John Murrah Lovorn, Sr. a great man
September 15, 1915 - March 6, 2003
by James (Jim) H. Lacey, Jr.
John Lovorn was a man of action, and a man of action to get results. He didn't just scuffle around for the sake of appearing to be doing something - he was after results. He took to heart the teachings of Christ, with his favorite lessons being those recounted by Matthew in Chapter 25, verses 34-40. In this session on the Mount of Olives, not as famous as the Sermon on the Mount told earlier in the book, Jesus gets about as specific as one can get. He said that if one gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, hospitality to the stranger, clothing to the ragged, nursing to the poor, and comfort to the imprisoned, it is the same as doing it to Jesus.
And boy, did John Lovorn have a passion for carrying out these teachings. He was a whirlwind of action, using his highly developed organizational skills to bring people to join in this work for the underdog, even dragging them in by the scruff of the neck if necessary. He didn't mince words.
Bill Mosby said that one day at Lupe's Department Store, John was exhorting and arguing with a group of men including a Baptist minister. Finally an exasperated John declared, "You guys can't see the poverty for the stained glass!"
Well, John Lovorn cleared the vision for many people here in Canton. For him, Christianity was much more important than churchianity.
John saw government as a tool that could be used as an instrument to carry out the teachings of Christ. And he felt strongly that the Democratic Party was the one most likely to use that instrument of government to help those on the bottom. It took a fierce independence to be a white Democrat, with a capital D, in Canton during the 27 years that he spent here, and here his conviction shone through more strongly than at any other place. All of our Republican arguments crashed over his head with the same effect of a wave washing over a granit rock. He stood fast in his Scottish determination.
The word "activist" has come to have a bad connotation in the minds of many of us. But John was an activist for the underdog in a way that gave the word a good meaning. He cajoled and pushed and bullied all of us to do the right thing. His friendly antagonist from across the street, John Taylor, was on the city board for years and often felt the heat from John Lovorn. John Lovorn's ultimate threat to John Taylor, when completely frustrated with his alderman, was to growl, "I'm thinking of running for alderman myself."
Mayors, aldermen, legislators, white or black - anybody, high or low - got the same blunt treatment from John. If you agreed with him that something should be done, he'd bark, "Well, let's go!" And what else could you do but go to work?
While Matthew's quotes on Jesus were dear to John, James must have been his model. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?" asks James. John wholeheartedly agreed. What good would it do to sympathize with the bad folks in jail if you didn't go visit them? It wouldn't, he decided, and so we had the Madison County Jail ministries. What good would it be to decry the pitifully bleak Christmas mornings of poor children if you didn't do something to get some presents for them? It wouldn't, and we got the Toys for Needy Children program. And on and on.
I never did have a great deal of luck getting John to talk about the old days of his youth in Winston County or his college days at Mississippi State where both of us attended college. John was not much interested in the past. He was always focused on the future.
He made friends and admirers throughout the black community, opening up to anyone who would talk. They trusted him and his frankness.
John Jurrah Lovorn – I didn’t know until recently that John was known in his youth as “Murrah”, did you?
This John Murrah Lovorn was a tower of strength to those of lesser courage, a courageous companion of those who tried to do right, a beacon of hope for those losing hope, a goad to the lazy – all of which all of us were at one time or another.
Now, if I could just have gotten him to relax long enough to enjoy our 10am coffee-and-Coke gathering at Hardee’s every day, John Lovorn would have been just perfect.