Thursday, April 25, 2013
Blackwater Road dedication honors Pryor
By SUE WATSON
Some said it was recognition way overdue. Others said it was giving a man his roses while he lives.
Friends and family of J.R. “Red” Pryor gathered Tuesday, April 16, at the east end of Blackwater Road to dedicate the road in the honor of a man called “Cousin J.R.” or “Red.”
Pryor was recognized for his service to his country, for his life lived on Blackwater Road, for the help he gave to the community, for his loyalty to the church, and for his local involvement in the Civil Rights struggle in Marshall County.
“Cousin J.R. is the way we say it in Mississippi,” said Pastor Thomas Wilson. “We say congratulations to be honored. It is way overdue. No one deserves it more than you.”
Five of Pryor’s 10 children were present for the dedication. At his side was his wife Opatria (Cleo). Elected officials and those running for office in the election in Holly Springs were present as well.
Supervisor George Zinn III of District 4 remarked on the life of Pryor and his contributions.
“It’s not easy to have a road named in your honor,” he said. “You have to earn it.”
Pryor, 89, has lived on the road for over 60 years. He attends New Hope MB Church where he serves as a deacon and Sunday school superintendent. He served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II attaining the rank of sergeant.
Pryor was among the troops who stormed Normandy Beach in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He also served in England and the Philippines.
Before school buses were provided to carry Marshall County students to school, Pryor carried students to school in his own vehicle.
His career always was a farmer, but he also worked on the pipeline, set out pine trees in the area, helped build part of Interstate 55, was employed at Wurlitzer Piano for 25 years, worked as a forester for 15 years and for Galena Elementary School for a short stretch.
Pryor continues to grow a garden to feed his family and to share with neighbors.
“All who know him know him as a hard worker and provider for his family,” said Zinn. “He believes in fairness and respect for others and for working for what you want. He lives by the Golden Rule, treating others the way he wants to be treated. Through his works he has shown dedication, loyalty, leadership and citizenship.”
Indiana State Rep. Cherrish Pryor gave tribute to her grandfather for raising her in addition to his 10 children, for her grandmother’s political activism and for grandfather’s community activism. She praised her grandmother’s tea cakes and greens and her grandfather for bringing home the fish for the table.
“We lived on this road a long time and he got out his tractor and bush-hog and cut the weeds away from the road,” she said. “He’s a community father. They are wonderful people and we should strive to be like them.”
McQuin Walker, 75 years old and hoping to make 80, said he and Pryor were active in civil rights. He picked cotton for Pryor for $2 a hundred and they hunted and fished together. The Pryors taught their children to respect people, he said.
Pastor Bessie Tables, of New Hope M.B. Church, praised Pryor as “a hero of the struggle.”
“The community recognizes the contributions of Red Pryor, a humble community man,” she said.
In shaking Pryor’s hand in congratulations after the ceremony, Cas Keel said, “I got news for all these folks. This has been Red Pryor Road for 50 years.”
The children of Opatria and Red Pryor are: J.R., R.C., S.T., Bobby Campbell, Betty Guy, A.D., Ivory Lee, Freedonia Jones, Willie and Mary Shaw.
The Pryors married February 2, 1942.
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