One can find a proud father in the late Attorney Curtis L. Hays, who was able to visualize and realize the “Dr. Lemika Christia Hays Endowed Scholarship,” to honor the memory of his daughter, before his untimely passing. Now, carrying on the legacy of education passed down in the Hays family is wife and mother, Mrs. Janice Hays. The legacy of education in the Hays Family began with the many traits of giving and helping people that Attorney Hays received from his mother, Christell Gregory Hays, affectionately called “Mama Chris.”
When Attorney Hays was born, the Hays family lived in Mendenhall, Mississippi; four years after, they moved to Biloxi. Mrs. Hays remembers how hard-working Mama Chris was. “Mama Chris often talked about the need for her to work two jobs. She cleaned houses during the day and worked at the VA Hospital at night. Her support for her children and Curtis’s education followed him through law school.”
Attorney Hays’ sister, Loretta Watson, recalls, “Mama Chris stressed the importance of education. She wanted them to have a better life and opportunities than she had. She encouraged and supported us always and was able to see all four of her children attend college.” Mrs. Hays adds, “Even though various grants helped him through law school, his mother was always there to remind him to stay focus and to ‘hang in there.’” Attorney Hays repaid the kindness and life lessons imparted to him by his mother by building her a home when she returned to Mendenhall.
Mrs. Hays jokes about Attorney Hays’ resistance to manual labor saying, “Curtis’s mother, grandmother, and grandfather told him at an early age that he needed to get a good education because he did not like to do manual labor. Once Curtis received his law degree, the pen, pencil and paper were his art of labor. In fact, when he would shake hands with his father-in-law, he would tease him about how soft his hands were.”
As a classmate, LA Billups, remembers the impression that Attorney Hays left on him while in law school at the University of Mississippi and throughout life. “Curtis Hays’ legacy is one that is rooted in the fabric of decency, justice, equality, and fairness. I believe that Curtis Hays’ message would be that ‘the rules of law, and fairness and justice for all must be the guiding principles in any civilized nation.’” Another law school classmate, Attorney John Jackson, remarked, “As a friend, Curtis was the epitome of style and grace and the intricacies of this world put friendship at a premium.”
Judge Creola James of Vicksburg, Mississippi wrote, “I was privileged to have known Curtis as a person who always wanted to help someone along the way. Curtis also loved his family dearly. He often expressed that he could not bear the thought of losing his daughter, Lemika Christia, and he wished it could have been him. Curtis always knew more than what he would reveal. He was a very wise person. Curtis will be greatly missed.” On a personal level, Mrs. Hays was able to witness a spirit of servitude and focus on education in Attorney Hays’ work as an attorney. “A number of Curtis’s cases ended up being pro bono. When Curtis helped a young person with legal issues (who had good grades and seemed to have gotten side-tracked), he would do everything possible to make sure that the young people’s legal problems did not hinder them from moving forward. I would often tell him that your gift of giving will be blessed by God. He put those values in his daughters’, Lemika Christia and Marcia, mind.”
The Hays Family would like to honor the memory and legacy of both Attorney Curtis Hays and daughter Dr. Lemika Christia Hays and is thankful for this opportunity to share and invite others to support the Dr. Lemika Christia Hays Endowed Scholarship during the months of November, which is Attorney Hays’ birthday month and December in the spirit of giving. To contribute, go to https://www.tougaloo.edu/give-today/dr-lemika-christia-hays-endowed-scholarship. Any Tougaloo student from any academic discipline with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher can benefit from this scholarship. Please make checks or money orders payable to:
Dr. Lemika Christia Hays Endowed Scholarship Fund
Office of Institutional Advancement
500 West County Line Rd.
Tougaloo, MS 39174