Life-long resident honored with 1980 Leadership Award

Published 7:57 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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In 1981, Annie Laurie Shirley was honored with a leadership award at the age of 86.  Every time she saw a need in her community, she gave of her time and talents to make her community a better place to live. 

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

A Pike County citizen, who has been making her quiet mark on county events for more than 80 years, was the recent recipient of the 1980 Leadership Award, given for accomplishments in the Resource and Leadership Program.

Annie Laurie Shirley,  received the Pike County recognition award for her work as a community leader, ranging from her years as a school teacher,  a Sunday School teacher, a homemaker, a Red Cross volunteer, a member of the County Board of Registrars, and her present activities as a member of the Retired Teachers Association, the Rural Home Extension Homemakers’ Club and the Pike County Historical Society.

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One of the surprises at the meeting to which Mrs. Shirley received her award was the fact that her nephew, Greg Hodges, assistant vice president for communications of Liberty National Life Insurance Company, was one of the speakers at the event.  Neither Hodges nor Mrs. Shirley knew the other would be there, so there was a reunion for the two of them, to add to the excitement of the award presentation.

“Leadership is a vital ingredient of community resource development,” a spokesman for the Alabama Leadership Development Program commented.

The representatives of each county who received awards were recognized for “unselfishly giving of their time, talents and energy to resolve locally identified needs.”

The leaders were complimented for making significant contributions to the development of programs to improve education, and economic and social conditions in the state.

Florence Owens, Pike County extension agent, who accompanied Mrs. Shirley to the awards ceremony, said, “It’s difficult to say how many years Mrs. Annie Laurie Shirley has been a leader.  When you talk with her, you’ll suspect that she was born a leader and has been actively leading ever since.  She was never content to sit and let things happen.  She lighted the spark that made things happen for the good of her most important interest—people, especially young people.”

Mrs. Shirley came to Pike County in 1914 directly from the University of Alabama to teach school in the Rural Home Community, Mrs. Owens related.  She was reared in Opelika and took summer courses at Auburn.  Being a female she had to complete the education for teaching at the university.

In 1915 she married Hamilton David Shirley, a farmer at Rural Home.  She immediately wrote Auburn for all their bulletins on farming and farm life, and attended nine summer short courses on Farm and Home Living, Infant Care, Food Preservation which included hog killing and meat curing, and other such subjects.

     Mrs. Owens continued, “Her career of teaching was not continuous because she worked at being a farmer’s wife and rearing two daughters.

However, she continued to be involved with community affairs.

In 1919, she assisted the Home Demonstration agent in organizing a club for the women in the community and served in every official capacity in the club and county organizations. 

     She assisted with the  Tomato Clubs that were already organized when she arrived.

In 1918, she organized a Sunday School at the Chapel Hill Church and taught Sunday School for 50 years there and at First Methodist Church in Troy.

Before the days of the school lunch program and PTA, she and other parents in the community prepared hot soup for the school children.

She assisted in organizing and was county chairman of the Parent-Teacher Association in Pike County.

In Rural Home there were 16 children under school age.  She set up a kindergarten in her home and pasteurized milk for the children, while the parents furnished cookies for snacks.

At one time, Mrs. Shirley took the Red Cross Instructors’ Course in Home Nursing and then taught the course in her home in the Rural Home Community.

Mrs. Owens told how, during the 30’s, under the extension agent’s guidance, Mrs. Shirley taught the people how to can and supervised the canning plant.  She was a natural born teacher in every undertaking.

She worked with Red Cross 30 years or more, became certified to teach Home Care of the Sick, and taught classes in 1954-55.

After the Woman’s Suffrage was passed, she was one of the first women to vote and encouraged others to register and vote.

She served on the County Board of Registrars for 28 years, part of that time as its chairman.

After her husband’s death, she said she did not want to remain at home alone.  Thus, at age 68, she was employed as assistant supervisor of Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery.  She worked three years and resigned, expecting to retire.  However, Huntingdon College needed a counselor for boys.  She worked three more years at Huntingdon and, while there, enrolled in some courses.

     She returned to Pike County at age 73.  “Though slowed by the infirmities of age, at age 86,” Mrs. Owens said, “she has lost no interest in young people and the present happenings.  Her good friend and pal is a 20-year old grandson with whom she plays war games in the evenings.”

Mrs. Shirley reports that she actively participates in the following organizations:  Retired Teachers Association, Rural Home Extension Homemakers Club, AARP, Pike County Historical Society and the RSVP, serving at the Pike Pioneer Museum one day each week.  She also works as a teacher’s aide when needed.

Mrs. Shirley now lives next door to her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Frank Revill; but she does her own housework and is an excellent cook.  One of her pleasures, she will tell you, is to have friends visit and share a meal with her.

She was accompanied to Auburn for the award presentation by her friend, Mrs. Olivia Davis.

Even at 86, Annie Laurie Shirley has long none of her enthusiasm for learning, nor for teaching, her friends will quickly tell you.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.