Lately I’ve made some references here to the late Arley Finley. Mr. Finley was one of Hazlehurst’s most well-known personalities for decades. He was not only the Hazlehurst Postmaster for many years, he was active in all sorts of community affairs.
He was an active member of First Baptist Church where he was a deacon. When he and his wife, Madelyn, passed away, their wishes were honored and the property they owned across Tallahassee Street was deeded to the church. As I understand it, there were a few stipulations: the home in which he and Miss Madelyn raised their children was to be torn down and the church was to build no other buildings on the property.
Today, the church uses the vacant lot for various activities that lend themselves to the outdoors.
Mr. Arley was also active in the Woodmen of the World which, decades ago, was one of the most active and well thought of organizations in the county. From what I’ve read in old issues of the Ledger, he was involved in the WOW on a statewide basis as well.
He also played a role in the state organization of postmasters.
Mr. Arley served on all kinds of important public committees and boards here. Each spring during the early 70s, he’d visit the Ledger office with a generous gift of fruit from a fig tree in his yard, beaming from ear to ear with his signature smile.
A book could be written, and perhaps should be written, about Arley Finley’s life and his service to Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County.
There is a little known fact I recently learned that, sometime during the 1920s or 1930s, when Mr. Finley was a high school student, he set the state record for the 100 yard dash for the classification that the local school was in, running the distance in 10.2 seconds.
That record stood for something like 40 years, until JDHS student E.M. Wilkes III went to the state meet and equaled Mr. Finley’s mark. So for several years, two men from Hazlehurst co-owned the 100-yd. dash state record. I understand that record was later broken and today athletes run 100 meters instead of 100 yards.
I remember in the early 1970s when the JDHS senior Willie Bratcher ran a 10.3 but as far as I know, the Finley-Wilkes local record was never matched by a Jeff Davis County sprinter.