Sam Pursley has spent most of his life helping those who had trouble helping themselves. On Thursday, a roomful of friends and family spent about an hour thanking him.
Sam Pursley (left) gets a hug from friend, the Rev. Dave Sargent Jr. after being named Citizen of the Year by the Woman's Club of Harlem. The Rev. Sargent was one of several speakers who honored Pursley for his work in the community.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Pursley, 78, was named Columbia County Citizen of the Year by the Woman's Club of Harlem. It's the third year the group has given out the award.
"It's a way for us to say thanks to those who do so much for the community," said Minete Hatcher, the president of the club.
Pursley's contribution to the community was illustrated through a series of stories, like the one told by the Rev. Dave Sargent. He explained to the crowd how Pursley became mentor to a boy when nobody else would.
Pursley, an avid hunter and fisherman, took the boy on his first hunting trip where the boy killed his first deer.
"I think the happiest day of Sam's life was when this boy killed that deer," Rev. Sargent said. "Sam's eyes sparked when he told us about it."
Those are the kinds of deeds that won Pursley the award, and the kind that he will always be remembered for, the Rev. Sargent said.
"I think Mr. Sam lived a simple life so he could take his money and invest it in people," the Rev. Sargent said. "That is what I appreciate most about him."
Though the award is given for deeds done within the year, Pursley seemed to have received it, in part, for a lifetime of work.
After graduating from the University of Georgia in Agricultural Engineering, Pursley worked at the Gracewood State School and Hospital for 12 years as farm director where he was responsible for 1,200 children.
"I guess the happiest time of my life was working at Gracewood," he said. "The ones that gave you the most trouble were the ones that you ended up caring the most about."
In 1968, Pursley was appointed business manager of Georgia Regional Hospital and served as assistant superintendent.
He has also been on the board of director for the Augusta Rescue Mission - which helps the homeless - for more than 35 years.
"I've always strived to help people," Pursley said. "Especially the underdog."
Brian Mulhern told a story that proved Pursley's love of the underdog. Mulhern, who worked with Pursley at the Regional Hospital, said that one day the two walked up to a group of mentally challenged children at the hospital. Pursley looked at Mulhern and said, in a half-serious tone, he had no pity for the children. Mulhern asked why.
"He told me that when they get to the gates (of Heaven), they will already have an excuse," Mulhern said. "Then he asked what ours was going to be."
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