Lucy Cole Durham was born on July 30, 1925, at
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
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
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
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 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.
Lucy died peacefully at age 83 on Thursday, December 18, 2008, at Middle Tennessee
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.
of herself, in an entry for the 50th reunion of her Randolph-Macon
"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