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For The Daily Herald


By Bob Duncan

When folks come by the Maury County Archives looking for old graveyards we first check in Maury County Cemeteries, Volumes One and Two. This monumental work contains, not only the location of all the cemeteries but also an encyclopedic list of every person there interred. Add to that extensive biographical lists about many of those people along with significant amounts of historical data and you can see just why we prize this work.
If the only thing Fred Hawkins had done in his life was the accumulation and organization of all this material it would be the work of a lifetime for most folks. But Fred's story goes much deeper.

A native of Rockingham North Carolina, Fred Lee Hawkins, Jr. was the son of Fred L. and
Georgia Etta Lee Payne Hawkins. Fred's "help mate" in life was Mariruth Barker , Maury County native, and daughter of Clyde U. and Annie Sue Hardison Barker. Mariruth's father was the principal of Andrews Elementary School back in the 1930s. She graduated from Columbia High School in 1942 and went off to Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee. She was deeply religious and wanted to prepare herself for church work. It was there that she met a tall, quiet man named Fred Hawkins. She had no idea, when she fell in love with him, what adventures they would share together.
Finishing Carson-Newman in 1947 they were married. Over the next several years they would begin their family as both Mariruth and Fred continued in Seminary. Their ultimate goal was to become missionaries for the Baptist Church and finally, in August of 1955 they sailed from New York aboard the S.S. Evita bound for Brazil.
Over the next thirty years, Fred, Mariruth and their four children would serve the church in a dizzying variety of roles. Fred has an almost chameleon-like ability to take on any project and make it work. While in Brazil, he did everything from operate an 1800 acre dairy farm to establish and run a furniture factory. He initiated a facility for the design and manufacture of jig-saw puzzles and building block sets for the use of young children in their far-flung South American Sunday schools.
They lived all over Brazil during these years and the entire family mastered and became fluent in Portuguese. In 1984 they returned to the States and retired to Mariruth's old home town here in Columbia. Since that time Fred has been busy as a bee here in his adopted home town.
Quietly and with no fanfare, he has been instrumental in the Loose Records Project and has worked diligently in the preservation of the million+ documents in our collection. Technology holds no terrors for Fred and he has also been a big help with the computer systems.
He has been active in the Historical Society and it was in that role that he published his two books on our cemeteries in 1989. If you ask Fred why he went to so much work and trouble
in producing these two invaluable works he will shrug his shoulders, smile and say, "It needed doing".
The Columbia Northside Baptist Church has also benefited from Fred's steady hand.
Fred was the building chairman as they recently completed their new church building. Fred was there every working day directing the labor. As if that was not enough, he is now in the process of hand-crafting all of the stained glass windows for the sanctuary. The folks at Northside say he gets better with every window. Take off your shoes and socks if you are thinking of listing all the skills and talents that Fred possesses. Here is a partial list; cabinetry, furniture making, stamp collecting, genealogy (with four books to his credit), music, silk-screen painting, farming, photography, ham radio operator, lay preacher, Sunday school teacher and finally, needlepoint! That's right, Fred is a highly skilled needleist. He does counted cross-stitch, crochet and even some quilting.
A stained glass window made by Fred Hawkins.

Recently Fred has agreed to take on the production of the Maury County Historical Quarterly that is published by the Historical Society so, to the above list, we can now add the title of "Publisher".
For several years he has also worked single-handedly on the "Vertical File Project". He started this project at the library before it moved to the archives. This is the "bits and pieces" collections of things about Maury County that people donate to us. There are four cabinets of individual family histories and three of local sites and institutions. This section of the archives is fast becoming one of the most used sections. It is there thanks to the foresight and diligence of Fred.
Fred Hawkins showed up in Maury County "out of the blue" from Brazil back in 1984. He has been quietly hard at work ever since on any number of projects. He is the rare sort of person who gives much to his community without ever asking for anything in return. His works will live long after him and we will always be thankful for his steady and guiding hand.

As the Bible says, "Let your light so shine that others will see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."

Note: Fred L. Hawkins, Jr. passed away September 8, 2006. Few gentlemen will be missed more by family and friends.
Duncan, Bob. "Dimple of the Universe." Maury County Archives, Maury County, TN. 2006.

Published here by Wayne Austin with Bob's permission, 28 Apr 2008. Thanks Bob for the eloquent tribute.