSU School of Music performed a Serenade for Lucy Strickland, a recital in music, meter and prose, on February 13, 2009.

     Program and texts

Lucy Durham Strickland


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