By Josh Troy
Ken Murphey loved the City of Clarksdale as much as anyone and put his heart into improving the quality of life for his community. Those were the sentiments public officials and friends expressed about Murphey, 52, the Ward 2 Commissioner for the City of Clarksdale, after he died from a brief illness on Aug. 23. He was first elected as a commissioner in 2013 and served a little more than 10 years.
Murphey was born April 4, 1971, graduated from Lee Academy in 1989, where he excelled in all sports, attended Mississippi State University where he majored in business/marketing, worked for his family distributor business Murphey Beverage, and then opened his own distributorship Clear Mountain Water in 1997 after the untimely death of his father. He later reverted the company’s name to Murphey Beverage.
Murphey was an integral player in the 1987 State AAA championship game for Lee Academy.
Mayor Chuck Espy and city commissioners reflected on Murphey’s life at the vetting meeting the day he died.
“I don’t know of any other person that would give as much as Ken Murphey gave to the city,” Espy said. “There were no limits to what Commissioner Ken Murphey would do for this city.”
Espy said Murphey loved his city and family.
“On behalf of the mayor’s office and members of the commissioners from all four wards, we want to express our condolences to Commissioner Murphey’s wife, Meg, and his daughter, Kate,” Espy said. “Ken is going to be sincerely missed. He had an incredible impact on our city. Ken was a lifelong resident and tireless community champion who continuously went above and beyond for his hometown. His passion for serving others and improving the quality of life for all citizens will not be forgotten. He touched so many throughout his remarkable life, and we will never forget his contributions to making Clarksdale the best it can be.”
Espy ordered the flags across the city to be lowered to honor and respect “our friend who served all citizens with love and passion.”
The city passed a resolution honoring Murphey.
Espy read the resolution during Murphey’s funeral at the Clarksdale Civic Auditorium. The resolution said Murphey was a “kind, caring, and unselfish individual; whose spirit of servitude greatly impacted the Clarksdale community.”
Espy asked the elected officials throughout Coahoma County and city employees at the funeral to stand and recognize Murphey.
Retired City Clerk Cathy Clark, who is currently working for the city as a consultant, was a longtime close friend of Murphey. Clark spoke at the meeting.
“Ken is going to be missed very much by this community. He loved the City of Clarksdale,” Clark said. “It meant so much to him. He showed it every day. He was out there in the community. Even though he had another job, you always saw Ken out on the street. You would see him on a lawnmower. You would see him in a vehicle out picking up trash, out helping the community.”
Clark said she hopes whoever fills Murphey’s shoes has the same opinion of Clarksdale.
The three commissioners spoke after Clark.
“Ken loved this city more than anyone I’ve ever met, and the thing about Ken is he got very emotional talking about this city. He was a very emotional person,” said Ward 1 Commissioner Bo Plunk. “I’m still at a loss for words. We all knew it was coming, but it doesn’t hit you until it happens.”
Plunk said it is still hard to prepare for someone dying.
“Ken loved the city with every fiber in his body,” Plunk said. “He cared about everybody.”
Ward 3 Commissioner Willie Turner expressed similar sentiments.
“He loved downtown,” Turner said. “Whoever goes after that seat is going to have the same love he had for the community.”
Turner talked about how the board was able to work together.
“We have our own differences, but work it out in fighting for the same goal,” he said. “I just pray for his family in days to come, in the love that he showed for his community, that the community will wrap their arms around his family and show them the love that Commissioner Murphey showed for his community.”
Ward 4 Commissioner Ed Seals said when Ward 2 was flooding more than anywhere in the city, Murphey was there to do something about it.
“Commissioner Murphey was a commissioner that cared deeply for his ward,” Seals said. “He did all that he could do to correct the problem. Ken was a guy that we all worked with, and it came as a shock that he had left us so soon. I certainly extend my condolences to Mrs. Murphey and the entire family.”
Dr. Jimmy Humber, a longtime friend of Murphey, provided the eulogy at the funeral on Saturday.
Humber serves on the Clarksdale Public Utilities Board, and Murphey appointed him. However, they became close friends in high school at Lee Academy.
Humber said Murphey would have wanted his eulogy to be funny, but that was hard.
Jimmy Humber, became close friends in high school and stayed close lives would want to make it funny, but hard.
“If he were here, he’d be so happy to have all his friends in one place. He would definitely make fun of us for wearing suits in 100-degree heat,” said Humber as the room laughed.
Humber said Murphey loved his wife, Meg, and daughter, Kate.
“I have no doubt he would say his greatest accomplishment in life was being Kate’s daddy,” Humber said.
Humber and Murphey were roommates at Mississippi State.
Humber said he thought about wearing his polyester maroon suit, but there was too much heat.
Humber said he was a couple of years older than Murphey and made the effort to recruit him to come to Mississippi State. He added Murphey had a passion for both Mississippi State and the City of Clarksdale.
“When he committed to something, he gave it everything he had,” Humber said.
Neville Vanderburg, pastor of Clarksdale Methodist Church, was Murphey’s pastor for six years and spoke at his funeral on Saturday. He said Murphey was one of the first people Pastor for six years, one of first people met.
“Ken always maintained a sense of humor,” Vanderburg said. Vanderburg said Murphey received the calls and texts from friends when he was sick.
“He got all your encouragement,” Vanderburg said. “He really wanted me to stress this. He said you tell them I fought as hard as I could.”
The Rev. James Jackson Sr. was also friends with Murphey and spoke on Saturday.
“Ken has been my friend for a long time,” Jackson said. “I’m so thankful with the opportunity to share Ken.”