Susie McAfee says goodbye after 48 years

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It is ending right where it started for Susie McAfee 48 years ago, working in the Craighead County Circuit Clerk's office.

Susie McAfee has seen records evolve from hand-written carbon copies to the computer age.

After graduating from Monette High School in 1964, Susie Harrell (McAfee) started her first job working in the Eastern District Craighead County Circuit Clerk's office in Lake City. After 48 years in public service work in different states and different offices, she ended her career back in the Craighead County Circuit Clerk's office in Jonesboro.

A public retirement reception is being held in her honor at the Craighead County Courthouse Annex Basement from 3-5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16.

McAfee was first employed by Deputy Clerk Opie Chambers and worked in the former two-story courthouse in Lake City. The courthouse also housed the city library, the Eastern District Sheriff's office, and the Revenue Office, with a courtroom upstairs.

"We typed all our records then and would prepare deeds while customers waited," McAfee said. "We typed summons, bench warrants with carbon copies, financial statements and index cards. We hand indexed all the books. I always get a kick out of seeing records here in the Jonesboro office that I hand indexed back in the 60s.

"Bill Hook, Eastern District Deputy Sheriff, had an office across the hall from our Circuit Clerk's office in Lake City. When he would be out of the office, I would run across the hall and answer his phone. I even got some experience working the CB radio to forward information to the officers. We collected delinquent taxes and later did deputy assessor work. Needless to say, my job was very multifaceted and interesting. We were the junior everything back then."

Probate, circuit, chancery and civil courts were held at that time in the courtroom upstairs in Lake City.

When Chambers was elected as Craighead County Circuit Clerk in 1969, McAfee moved to the Jonesboro office to work for him there. She continued in that capacity until she married Jerry Dewayne McAfee in 1972 and moved to Perkinston, Miss., where he was Agriculture Department chairman at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Before long McAfee started work for Holly T. Bond, Stone County judge, treasurer and clerk, in nearby Wiggins, Miss.

"Judge Bond was over the board of supervisors there and I worked with deeds and mortgages and chancery court," McAfee said. "All of my typing experience paid off, as that was my main job. This was the first time I had ever been anywhere that they had not heard of my parents, Jethro and Faye Harrell. I missed being out of the familiar surroundings of Craighead County."

The McAfees moved to Baton Rouge for Jerry to work on his doctorial degree at Louisiana State University. They became parents of their son, Jerry Harrell McAfee, in 1976 and returned to Monette to live. Susie started work again for Opie Chambers in Jonesboro.

"My father thought so much of Susie," Donna Chambers Harig of Olive Branch, Miss., said. "He was one of the few she allowed to call her Susie "Q." She was so shy when she first started to work for him, and he was always trying to get her riled up. He was pleased to see her develop into a very valuable clerk."

Mrs. McAfee went on to work for Guy Pardew Real Estate, ASU P.E. Department Chairmen Dr. Jess R. White and Dr. John Hosinski, the ASU Bookstore, before returning to the Circuit Clerk's office to work for Pat Fleetwood in 1985.

"Susie was a sweetheart and a hard worker," said Pat Fleetwood, retired circuit clerk. "I could always depend on her being there and giving it her best. She had great experience and knew her records well."

"In the 1980s we had four employees and three rooms in the circuit court office, and now there are six rooms and 12 employees," McAfee said.

From 1991-1993 McAfee worked as deputy clerk for County Clerk Jane Todd, across the hall of the courthouse.

"Susie was always dependable and well thought of," Todd said. "The customers loved her, and she was quick to wait on them when they came in."

McAfee worked for Minor Markle Abstract Company and Mike Pryor from 1993-1997, before returning to the Circuit Clerk's office in 1997.

"I have been friends with Ann Hudson, the current circuit clerk, for 43 years," McAfee said. "We have worked together for 22 years, starting back with Opie Chambers' office. Working for her seemed like a natural thing to do. She is loyal and fair. We work well togethe, and have a mutual respect for each other.

"Our office has now gone to electronic filing, and computers make accessing records very convenient. Our court records are also done online. I have a special connection with our old historical records and am very protective of them. I try to mend the old jackets, books and original plats each time I see the need."

"I have received so many complimentary comments from people Susie has helped, about the kind of service she provides to them," Hudson said. "I believe that kind of service is beginning to be overlooked in today's world of technology where an answering machine instead of a person is what you get and you have to try many times to find a person who cares enough to help you. It is that kind of service that should be given in a public office by a true public servant. Susie McAfee has been a true public servant for 48 years and I have been honored to work along side her during that time."

When asked what she wants to do with her spare time after retirement, McAfee was quick to say she plans to spend more time with granddaughter Lilly McAfee, travel, and sleep a little later.

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