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Perhaps You Didn’t Know — By Tommy Purser

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the late A.D. “Arley” Finley Sr. When I moved here in 1973, Mr. Finley was still alive and retired after decades of serving the county he loved as the local Postmaster.
One of his sons, Art Finley, sent me a note recently, saying in part, “If Mother and Dad were still alive, they would have celebrated 101 years of marriage this past Monday.”
Mr. Finley wrote a regular column for the Ledger back in the 1960s and 1970s. It was entitled “Perhaps, You Didn’t Know.”
It detailed, mostly from memory, the long ago history of Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County.
Here’s one from Jan. 31, 1974. That was 45 years ago, so, when Mr. Finley writes “…50 years ago…” that would now be 95 years ago:
In May, 1924, almost 50 years ago, Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County experienced one of the greatest religious revivals in this section of the state.
The great Evangelist Raymond T. Richey was persuaded to visit Hazlehurst and conduct a revival. He was known not only in the United States but worldwide for his doctrine of faith healing through prayer. As the famous Billy Sunday and Billy Graham are known far and wide for their religious activities in more recent times, so was the Rev. Raymond T. Richey known 50 years ago.
Dr. J.M. Hall, one of our leading doctors then and also Mayor, along with the Hon. John A. Cromartie, the father of the bill creating Jeff Davis County, and John H. Moore, one of the outstanding businessmen of our community, joined in a petition along with several hundred others asking the Rev. Mr. Richey to conduct one of his healing revivals in Hazlehurst.
The Rev. Mr. Richey surprised his business associates by accepting the urgent invitation from the small city of Hazlehurst.
Plans were made for a great revival. No church in Hazlehurst was large enough to hold the expected crowds so the tobacco warehouse was converted into a meeting place with a large stage erected for the choir. Special trains were run by the railroads to bring in hundreds of people from all parts of the United States. They came from far off places on crutches and in wheel chairs and many cases left for home without their crutches.
Allen Dyal of Graham, who could hardly see at all, attended the revival. Dr. J.M. Hall later certified that Mr. Dyal, after long prayers by the Rev. Mr. Richey and much faith, was now able to see again. It was a great time in Hazlehurst, 50 years ago.

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