The six living children of Durrett Avenue native Joe Mumford have all scattered across North America — two live in North Carolina, one in Seattle, another in Santa Ana, California, Tampa, Florida, and Le Playas, Mexico. Their careers as doctors, veterans, educators and ministers have taken them far, but Friday, three of Mumford’s adult children made their way back to their childhood neighborhood to experience a ribbon cutting for the new and improved Joe Mumford Park on Woodmill Road.

“We were proud when it opened up the first time,” said Mumford’s youngest daughter, Dr. Sara Stevenson. “I don't remember the same degree of fanfare, but I think this represents confirmation that the neighborhood, the community, remains viable, even though I'm sure it’s had its ups and downs.”

Hopkinsville City Council voted to move the park from its former location at the south end of Durrett Avenue to a more visible location in 2017. The council designated $650,000 from the Hoptown-Christian County WINS slate of projects for the new 3.5 acre park.

It features a playground, full-sized basketball court, pavilion, restroom facilities, parking, play fields and lawn areas for gatherings.

“It leaves a legacy for our family,” said Mumford’s other daughter, JoAnn Mumford Butler, who also attended the ribbon cutting.

“The Durrett Avenue community is a part of my life and my past,” noted Butler, a retired educator who once taught school in the neighborhood. “It does my heart good when I come home and see his name on the park and I know our community is still alive and hopefully continues to prosper and come together.”

Stevenson, who is a doctor of psychology, said growing up in Durrett Avenue was similar to the village mentality. The neighborhood had its own elementary school before integration, and many of the teachers also attended the neighborhood church.

“(The neighbors) supported young people who wanted to make a difference in their lives,” Stevenson recalled. “I remember school teachers who were members in the church, and they were strong advocates for each and every child.”

The Mumfords lived at 1913 Church St., directly across from Durrett Avenue Baptist Church, in a house the patriarch had built for his family when he returned from the military, Stevenson said.

“Dad was a Naval World War II veteran, and he and mom (Frances Louise Mumford) were high-school sweethearts. They married before he enlisted, and with the help of his uncles, they built a home,” she said. “While he was away on active duty, mom saved the money he sent back, and they were so happy to be able to purchase and build a home in Durrett Avenue to raise all of us there.”

Mumford worked at Hopkinsville Milling Co. for a few years before he got a civilian job at Fort Campbell, Stevenson recalled. He worked that job for 30-plus years, she said.

Stevenson and Butler were the only girls out of the seven children. There were five sons: Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Donald Emerson Mumford, the Rev. Jack Ray Mumford, Dr. Michael Thomas Mumford, Dr. Rick Gale Mumford and the late Lonnie Frazier. The eldest son, Donald, spoke at Friday’s ribbon cutting.

Retired educator and church pastor Jack Mumford said although he couldn’t attend, he was surprised to see the park’s improvements.

“I saw the old one and it would flood all the time,” he recalled in a phone interview. “My dad would be very proud of it now.”

Mumford was an integral part of Durrett Avenue Neighborhood being annexed into the city of Hopkinsville, Stevenson explained of her dad.

“He had to ask for basic things like paving streets and streetlights,” she recalled.

“On Church Street, we didn’t even get our mail delivered,” Jack Mumford said. “We had to go up to 19th Street to get our mail. We paid taxes, but the city never did anything for the community. But, after the Civil Rights Acts of ’64, they started to do some things.”

Joe Mumford was the mouthpiece for those improvements — not by nature but by necessity.

Butler described her dad as “a deep thinker and quiet person.”

“I never really recall him laughing out loud,” she said, “but he'd get this broad smile whenever he was happy. When he did want to express himself, he would, if he saw something that he didn't like.”

Stevenson said he wanted the best for his family and the community.

“He wanted the community to be safe and for family to be proud about being there,” she noted.

Stevenson said the park is an honor for her dad just as much as her mother, who was described as “outgoing and spiritual.” Their father died at the age of 59 before the first park was named in his honor, but Frances Louise was able to see it. She died at 94 years old in 2013.

“After he and mom raised their seven kids, they didn't just sit back and twiddle their thumbs,” Stevenson said. “They tried to make a difference in their own small way. That consistent message of ‘don't forget us’ and ‘we are willing to advocate for it’ shows his empty-nest period was fruitful, purposeful and beneficial for the community.”

Seeing the new park and the children enjoying the basketball courts and playground would possibly evoke that grin JoAnn remembers.

“Inside, he would probably be so happy and you would get a big broad smile,” she said. “He would probably say ‘I didn't really do a lot.’”

But, in fact, he did.

“He grew up on Woodmill Road, and he would be delighted to know that the voice he brought to the table by representation of that community is being heard,” Stevenson said. “Not only is it a second dedication, it's expanded and improved, and it represents hope for the future.”

 

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com. Alleyne was also raised in Durrett Avenue neighborhood.

 

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