COVINGTON, Ga. - A pillar of the community, Sam B. Hay Jr.’s calm and steady presence will be remembered for his role on the Newton County Board of Education in the 1960s in setting the tone for integration of the county’s school system, as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Covington, a building block for the First Presbyterian Church of Covington and his family that continues to make a mark in the community.
Born in Opelika, Alabama in 1932, Hay was the third child and only son of Frances Dearing Hay, of Covington, and Rev. Samuel Burney Hay, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Covington from 1923 to 1926. Hay made Covington his home for more than 60 years.
Hay died Saturday, May 20. With standing room only, funeral services were held Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church of Covington with Rev. Dr. William B. Wade Jr. officiating.
“For most of us, I believe, don’t think enough about enjoying God. Sam and Martha and Burney were ministers’ children. Sam said his daddy was as close to Jesus as anybody he ever knew,” Wade said. “Like his father, Sam could be heard around the house singing, enjoying God.”
Wade said he knew Hay as a hero for the church. Hay served as a ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for more than 50 years on the local, Presbytery and General Assembly levels. As a visionary leader of First Presbyterian Church of Covington, he chaired many expansion and community outreach endeavors.
“Sam moved to Covington after he graduated from Auburn back to his mother’s family farm,” Wade said. “He married Louly Fowler and raised a prize-winning herd… and cattle too!”
Hay is survived by his wife of 58 years, Louly Trippe Fowler Hay; his four children: Sarah Burney “Buncie” Hay Lanners, and husband, Jay; Samuel Burney Hay III and wife, Loucy; Florence Fowler Hay Luranc and husband, Joe; and Louly Turner Hay-Kapp, and husband, Steve; his seven grandchildren: Jay Thomas Lanners, Jr., Sarah Louisa Lanners, Samuel Burney Hay IV, Kathryn Allred “Allie” Hay, Louisa Trippe Luranc, Joseph John Luranc, Jr., and Samuel Hutson Luranc; his sister Martha Hay Vardeman and husband Burt, cousins John Dearing and Lin Dearing, many nieces and nephews and his beloved English Springer Spaniel, Lucky.
“Sam’s fingerprints and those of his family are all over this church,” Wade said. “But he, nor they, have never forgotten this is the Lord’s church and that everyone of us has a call.”
Before returning to Covington, Hay spent the early years of his life in Auburn, Alabama and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Hay attended Auburn University on a football scholarship. Although a back injury during his freshman year prevented him from playing, he served as team manager the remainder of his college career while majoring in animal husbandry.
“Sam was an optimist. He believed that you could overcome almost any obstacles,” Wade said. “Through surgery, after surgery, loss of his farm, the burning of his home, he kept going.”
Sam was active in agricultural construction and equipment sales and service throughout the 1960’s and 70’s and later founded Sunbelt Builders, Inc., specializing in commercial construction.
The business received the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce Dick James Small Business of the Year Award in 1999. In 2007, Hay was honored for his years of service in 2008 with the R.O. Arnold Award – an award given to an individual who has demonstrated significant service to the community – at the Annual Meeting of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce.
He was also an active member of the Covington Kiwanis Club and was recognized in 1995-96 as Kiwanian of the Year.
One of Sam’s roles in the Newton County community was his service as a member of the Newton County Board of Education from 1970 until 1982. With a passion for social justice, he provided leadership when the Newton County public schools were integrated.
He provided support to community institutions, such as The Washington Street Community Center and The Arts Association in Newton County.
In lieu of flowers those desiring may make donations to the First Presbyterian Church of Covington, 1169 Clark St., SW, Covington, GA 30014. J.C. Harwell and Son Funeral Home, 2157 East St., SE, Covington, GA 30014 is in charge of the arrangements. A guest book may be signed on-line www.harwellfuneralhome.com.