STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Troubled by the fact that the only paved roads in his east-central Mississippi county tended to be in predominantly white communities, local official and dairy farmer George Curry sometimes took out equipment himself to ensure that roads would get paved in Black-occupied areas too, his granddaughter said.
Officials said fairness was always paramount to Curry, a trailblazing county supervisor who served as a mentor for future generations of African American politicians in Oktibbeha County after becoming the first Black person elected to the county’s Board of Supervisors.
Curry, who served on the board for 28 years beginning in the late 1970s, died Aug. 5 at the age of 90, according to The Commercial Dispatch. A cause of death was not reported.
Curry was involved in the NAACP and civil rights movement and was focused on ensuring that local Black citizens were receiving equal treatment, officials said.
“There was a growing sentiment among people in his district that they were being underserved,” District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer told the newspaper. “Mr. Curry took it upon himself … to run. It was, of course, a very difficult journey during that time because Oktibbeha County had not progressed as much as it has now. Therefore, you had a sentiment out there that was very reluctant and resistant to a Black man in that position.”
While he may have been soft-spoken, he always “carried a big stick,” said Curry’s granddaughter, Keina Tate.
Even though he had no previous political experience, “he kind of was asked to run by the community,” she told The Commercial Dispatch. “People thought he would be influential and help them with the issues that they were having in the community when they weren’t being heard.”
Two of his main priorities were infrastructure and road maintenance.
Tate recalled how, at one point during his tenure, her grandfather worked to tackle the disparities between roads in white and Black areas by taking county equipment out to particular areas to work on the roads himself.
Curry also worked to eliminate gerrymandering in the county voting maps, pushing through measures that redrew district lines to give Black people fairer representation.
Trainer, who viewed Curry as a mentor, said Curry paved the way for Black men like him to get elected. Serving two terms on the board together, Trainer said Curry showed him how to do his best to serve the people’s needs.
“He really opened the doors for Black elected officials in the county,” Trainer said. “Right now we have three Black men on the board. He worked hard to let people know that their vote really makes a difference.”
Curry was respected by both Black and white residents, Trainer said. He did the “behind the scenes work,” never performing tasks for credit but from the goodness of his heart.
“His life is summarized by service and giving it all he had and all he had he gave, and it was time for him to go from labor to reward,” Trainer said. “I thank God that we had the chance to know him, and we’ll forever remember him and look forward to sharing in his legacy.”
A memorial service open to all is scheduled Saturday at 11 a.m. at Unity Park in Starkville.
Tate said everybody looked to her grandfather for help.
“He always taught me to make sure that you leave something for another person,” she said. “Don’t always make things about yourself, but make sure that you leave a door open for another person to walk through.”