Like Davy Crockett’s song, Shirley Hawkins was ‘born on a mountain top in Tennessee’
Shirley was born on a mountain top in Tennessee – Mowbray Mountain that is! She was the third child born to Edly McCain Harris and Inez Grant Harris. Shirley has three sisters: Peggy, Phyllis, and Delores.
“People said that females outnumbered Daddy and this is why he traveled on his job,” says Shirley. “Daddy had already left for work on September 12, 1949, when I let it be known that I was ready to make my entrance into the world.
“Mama quickly dressed my two older sisters for school and made the way ‘over the road’ to my grandparent’s house. I was delivered by my grandmother and great-grandmother,” says Shirley.
Shirley grew up attending Mowbray Elementary School and Soddy Daisy Junior and high Schools.
Describing her childhood as wonderful, Shirley says all their friend wanted to be at their house because it was so pleasant and fun. Her family loved music and all the girls took piano lessons and all the family sang. “Sometimes people would come to our house on Sunday afternoon and we would all sing gospel songs around the piano,” says Shirley. “Daddy sang a great bass and mama a beautiful tenor. My sisters and I sang at Mowbray Baptist church while growing up.”
Shirley’s grandfather was the song leader and he sister, Peggy, was the regular pianist. Shirley played the piano in the church for the first time when she was 13-years-old. In later years, she sang in a trio and a girls group. She was a Sunday school teacher for the junior girls. Peggy was the pianist for years, then Shirley, and now Phyllis.
Shirley attended Mountain View Baptist church (now called Rechoboth) in Soddy for 21 years. She was the assistant pianist and played for the junior choir and also taught the toddler class.
“I lost my precious Daddy in 199, my sweet Mama in 2007, and a beloved brother-in-law in 2009,” says Shirley. “I was so blessed to have wonderful parents and a loving family. I miss my parents every day and I thank the Lord for my family.”
Shirley has one son, Brandon, and one grandson, Damian, who live with her. “Brandon is handsome, smart, and has a great sense of humor. He can make you laugh when nobody else can,” says Shirley.
Damian will be eleven-years-old in November. He has always been in her home and has raised him since he was four-months old. “He is such a precious blessing,” says Shirley. “I don’t think there are any sweeter words than, ‘Mimi, I love you.’ Damian is full of energy and is very smart.” He is in the fourth grade at Dupont Elementary. “Raising a child in you 60’s is certainly different than raising a child in you 20’s,” says Shirley. “I find that sometimes I struggle with third grade homework! I praise the Lord that I can raise Damian I church. I want him to know and love the Lord, just like I was taught to do.”
Shirley began in the workforce at age 17. She has been blessed with jobs that she really likes. “I previously worked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Crime Lab, when it was located in Chattanooga,” says Shirley. “I was the Evidence Technician as was in charge of the evidence vault.”
Shirley took all the evidence from law enforcement personnel and distributed it to the forensic scientists to test. After testing, she distributed the evidence back to law enforcement. “It was a very interesting job, which I never intended to leave,” says Shirley. “However, due to budget cuts, the lab was closed. I was heartsick because I did not think I would every find another job that I liked so well.”
Shirley’s boss kept telling her, “God has closed this door, but He will open a window.’ Read on and you will see that He did open a window.
In her job with the TBI, she dealt with investigators and District Attorneys from the Hamilton county District Attorney Office. Several of these people encouraged her to fill out an application there for a secretarial position. She was told they had pretty much made their decision as to whom they were going to hire, but they encouraged her to come in to the office and fill out an application and talk with them.
“Well, needless to say, God had a plan for me to work there and I was chosen to fill the position,” says Shirley. “I was with the District Attorney’s office for 10 years, in a job that I really loved.” Shirley is now retired.
District Attorney General William H. Cox, III, was her boss. District Attorney Cox is a very knowledgeable, greatly respected leader.
There are three Criminal Court divisions, and Shirley’s division worked in the Criminal court of Judge Barry Steelman. There are three DA’s, an investigator, a victim/witness coordinator, and, Shirley, who was the secretary. There is a fourth DA that specifically works child abuse.
Damian was at work with Shirley one day and on the way home he asked her if she was a District Attorney. “I said, ‘No, honey, Mimi is a secretary.’ Damien asked me, ‘Does that mean you tell everybody what to do?’ My reply was, ‘Yes, honey, you are exactly right.’ My DA said that Damian was correct, too. People usually say, ‘I’ll bet you know everything that goes on,’ and I say, “Yes, and lots of times you know things you don’t want to know. Sometimes it is just too heartbreaking, especially when working with child abuse, “says Shirley.
When Shirley was not working in the DA’s office or helping Damian with is homework, she loves to play the piano. “I took lessons for several years as a child, and when I became pianist at Mowbray Baptist, I took lessons for two years as an adult,” says Shirley. “If I had the time, I would love to take lessons now.”
Shirley also loves to read, with the Bible her favorite book. She likes to read Christina romance books, mystery books (people say, don’t you get enough of that a t work?), and Christian inspirational books.
Damian and Shirley had a project recently, shopping for ‘supplies’ to send care packages to the military. Shirley’s Daddy was in the Army in WWI and proudly served his country. Shirley loves to support the military and let them know she appreciates what they are doing.
The Lord gave me a life verse in 1995 and it is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” saith the lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“In 1995 I had reached a point where I was really struggling with life,” says Shirley. “The Lord gave me this verse to let me know He was in control, and it pops up everywhere. I have it all over my house and it was all over my former office. And, amazingly enough, it was in the birthday card I got from the church last year. It thrills my heart every time I see it. It not only reminds me of what Jesus did for me on the cross, but what the Lord brought my through in 1995.”
Shirley gave her life to the Lord when she was thirteen. It was homecoming day at Mowbray Baptist Church. She was baptized at South Daisy Baptist, because Mowbray didn’t have a baptistery at the time.
“My love for the Lord was instilled in me as a child and I thank God I was raised in church,” says Shirley. “I love Middle Cross Baptist church. Everyone is so friendly and Damian and I felt at home the first time we visited.
Shirley hesitated to take Damian out of a church he had attended for years, but the first time they visited Middle Cross, he wanted to know if they could go back, and the rest, as they say, is history
“I had known Bro. Ed and Debbie and their family from Mowbray,” says Shirley. “I had heard him there as a Sunday school teacher, but had never heard him preach. I am so glad the Lord led us to Middle Cross Baptist Church.”
Since joining Middle Cross Shirley joined the AWANA program there, joined a singing group consisting of herself, Eddie Womack, Tom Scott, Benny Feltman, Sammy Flerl, and her good friend, Nikki Jeffery.
Shirley is also a member of the church group who prepares and delivers lunch to the Memorial Hospital intensive care unit once a month.