Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Mary Lee Hand was born October 12, 1912 to Mr. and Mrs. James Steven Davis. As a child she took pride in one simple fact that she was taught: If you work hard you will accomplish much and that’s just what she did. Overcoming much adversity, she and her sister Estelle were few of the first Black Entrepreneurs of Blountstown, Florida. They opened and operated the Russ and Hand Grocery Store together for greater than 65 years. This was a common meeting point for school aged children and she became affectionately known as “Ms. Mary”. She continued to walk across street to work early in the morning at 95 years of age and serve the children and community at this store of which the structure still stands.
She was not only a dedicated worker in her store, but a truly dedicated worker in her church which is St. Paul AME Church only a few steps away from her house. She walked there to each service day and night. She never missed an opportunity to serve her community and worship the Lord. Being over 100 years old, she would still walk in the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade and upon making it to the church where the annual program would be held, she would stand and deliver a poem receiving a standing ovation from all in attendance. This was a prime event that all enjoyed.