Farewell to a giant among men

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Henry Clifton Murden Sr. – born to serve his fellow man. That was his lot in life and one that he thoroughly enjoyed. He was a man described by so many across the community with a multitude of adjectives suitable for a saint. Statements like &uot;Henry was like that commercial… When Henry spoke, people listened,&uot; are common when his name is mentioned. He was a modern day man of valor, a true gentleman in a world gone wild, an honest man whose veracity was unquestioned.

This man was a friend to me. I met him when I was assigned to cover &uot;cops and court&uot; back in 1991. My first &uot;trial&uot; was a sex case and was my face red. Mr. Murden so noticed and during a recess, came to me and softly told me he remembered his first court case, too. He also offered to help with any legal terminology or identify the players in the legal community if I needed such information. From that moment, I was a Henry C. Murden fan and my admiration of him only increased over the years.

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I learned of his devotion to family and friends from many people. When his beloved wife, Catherine, became ill, I knew Henry offered her not only care but undying love. I also learned that he was a wonderful friend to the family of Judge James C. Godwin, and the late W. Randolph Carter and his son, Randy Carter, who grew up with Cliff Murden.

Cliff’s great love of his dad is so obvious. He spoke with deep affection of his father during Wednesday’s memorial service. He spoke of a father who was also a trusted friend. The preacher

described Mr. Murden as not only a devoted father and a dedicated husband but also as an uncle, a father-in-law a grandfather and a brother.

As the service continued, there was a hush in the chapel as people listened. I hesitate to call them mourners because they were there to celebrate the wonderful life of Mr. Murden. He was a man of small stature, but to me he was a giant, a man who stood head and shoulders above many people in public office today. He lived a life exemplary of what a &uot;politician&uot; should be without a blemish on his record, either personal or political. He was a man of honor, and repeatedly re-elected, proof of his dedicated service to the public.

Mr. Murden once told me in an interview that converting all the records in the clerk’s office from paper and books to computers was a real challenge as the age of technology arrived in Suffolk. Then, by golly, I learned Wednesday from his son that not only did he learn to deal with technology, but he actually enjoyed it so much he had a fax and computer in his office at home! That was Mr. Murden…never stand still, but instead, learn, learn, learn.

During the service Wednesday, there was laughter and there was joy. Why not? Henry left us a legacy that won’t ever be forgotten. He will be remembered in the history of this city, maybe just as much as former Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr.

As I listened to the wonderful remarks about him, I could see Mr. Murden, standing with St. Peter, just inside the Gates. They were speaking of the people gathered to say goodbye to Mr. Murden and as St. Peter asked about each one, the soft-spoken man gently assured the saint that we’d all be there. That was Mr. Murden’s way; always end on a positive note.

During the service, Cliff Murden described his dad’s last few days and his last requests. One of those final requests was to have the old Hogie Carmichael standard, &uot;Stardust,&uot; played at his service. His son read the lines, &uot;You wander down the lane and far away, Leaving me a song that will not die, Love is now the stardust of yesterday, The music of the years gone by.&uot;

Barbara Allen is a staff member of the Suffolk News-Herald.